Feeling 'Enough'

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It's been a while since I've shared anything personal.  To be honest, for the better part of this year I've been battling old demons that I thought were far behind me.  Negative, self-critical thought patterns have crept in, slowly, insidiously stealing my joy and my focus away from what's actually important to my soul and instead replacing it with doubt, worry, self-judgement, perfectionism and anxiety. It sucks balls and I'm consciously committing myself to turn things around.  

It's taken getting to the point of feeling like I was having panic attacks over ordinary things, like being invited to social engagements, for me to step back and really, honestly, examine myself and try and figure out what the heck is going on.  I guess there are a lot of things that have possibly contributed to my rising stress levels over the past year.  Raising a large family - more often than not- on my own, renovating a house whilst living in it, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, quitting drinking, and frequently failing to live up to my own expectations of myself as a mother, wife, friend and person are no doubt all taking their toll.  

However, the rational part of me knows that these things are just normal parts of life and really not worthy of the anxiety i lately find myself experiencing. So what then? At the moment, what seems the most likely explanation for my lack of inner peace, is that somewhere, deep inside my being, I've taken on the lie that who I am is simply not enough.  No matter what I do, or how I do it, lately it's just never good enough and that inner critic is loud and vocal in whatever i find myself doing or NOT doing.

And so, here i am today, realising that the power to change lies within me. True self worth doesn't come from 'outer' accomplishments nor does it diminish from external criticism. I know that feeling 'enough' is not going to come from doing more or better. It comes from living in the present, feeling the moment and being grateful for it instead of comparing it to an imaginary expectation of it. It's shutting down the 'should be's' and 'should have's' and just focusing on what is and loving the people around you while you get on with it.

More and more, I find truth in old and forgotten bible verses. 'Make careful exploration of who you are the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself to others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you with your own life. - Galatians 6:4-5

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The work i've been given is to raise my little people and impart to them things that matter to me. The last couple of weeks have been a huge reminder to me to stay true to that. Right now, they are my purpose. Having a quiet, clean and ordered house aren't the memories I particularly want my children to have and yet that's exactly what I've been focusing my attention on.  Rather than pulling out the finger paints, making play dough and encouraging them to sing and dance, Jamie and I have been focusing on 2mm discrepancies between fence palings, scuff marks on the freshly painted walls and how high to hang the letterbox. Stuff that sort of matters but that shouldn't be the focus. I must remind myself that we can always go back and redo the house stuff but we only have one shot at their childhood.  There aren't any do-overs.  This is it.  This is our life.  It's more than enough just as it is and moving forward I'm choosing to believe that I am too.

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Lately I’ve been seeing #gratitude everywhere I look.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen inspirational quotes, articles and a multitude of social media posts all espousing the benefits of gratefulness.  These posts give the impression that a life cultivated with gratitude is beautiful, serene and basically picture perfect.

First off, let me just say, I’m a bit reluctant to write about this.  Mostly because I tend to poke fun at anyone who takes themselves too seriously and secondly, because I’m getting the vibe that #gratitude is quite hip at the moment, something I try really hard not to be.

Anyhoo, with a high probability of sounding like Derek Zoolander, I feel the need to discuss Gratitude, what it means to me and what I think of all the ‘inspirational’ posts floating about social media of late.

The concept of Gratitude is something I personally REALLY believe in.  Changing one’s perspective by cultivating a grateful heart really does have the potential to completely transform one’s outlook on life.  And whilst I totally agree that looking for the good things in your life is beneficial, I can’t help but feel that the true power of gratitude is being overlooked by a misguided desire to search out and focus on the superficial and obviously wonderful things in life.

I also find it incredibly ironic that many inspirational posts combine words such as ‘be grateful for all the beauty in your life’ with a picture of posed perfection unattainable to most (much like my beautiful niece in the picture above, don't worry I see the irony there too).  It’s almost as if 'gratitude' is a perfect lifestyle to strive towards, and one that is more readily available if you are both genetically and financially #blessed.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for self-love, positivity and striving to live a life that makes you happy. I love that in this day and age people are able to take selfies and share their lives with the world.  And, honestly, if I managed to hike up Mount Everest in a gold bikini to watch the sun set and do some yoga, right after giving birth with hair and make up on pointe, I’d be putting that all over insta too. And yes, I would be grateful, but my hashtags would more likely be #Imfreakingawesome #somuchcoolerthanyou & #checkmeout.

Well-edited totally contrived selfies under the guise of #gratitude, in my opinion, miss the point of what gratitude is really about. True gratitude is enmeshed with humility, it doesn’t seek approval and it is available to all, no matter what conditions you find yourself in.  In fact, drawing on the power of gratitude in my darkest hours, as strange as that sounds, has allowed me to step outside of my ‘problems’ and realise that all seasons of life are beautiful in their own way.

You see, it’s easy to be happy and feel grateful when life is great. When you’re in good health, surrounded by loved ones, have money in the bank and feel like you’re on the right path, there’s much to be grateful for.  But experiencing pain, loss and disappointment are inevitable parts of life. For some, it’s constant.  There are days and seasons in life which are difficult and wrought with suffering.  Through my experience, it is in these times that the power of gratitude has the ability to transform us into better versions of ourselves, helping us to cope with our problems, connecting us to others and making us more compassionate human beings.   I’m not referring to the ability to look outside of one’s problems and see good things, such as noticing a beautiful sunset despite the fact that you’ve just written off your car, I mean being able to look head on at your suffering and finding beauty in it.

True gratitude only comes when you can let go of your judgements about yourself and what life is supposed to look like. Then you can begin to focus on the lessons, the reasons and ultimately the blessings that arise from adversity.  It’s about going ‘This is effing awful.  What can I gain from this?’ It’s not about going ‘this is effing awful, but I’m grateful there’s a rainbow out the window’.  Looking for the good things in your life helps shape a positive attitude and this is definitely helpful to get us through the tough times and not to dwell too long on the darkness, however, once you’re brave enough to accept the darkness and appreciate it for what it is, you will be freed from your fear of it, and instead it becomes a huge opportunity for growth. 

I can only speak of my own experiences and to be honest, I’m well aware that the problems I’ve encountered are small in comparison to many, but finding gratitude during hardships has allowed me to no longer be a victim of circumstance and instead take ownership of all the many facets of my life.  Through health problems that turned many of my core beliefs upside down, I’ve come to truly understand how many people are walking around with debilitating pain.  It’s taught me not to judge anyone nor take anything personally from strangers as you just don’t know what people are feeling inside even though they look normal on the outside.  It also taught me that I really don’t know much about anything even if I thought I knew it all and for that I am grateful. 

Through caring for my mother who suffers among many things, dementia, I have gained compassion for the elderly and for families with special needs children. Actually I've just gained an awareness that for some people, life is hard.  Ordinary tasks for people with disabilites are extremely difficult and it’s also incredibly taxing on their families. Small improvements are a huge deal. I never understood this until I lived it.  I also never realised how many selfless people there are within our community.  I’ve had the privilege to meet some incredible yet ordinary people who have a genuine heart for helping others.  Their work is not glamourous nor interesting but it’s so very honourable and makes such a difference to the people they care for.  I’ve witnessed true strength and beauty in others and for that I’m grateful.

I was recently talking with someone who had a breakthrough moment about her addictions where she suddenly realised through tears of joy, sadness and apprecitation that her addictions were a tool that were absolutely necessary to numb the pain of her childhood.  She spoke of being so thankful for the addictions for protecting her from things she wasn’t ready to face until now.  That’s gratitude.  

Life is an unpredictable journey.  The sun isn’t always shining but I'm learning there’s a different, softer, quieter beauty illuminated by the moonlight.  One that shows us our strengths and highlights our weaknesses.  One that reminds us we are a part of something greater even though it doesn't always make sense. Gratitude allows me to embrace the parts of my life that I don't like and realise that all things are temporary.  For life, I am grateful. 

Though the beauty may be in the butterfly, the struggle and growth occur in the cocoon
— Unknown

What started this blog....

"The earth has music for those who Listen"  -Shakespeare

Deep in my heart there is a yearning for more.  A yearning to dance barefoot in the rain, to smell the earth as I pull roots from the ground, to fully feel and embrace the seasons and to explore the time old traditions of plant medicine. 

This pull has always been a strong part of me, however, in the last few years my life has somehow become the complete opposite of this.  Two years ago, we moved away from our home, which we loved, to try and get ahead financially.  In the process of trying to sort out our finances, I lost sight of everything else that feeds my soul.  As I write this, I sit in the media room of a lovely, yet typical suburban home.  My children are staring at screens whilst eating packaged breakfast cereals.  I have spent the better part of the week cleaning walls and windows with zero adult interaction while my husband works away.  This existence feels robotic. Each day it feels as if I just go through the motions of doing the tasks that need to be done, adhering to the schedules of my children and going along with the expectations set forth in our modern, busy, wasteful society.  At times I feel the world closing in on me, anxiety takes hold and I have to escape to the mountains just to remind myself that I'm alive.

Maybe I watched too much 'little house on the prairie' as a child, but when I look at my children, I'm filled with guilt.  I know deep in my soul that my choices are failing them, stealing from their childhood which is disappearing faster than I could ever have imagined. The worst part is that I know better.  I know what's good and wholesome and yet MY children are addicted to technology and fast food and being constantly entertained.  I'm raising consumers instead of creators, takers instead of givers, observers instead of doers.  The parent I swore I'd never become is the person who stares back at me in the mirror. I find myself feeling helpless as our lives get further and further from my ideals.

This blog is about my journey to reawaken the wild spirit within both my children, my husband and more importantly, myself.  To create a life that feels 'alive' and in alignment with what I know is right for us. One that is rich in simplicity, natural beauty and creativity.  This is a place where I hope to merge the stirrings of my soul with our everyday lives and document the story of our lives whichever way the journey unfolds. I know my story is not unique and there no doubt have been countless before and will be untold after me who will experience the same struggle to live a meaningful life.  Nonetheless, this is our let the adventure begin.

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.
— Oscar Wilde