Saturday, 7 October 2017

Stopping for anxiety

Yesterday morning I was feeling great - I was chatting to a friend online and saying how good I was feeling, and it was true. So I was very surprised a few hours later to discover that I was feeling incredibly anxious and definitely not so good anymore.

Because it was a surprise, so sudden, and without an obvious cause, I spent way too many hours trying to ignore it, pretend it wasn't happening, just get on with my happy day as I'd planned to. Which I know (usually in hindsight) is one of the worst ways to manage my anxiety. The more I push it down the more it bubbles up and can lead to me exploding or collapsing (or both).

Eventually, after I had dithered around and not got very much of anything done for a good chunk of the day, I went with it. I went into Yarra Glen for a while on my own (op shop, library, IGA - very relaxing), came home and watched a movie with the kids (Sing - they'd seen it, I hadn't, and I quite enjoyed it) then played a game of Korners (which I'd never heard of but had picked up at the Op Shop 2 hours beforehand) with all 3 kids - it was fun, easy to play but difficult to win, and resulted in lots of hilarity (which did have a slightly hysterical edge to it but it was a good release). After all that I was able to tidy up the kitchen a bit and then head to bed.

When I get stuck in my anxiety, I'm really best to take a few hours off and do stuff that I really love or that really relaxes me. If I don't, I feel like I SHOULD be doing other things - dishes, tidying, emails, whatever - but I can't quite get my head around doing them.  I start, and stop, and take ages, or stand around trying to decide what to do next, and all the time feeling guilty that I'm not doing what I should be, or resentful that I'm doing something that I don't want to be doing, and it makes my anxiety much much worse. Soon I'm listening to a voice in my head telling me how bad it is that I can't even manage my housework blah blah blah. The fear (and the voice feeds this) is that if I take a day off my 'responsibilities' then they might never get done.

But the opposite is true. I nearly always find that if I take an afternoon, a day, a few days off when I am getting anxious, and when I feel that antsy feeling of 'I should do.... but I really don't want to', then the next day (or even later that day) I do feel like doing all those things, I do them joyfully and easily and much better than I would have done them when I didn't want to.

I figured out what brought the anxiety on - a combination of little things really. I've been going to bed later than I'd like this week, so waking up later, and Amelie has been up before me a few days in a row - so no time alone first thing and I really treasure that time to reconnect with myself for the day. I didn't go for my walk - I know it's important, but sometimes getting the dog ready to go with me makes it feel to hard and I skip it - and I usually feel flatter or more anxious all day. Tony and a workmate had an awkward conversation about the puppy and I was worrying about that. I posted a few things on Facebook that I'd been putting off (sharing information, and organising an event) and putting myself out there like that had me anxious about responses. And I've had a lot going on in the last few weeks with Caitlin's birthday, her party, and a few other personal issues happening. Yesterday was the first day in over a week where I could just relax, and instead I saw it as a day to 'get lots of things done' - I forget that I often need the relax day first before I get up and get busy the next day.

And it's worked. I've woken up this morning, taken the puppy for a walk which was fantastic, had 2 awkward conversations that I've been putting off for ages (including sorting out the dog issue with Tony's workmate), I've done some gardening and some tidying up outside, and I really do feel fantastic and ready to get on with things today. And hopefully I'll remember that if that changes, if I feel like it's too much, that I can stop for a while again today (there's not a limit to how often I can do that, I don't need to ration out my self-care) and play with the kids or read my book or whatever, and it doesn't mean that I'm less worthy.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

How to be remembered

Last week I went to the funeral of the husband of a friend of mine. He had died, in his 80s, after being unwell for most of the past few years. I didn't know him well, had met him a few times, but my friend has been an influential and inspirational person in my life since we moved to Victoria 11 years ago. I first met her at a music session for kids that she was running, and we went to that session on and off for about 5 years. She provided childcare (in the next room so the kids could still come to us) at a mother's group we went to for a couple of years, and my kids loved being with her. We've worked on various children's programs and events together, including starting up a playground (which is still running even though both of us have moved on to other things). We see her regularly at the op shop where she volunteers, and down the street at other events around town, and she always has time to stop and chat to me and the kids, and I love listening to her wisdom and being soothed by her kindness. Over the years I've also come to know several of her children and/or their partners (who are all around my age) and some of her grandkids.

So I went to her husband's funeral to support my friend and her family. It was the most beautiful funeral I've been to, very emotional and personal and loving. The minister knew the family well so all her prayers and blessings were very personal. She told a wonderful story to the children that helped to explain what death and the afterlife might be like (about a caterpillar becoming a butterfly and the confusion he felt when he was in the cocoon stage). All of my friend's 4 children spoke about their dad, and she spoke as well. It was really lovely to hear from the entire family and their own experiences and memories, rather than just from one person.

The theme that came through from everyone who spoke was that this man was loving and kind, practical and a hard worker, and was always willing to help someone when they needed it. All the kids talked about times when they'd needed help (often when they'd made a mistake) and their dad readily did what was asked. Other people I talked to afterwards and since also told me about times when he helped with events or parties or anything that was happening, and he was always available to do what needed to be done.

It really struck me how much that meant to everyone who spoke - that he was always there when needed. It felt like such a beautiful, wonderful thing to be remembered for. Our society is so full of messages along the lines of 'let them work it out for themselves', 'I'm not here just to serve you', 'I don't have time to do that for you' etc - we seem to be encouraged to put ourselves first and to 'help' our kids learn to do things for themselves. I've been to funerals of people who parented like that and while their children were sad and missing them, the way they remembered their parents wasn't with the deep love and appreciation and gratefulness I experienced last week.

It was a great reminder that how we interact with our kids and with our partner and our friends and family, every day, is how we will be remembered. I definitely want my kids to look back on their childhood, teenage years, adult years and know that Tony and I were always there for them, would always be willing to help, no matter what the situation was. And I'm talking about genuine, willing help too, not 'oh all right, I'll do it...' type help. I mean 'Yes, I am happy to do that for you'  - even if that is not stated, I know that the energy and thoughts behind helping someone really influences how the receiver experiences the help. I know I don't enjoy it when someone begrudgingly helps me out, I would much prefer them to say 'no, sorry I can't right now' than to help grumpily. And I'm not saying that we should all do everything our children ask us, immediately and happily - but it doesn't hurt to do as much as we can, honestly and lovingly and willingly. Every little interaction helps build our child's world - we aren't going to get them all right, but the interactions are positive as often as possible, then they will build a positive view of the world and of our relationship with them.

We're often told that if we do too much for our kids they will end up spoilt and ungrateful. Last week I saw the results of a lifetime of being willing to help and support people whenever they needed it, and the children of that man grew up to be compassionate, loving adults, full of gratitude and seeing abundance all through their lives. That is what I want for my children and I am thankful for this family for reminding me that living a compassionate, supportive, loving life will help our children to grow up the same way.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Lego Exhibition

Yesterday we went to see the Brickman Wonders of the World Lego Exhibition at Melbourne Museum. I'd been planning to take the kids since I first heard about it sometime in March, though I kept putting off buying tickets because I couldn't figure out a good time to go. The exhibit finishes this Sunday so yesterday turned out to be the only remaining day that we could make it - I've done the same with many of the visiting exhibitions (and other activities) - either scraped in during the last week, or missed it altogether. I don't like to book things in too far ahead in case our plans change, which does sometimes mean missing out. I might try to book a few things and work around them and see how that works.

Anyway - I'd seen a similar exhibition at CentrePoint Tower in Sydney, many many years ago (when I was perhaps 10 or 12, with Mum and my siblings) and I LOVED it and have always wanted to go again. I didn't know if the kids would be as excited as I was - from the first moment they saw the Empire State Building in the foyer of the museum, they were bouncing with excitement and so keen to see more.

We all loved the exhibition and were amazed at the skill of the builders involved and detail of every sculpture. The sculptures themselves were incredibly true to the original, and many of them had little scenes set up around them of people enjoying the site - some of those details were hilarious, and it was all interesting. I spent most of the 2 hours saying to the kids 'hey, did you see the guy over here who is doing ...' and we all pointed out lots of fun and interesting details to each other.

There were buildings (ancient and modern) and paintings, sculptures, natural formations, vehicles, metro maps, jewels and crowns - all magnificent. It was also fun to count how many of them we'd actually been to or seen in real life (12 for me, 5 for Liam and Caitlin. None for Millie which has added to her desire to go somewhere overseas). My favourite was definitely the Titanic, there was so much going on in the set up and the boat design was so intricate and realistic.

Many of the sculptures were surrounded by a moat of lego which we were able to use to build our own designs. These were a lot of fun, we made cars and pyramids and statues and towers. We raced our cars down a ramp put there for that purpose - Liam spent a lot of time engineering his car to make it structurally robust - lots of trial and error and then thinking about how to counteract each new problem. He was pretty impressed with his final product, and amusedly annoyed when Caitlin's vehicle of 2 big wheels on an axle was faster than his car.

As we made our way around we were looking for a particular lego figurine - there was a competition to count how many times he appeared throughout the exhibit, then you can enter your answer online and potentially win a prize. This added another whole level of interest to each sculpture and helped us really look at every aspect of the scene.

There were also tables set up with white flat squares of lego, and lots of coloured one by one blocks, where everyone could make their own design and put it on display on the wall. I tried to make a star and didn't get anywhere (although my statue of David was quite cool), the kids had a lot more success at designing something they were happy with.

Millie's, Liam's and Caitlin's designs
The Flying Scotsman, made from lego. Steam engines and lego combined - super exciting for me!
We explored for 2 hours (although it was hot in there and Caitlin and I started to feel a bit overwhelmed) and loved it all, we could have stayed longer. We made our way out through the shop and bought some road bases to use with our own lego, as we don't have any and this was something that all 3 kids were happy to get.

Upstairs we met up with my Mum and Dad, and my sister's son who they were looking after for the day. We all went in to the new Children's Gallery in the museum - we hadn't seen it before and the kids all loved it. Mum and Dad and I had a coffee while the 4 kids explored, then the kids joined us for something to eat and then we all had a bit more of a play and headed home. It was very cool to be able to combine our trip in to the museum with the kids seeing their cousin and grandparents.

The traffic was heavy though flowing on the way home (leaving just before 5pm was always risky) - we got home in about an hour 20 which wasn't too bad. We grabbed a hot chicken and bread from the IGA and ate that at the hall before going in to karate - Tony came and picked Millie up as she didn't want to do karate that night. Karate was fun and challenging as usual, afterwards we chatted to one of the Sempeis about his recent trip to Europe and then came home to finish our dinner and put the animals to bed and get to bed as quickly as possible ourselves - it was a cold night and we were very grateful for our fire!