Looking back: Intro to Meditation Workshop 

Yesterday I held a repeat “Introduction to Meditation” workshop at Riverside Studio, and I was struck once again by how, even though everyone is so completely different, our reasons for wanting to start, or grow, a meditation practice are so similar.

“I want to find a ‘happy place’ that I can go to when I am feeling stressed out”

“Life is so rushed and can be so hard, and I need to find a way to slow down”

“I have a very close family and sometimes it’s hard to know what is my voice and what is their collective voice – I want to try and hear myself speak, or think, and find my own voice”

“There are so many demands on me as a working mother, I find it impossible to find time to look after myself”

“I often react so quickly and in the heat of the moment often say or do things that I regret – I need to find a way to be more mindful about my actions and reactions”

“I am struggling to sleep at night”

These, and so many more, are the kind of things that people cite when they sign up for the workshops. I try to make it as user-friendly and accessible as possible, because what I’m realising more and more, is that people are less interested in the potential of a meditation practice to deepen their spirituality or to help them figure out the meaning of our very existence, but desperate for a way to help them cope with the here and now of their busy lives, to find a way to slow down, to reduce stress, to find a way of relaxing and of switching off their overactive minds.

So my short workshops have changed slightly to move a fraction away from all the spiritual reasons we meditate, and to really focus more on empowering people in the short term to just begin – to just start along that potentially transformational journey of meditation – to start the very day after the workshop, for 20 minutes a day, for 21 days, and to see how it goes for them. For many people, this is all that is needed to get a taste for the potential power of this ancient practice, and for them to start feeling the benefits (more self aware, less self-critical, reporting feeling slightly less stressed, sometimes sleeping better or feeling like they can breathe better). And THEN – perhaps weeks, months or years after that, there is the potential to start tapping into the spiritual benefits of the practice. It’s like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – you can’t start trying to self-actualise if you are so stressed out you can’t even breathe! So we start with the basics, and grow it from there.

Here is a lovely message I received this morning from one of the yesterday’s attendees:

“You will be very proud of me: I had a lovely meditation this morning and am for the first time ready to do this and will keep doing it for 21 days and look forward to many more from there”.

What a champ!

Next post will be about why we avoid, don’t start, or don’t continue with a meditation practice.

 

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The Glory of Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall pose


We all need survival strategies to help us maneuver through life’s difficult days with some measure of sanity and grace. When the world threatens to overwhelm us, we need a way to hold ourselves together until the stormy weather passes—or perhaps simply a way to let everything fall apart without losing our faith completely.
Here’s my favorite survival strategy: I close the door, tune in to my favorite track on Savasana by Wah, hit the repeat button, and slide into Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose). I drape a lavender-scented eye bag across my brow, exhale as soulfully as possible, and then invite the posture’s quiet softness to sink into every cell of my body.

I breathe. I surrender. I melt. As my legs drain, my mind empties and my belly warms and softens. I linger here for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, sometimes a half an hour or more, until the pose has drawn every last drop of angst and agitation from my soul. And when I can bear to pull myself back to reality, I roll over and slowly sit up, refreshed and renewed. Invariably, I feel better able to manage life’s challenges with clarity and balance.

I’d wager that Viparita Karani can do the same for you. This soothing, restorative posture calms the nervous system, eases muscle fatigue, and helps restore healthy, restful breathing. Many yoga instructors offer it as an antidote to exhaustion, illness, and weakened immunity. In addition, it invites us todrop beneath the surface of life into quieter and more introspective realms.

Using Yoga To Get You Through The Festive Season

Arniston arniston3 arniston2I wouldn’t say I’m a Grinch but I’m certainly not one of those people who whole-heartedly embraces Christmas and the whole festive season and feels sad and deflated when it’s over. On the contrary, I have to work hard with myself to stop getting stressed at how much waste the whole season involves –  waste of money, waste of energy, waste of paper and food… and I admit to breathing a long sigh of relief once the 25th is over and everyone and everything seems to start settling down.

I appreciate that the holiday season can be joyful, a time to share what we have with family and friends. However, there’s no doubt that it can also be a stressful time if we allow hectic schedules and commercial pressures to drive us. Which is why this year I persuaded my husband that our family needed to spend 2 weeks at the beach. I found a beautiful house in Arniston and after just a few days we have already settled into a gloriously easy rhythm of breakfast, beach, snooze, pool, more beach, braaing, reading, playing, and of course my precious yoga practice. The main bedroom happens to be huge with a deck overlooking Kassiesbaai and I have practiced under the rising full moon as well as the rising sun. And I have found that my practice has never felt sweeter. I’m sure it’s a combination of the sea air, the turquoise water, the easy routine and especially the fact that there is no shopping mall in sight and certainly no queues, no piped carols being played over a sound system in a mall, no gaudy decorations and no pressure to buy or acquire anything other than the odd piece of snoek or new set of beach bats once the old ones gave up the ghost after a particularly competitive volley between the husband and I (yes, I’m still working on losing my competitive streak).

It’s not all peachy. My in-laws are out visiting from Northern Ireland for 6 weeks. 6 WEEKS. Which is one of the main reasons I begged my husband for us to go away – I love them dearly and am very lucky to have them, but I am a fiercely private person who needs her own space and I figured that if we were in a neutral environment where I wasn’t having to be hostess the entire time, I would also be able to have a bit of a break and have a better chance of remaining marginally pleasant for a longer period of time. Well, that remains to be seen, but at least I’m getting a tan while I’m losing my ability to make small talk.

I’ve been pondering a lot what this time of year means to me. Whilst I consider myself a deeply spiritual person, I am not religious and don’t believe in Jesus Christ which is why I suppose I don’t feel a deep resonance with the whole ‘birth of Christ’ side of things. Sometimes I actually feel like a bit of a fraud that I’m piggy-backing on the Christmas theme even though I haven’t been to church in pretty-much all my life, other than funerals, christenings and weddings. I do, however, feel a huge amount of empathy for my fellow man at this time of year, especially because a number of my nearest and dearest have lost very special loved ones recently and it seems that a lot of folk are battling their own demons at the moment. It’s well documented that depression is one of the most commonly reported and treated illnesses at this time of the year, with people acutely aware of the sense of loneliness and alienation that can be felt when you think that everyone else is having a big family fun time.

I find that at this time of year I really do need to protect my yoga practice. The commercial pressure, holiday shopping, family visits, the logistics of planning and traveling, managing food and alcohol consumption, getting enough exercise and down-time whilst remaining a good mum, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend, employee at the same time… it can all get a bit much. And then I get onto my mat and start to breathe and then start moving through (typically) a slow, sweet and gentle practice, and everything falls into perspective again. As corny as it sounds, it’s true!

So I find that the holiday season is a golden opportunity to practice yoga outside of the classroom, actually applying all the skills we have been honing over the year. As Dr. Swami Shankardev says, managing the holiday season is like the exam, the real test of how much we have learned and embodied over the year.

How do we maintain a calm centre in the storm of the holidays?  The first thing to do is to dedicate some quiet time for contemplation and meditation. Just sit still wherever you are, breathing quietly to practice any calming, grounding process. Once you have settled in, why not contemplate what a particular holiday means to you, maybe asking yourself what you really want to get out of this period, and what will best support you and others.As you develop a sense of that meaning, perhaps focus on disentangling commercial pressures from the essence of the holidays. This may be able to help you plan strategies that will make this period meaningful and fulfilling.

It sounds paradoxical but stress can be the biggest issue for a lot of people during the holidays. Stresses come in many forms and it can be helpful to contemplate what yours is likely to be. For me, it’s the fact that there is always someone is my house, in my kitchen, in my garden, just in my space. The fact that there is a lot of chit-chat and I am not very good at that. I need to dig deep to remain calm, adult and hospitable when the revolting teenager in me is jumping up and down and shouting ‘JUST GIVE ME SOME &***%% SPACE!!!!’

During my early morning meditation, I find it helpful to playfully visualize what may lie ahead on any given day. I have also looked back at past holidays and considered what I’d like to do differently – which is why we are having Christmas at the beach this year. To give myself the best possible chance of remaining calm, focused, grounded and friendly, I actually have to contemplate strategies that I can actually apply outside of the practice space. This meditation, then, is mental rehearsal for the actual event. So far, so good.

I have to continuously remind myself that yoga is more than technique; it is a way of being. Breath is the best tool we have to remain conscious and calm; any time is a good time to practice moving and breathing more slowly and consciously. It’s my way of keeping that sulky teenager that lurks within me under control, especially when my children are bickering about who’s got the biggest glass of milk or whose turn it is to pull the plug out of the bath. I’ve taught them to breathe deeply too when they get overwhelmed, so if ever there’s a stressful moment in our house, you’re likely to find me (40), Isla (3) and Daniel (5) all lying on the ground and taking deep, slow breaths as we calm each other and ourselves down. It works, even though it looks funny and my in-laws think I’m a hippy-freak.

If you do plan to keep your practice up whilst you’re away from your usual studio, it’s probably worthwhile being realistic about what’s actually going to be achievable in terms of getting on your mat. When we first got to the coast, I had planned to be up at 6am every morning for 45 minutes asana practice and at least 15 minutes meditation. As it turned out, the first day my kids woke up at 5.30am (at home I have to drag them out of bed at 7.30am or even 8am – but here the excitement was too much) so there went my practice. The second day I just felt too pooped to get out of bed and instead had a glorious lie-in as the sun rose gently over the sea. The third day I got on my mat at 7am and all I did was balasana and halasana, and breathed and let go and allowed myself to just relax. Yes, I did fit in my practice later in the day but it was so lovely to just let go of any plan or goal and to rather do what I always encourage my students to do: listen to your body and your mind, and tune into what you really need from your practice. This morning my practice took place in the comfort of my bed, and it consisted of legs up in the air, the full yogic breath, and then supta baddha konasana as I drifted off to sleep again. Perfect.

I find that my real and ongoing challenge is keeping yoga in my life and mind when I’m off the mat: practicing empathy, non-judgement, equanimity, forgiveness, losing my ego, letting go of any semblance of control and surrendering to what is, without losing the essence of who I am. I also find it helpful to remember that asana, pranayama and meditation practices are not ends in themselves, but means to an end. That end is to develop a greater inner resilience and a more stable mind that can handle the difficulties of life with greater calm and poise.

Even if you don’t practice at all over the next few weeks before our Stellenbosch yoga studio re-opens, don’t feel guilty! Take some time out, do something totally different, have a break! And then when you come back to your yoga practice I’m sure you’ll get back into formal practice with renewed enthusiasm and a clearer direction of what you need to work toward in the New Year.

Higher Yoga (with thanks to Dr. Swami Shankardev)
If you wish to practice some form of higher yoga to nourish your spirit during the holiday season, you may wish to focus on how you can support others less fortunate than yourself. It is an excellent time to practice selfless service and giving. It is a time when we can learn from and support others, especially those going through difficult times.

Here are a few tips for practicing higher yoga so that you can fill your life with peace and joy:

1. Honour yourself, your relations, and the planet by choosing a noble and virtuous intention for the New Year. Practice ahimsa, a yama of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga, which means nonviolence toward yourself and others.

2. Follow your own heart. Learn to listen to yourself, your own higher intuitive inner voice, through meditation practice.

3. Practice contentment (samtosha), which is one of the niyamas of Patanjali. Contemplate just how much you already have and what you really need. Is there some

thing that you think you need in your life to make you happy, and/or do you already have plenty? Cultivate gratitude for all the things you have.

4. Before you indulge, bring consciousness into the moment. For example, before eating, be aware of what you are going to eat and perhaps say a simple prayer or thanks. Prepare to really enjoy what you are about to eat, to take it deep into your tissues so as to fully nourish yourself.

5. Be flexible in body, mind, and spirit. Learn not be constrained by plans but to go more with the flow. There is an old Indian saying: “Man proposes; God disposes.”

With great thanks to Dr. Swami Shankardev for the backbone of this post. Dr. Swami is a yogacharya, medical doctor, psychotherapist, author, and lecturer. He lived and studied with his guru, Swami Satyananda, for ten years in India (1974-1985). He lectures all over the world. Contact him at www.bigshakti.com.

The 10 Things You’ll Do Once You Start Yoga (that have nothing to do with yoga)

I so enjoyed this article by Lee Anne Finfinger (see http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/10/the-10-things-youll-do-once-you-start-yoga-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-yoga-lee-anne-finfinger/) that I simply have to re-post it on my blog. It made me laugh out loud at myself and I am sure that all of you that are in any way involved in yoga may also find it amusing. It is such a breath of fresh air to find someone who is clearly passionate about yoga (and especially how it has transformed her life), yet able to do without the worthiness and seriousness that can so often accompany any musings about the subject.

In the same vein, I am currently reading a book by Claire Dederer called ‘Poser’, which I am thoroughly enjoying, even though I am only a few chapters in. I confess: the sole reason I bought the book is because of the photo on the cover: a woman in lotus with a glass of wine in her one hand and a baby’s juice bottle in the other. Finding myself constantly challenged in the daily balancing act of my many ‘jobs’ (frequently grumpy and stressed-out mother of two children under the age of four, not-very-good wife, yoga instructor, to name but a few), this resonated with me enormously. Dederer,  a highly self-aware, smart book critic who has contributed to The New York Times Book Review,  makes some extremely powerful social commentary about the challenges of being a mother, a wife, a woman in our current society whilst being very honest (and incredibly witty) about how yoga helped her to fight her own demons. I have just put my own two children down for a nap and so I am keeping this blog post short so that I can dash off and get back to reading!

So, to finish off this post, enjoy Lee Anne’s ten points about what you’ll do once you start yoga…

1. At least once, you will force yourself to try to be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free (insert any over-zealous diet here)/ drink Kombucha/ buy bottled water before class and pour it into your sustainable water bottle before the teacher/students/Whole Foods cashier next to you sees.  (If you’re craving meat, just eat it!  On your deathbed, will you really be glad that you didn’t have that steak on your 30th Birthday?)

2. Your iPod will now include a heavy serving of Kirtan music that you will listen to on your very long commute to your yoga studio (It’s cool; if you want to listen to Kirtan occasionally, go for it!  When you start listening to it while driving and falling asleep — time to go back to your old playlists. Do NOT switch over to NPR!)

3. You will pretend not to notice that your ass now fits in a size 6 instead of an 8, but you’re secretly thrilled.  (When you get down to a 4 though, watch it.  People will talk.)

4. You will go back to your natural hair color/ remove your hair extensions/ cut your hair short in an attempt to stop paying so much attention to your vanity.  (Try not to cut it too short — the growing out process is a bitch and then you’ll just need more hair extensions. I did.)

5. You’ll attempt to read the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Upanishads while your stack of fashion magazines calls to you from the next room.  (Really, why can’t I like Rachel Zoe and yoga?  Now that I’m thin enough to actually wear her clothes, why should I pretend I don’t want to?) (See #3.)

6. You will take a retreat.  Hello, Kripalu!  (It’s ok — those other people probably are weirdos.  So are you.  Eat your breakfast and shut up.  No really, shut the fuck up – it’s a silent breakfast.)

7. You’ll start taking photos of yourself in yoga poses. Often.  And you’ll think that other people care.  It’s like the modern-day version of the vacation slideshow.  No one gives a shit, but they’ll pretend like they do so that you do the same when they whip out their own photos.

8. You will at some point wear mala beads, which will break all over the floor of your 6:15am class.  (Basically, it’ll end about as well as when I wore my Grandmother’s rosary beads to dinner at age 6. Silver Lining: The company was kind enough to re-string them for free, and now I just wear them like a really cool wrap bracelet.  It’s very hippie chic. Thank you September Vogue.) (See #5)

9. You will become a cheap date.  Remember, you just dropped two sizes and you continue to spend at least an hour a day sweating and twisting and breathing.  You’ll be buzzed from one drink!

10. You’ll get over yourself.  If you teach yoga, you’ll hope that people show up because they like taking class from who you really are.  If you practice yoga, you’ll keep showing up and you’ll realize that the other shit doesn’t matter.

‘Sitting with Depression’ and an enlightening visit to the doctor

Following on from my Bah-humbug post, I may as well confess that the ‘joys’ of the festive season got on top of me so much (or rather, I allowed them to) that I ended up going to see a doctor, thinking that something dreadful must be wrong with me, seeing as I was the only ‘drol in the drinkwater’ ** and everyone else seemed to be having such a ball. He was very professional, asked a lot of questions, and eventually diagnosed me with stress. With all due respect, this wasn’t particularly helpful since that was the reason I was there in the first place, and also since when he posed the simple question, ‘How are your stress levels at the moment?’, my reply was ‘Through the *&%$*^& roof’ (to quote my dear friend Nicole).

Nonetheless, during his line of questioning, specifically about my history, I told him that I had had a pretty nasty and traumatic experience when I was in my teens, and that it had crossed my mind that perhaps this was rearing its ugly head (even though I was pretty confident that I had long since processed the whole thing and moved on). His advice was clear cut: Do Not Think About That Stuff. Ever. And he used the analogy of a drawer (actually pulling his drawer out from his desk to demonstrate, in case I didn’t quite get the analogy) that you can pack all this ‘stuff’ into and then firmly, decisively, push it shut again. You know that the ‘stuff’ is in there, but God help me, you do not look at it again. Just in case I hadn’t cottoned on to his theory, he then used the analogy of having a beloved dog that dies. He said that yes, you will be sad that the dog has died, but that you make a point of not thinking about the dead dog because you know it will make you sad.

At the time, I remember feeling something almost physical, like a switch that went in my head, where I realised that him and I have clearly different approaches, live on different planets and have totally different world views. I took it all in, gave him the benefit of the doubt and didn’t express my disagreement with him, but I definitely was thinking ‘hmmm, he clearly has some Stuff that he is too terrified to even look at’, whilst thinking about what Freud called the “return of the repressed” – the result of ignoring the shadow side of our personalities. I majored in psychology at university and admittedly only learnt enough to make me dangerous when it comes to having opinions in the field, however I do believe that by simply refusing to deal with, or acknowledge, any issues or traumas or whatever it may be, you run the risk of setting yourself up for trouble and discontentment further down the line, when these unresolved issues come bubbling to the surface. But that’s just me.

So, it was with great interest that I read an article in Yoga Journal a few days ago, touching on exactly this subject.

Mark Epstein is an author and psychiatrist in New York and has been a student of Buddhist meditation for 25 years. He describes himself as a ‘therapist influenced by the wisdom of the East’ and he recently wrote an article in Yoga Journal titled ‘Sitting with Depression’. The tagline is ‘Depressed people think they know themselves, but maybe they only know depression.’ This was enough to make me read on since the Black Dog (as Winston Churchill called his own depression) has hounded a few of my nearest and dearest in recent times, however as I read on I was intrigued to find that he, in a much more palatable manner, seemed to echo what my doctor was trying to say.  It also brought to mind a quote by Mark Twain that I have always loved: ‘Drag your thoughts away from your troubles…by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.’

He talks about the merits of attempting to disentangle oneself from one’s problems, rather than going more deeply into them, and he expresses his confidence that ‘there is another direction in which to move in such situations: away from the problems and into the unknown. If we stay with the fear this often induces, we have a special opportunity to see our own egos at work, defending against the unknown while hiding out in the very problems we claim to want freedom from. Buddhism is very clear about how important it is to move in such a direction.’

It has been extremely thought-provoking for me to hear two clearly well-read and qualified therapists saying more or less the same thing within a two week period, and flies in the face of everything that I have thought for a long time. It’s not that I am a navel-gazer who gets enjoyment from obsessing about myself and my Problems (who doesn’t have them? Problems, that is, not navels), it’s just that I have always felt that it may be healthier to face up to them and deal with them directly and not pretend that they don’t exist. Now, I am revising my opinion. And as with everything in yoga, thinking that it’s surely all about balance.

It’s funny, ever since all our house guests have left and I have my home and my children to myself again, my stress levels have plummeted and I am more content and ‘chilled’ than I’ve been in a while, so there probably was no need to have gone to see that doctor in the first place.  That said, I’m really glad that I did as it has given me a whole new perspective on how to go about working with oneself and any issues that one may be carrying. To end with one of those dreadfully tacky quotes (which I secretly quite like): ‘Don’t look backwards. That’s not the way you’re going’.

For anyone who is interested in the full article (which is really worth a read), you can find it at http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/137.

** Afrikaans idiom meaning ‘the dung in the drinking water/town well’.

Bah Humbug: onwards and upwards

Am I the only person who is utterly over the moon about the whole festive season being behind us – at long, loooooong last – and rapidly becoming a distant memory? Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the real meaning behind it and, religious stuff aside, the fact that it’s a reason for family and friends to get together etc etc etc, but oh my giddy aunt, am I glad that it’s done and dusted. The hype, the stress, the pressure, the overeating, the over-drinking, the small talk, the gaudy decorations, the frenetic socialising, the mess, the waste… I have sworn that next Christmas, I am NOT hosting The Main Meal in our house again (even though The Band was awesome in terms of actually getting the food on the table) and am instead going to be in a very small, private house somewhere in the Tankwa Karoo where there is no cell phone reception, preferably no real road (so that no-one can EVER pop in unannounced) and where the only flashing lights are those that are emanating from the Milky Way. I’m not sure who will be joining me as I was publicly labeled ‘weird’ by the extended family (The Band himself included! Et Tu, Brute) when I chose to go and sit with my feet in the pool and drink a quiet glass of red wine whilst star-gazing, after yet another braai (very, very pleasant at the time, but I do need my time out afterwards), rather than joining everyone else sitting inside and watching some inane TV program.

My stress levels were not helped by the fact that I had the in-laws staying in our house for 6 weeks (usually two weeks is my limit and the point at which I start getting twitchy but I thought I’d give it a bash and try to be the ‘hostess with the most-est’. That didn’t work out so well, I can assure you, and I am the first to admit it). And my father-in-law and my 3 year-old seemed to develop some kind of weird power struggle, leading to my FIL calling my son ‘a rather unpleasant little chap’ on more than one occasion which, as all the mothers out there can imagine, was enough to make me want to bop FIL repeatedly on the nose.  At the very least.

My biggest failing (and trust me, there were many over the past few weeks) is that I didn’t make the time to get on my mat more often. It sat there, forlornly rolled up in the corner of my bedroom, watching me getting more and more wound up and stressed out, and if it had words, I know it would have been calling out to me to do the right thing and to just take twenty, ten – even five minutes – every day, or even a few times a day, to just reconnect with myself and the quietness that I was so desperately craving. Because, of course, that quietness is within, even if one’s house is a veritable circus at the time. Yes, of course I did keep up my home practice to a certain extent, but not nearly enough. It is only now that my house is (finally) my own again that I have fallen in love with my mat and my practice again, and I have been absolutely embracing it. Each evening I have made a point of creating a truly restorative bedtime routine, encompassing a long, gentle yoga session, pranayama, an even longer yoga nidra or guided relaxation, all done in the peace of my bedroom with a flickering candle and my very special Nag Champa incense, a short entry into my journal before crawling into my beautiful clean bed and drifting off to sleep.

It is not very ‘ahimsa’ to want to kick myself on the butt for not having made this discovery about three weeks ago (when my wheels started coming off in quite a comprehensive fashion), but that’s pretty much how I feel. I teach this stuff, for heaven’s sake, yet somehow just could not give this beautiful gift to myself when I needed it most. I am taking this as a very timely lesson in how important the whole concept of ‘self-love’ is, and I can already feel how the time and effort that I am putting in now is redressing the balance, and I am feeling like a whole new person, recharged, and ready to embrace whatever the New Year holds for me.

PS. They say that being a good hostess is making your guests feel at home, even when you wish that they were. I hope that I at least did that to a certain extent. Next time I will be better.

The Reluctant Mom: my new hero

I recently was referred to this blog by my best friend, and the more I read her posts, the more I love her. I found it so liberating to read that there are a whole bunch of mums out there who absolutely embrace their maternal status but simultaneously embrace their need for time away from the sprogs, and who can also be really honest about the fact that motherhood is not always fun!  As The Reluctant Mom herself says, ‘I love being a mom, I just don’t love everything about it, all the time’ (or something along those lines). I’ll pop a cork to that!

About “Reluctant Mom”

24 November 2011

I thought it might be good to just as little update on me in the “about me” page – as the stuff written below is still valid, and I feel a bit “reluctant” to go and change it, as it is still what is going on.

Reflecting on this year.

I am slightly better now than I was to begin the year.  This year has had a series of downwards spirals, that really just turned in to me clawing at the sides of a bottomless pit.

I can honestly say that there were several moments where I sat on the edge of my bed crying and saying: “I am slipping in to madness, and I am worried that this is my last glimpse of mild sanity…”

So that was not all good.  Actually all pretty shit, no way to brighten that one up at all.

Depression and General Anxiety Disorder have held me hostage much of this year.  It really was one of my hardest and lowest down patches.  In some instances I was a willing accomplice (Patty Hearst Syndrome) but in many I was being dragged backwards behind an ox-driven cart.

Presently I am in a “feeling much better” space.  I am enjoying my life, work, my children and my lot in life.  I am well medicated, seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist who assist me in keeping my fingers firmly stapled to the ledge.

My relationship has its ebbs and flows.  Kennith is a good guy, if not a great guy.  We argue and we disagree.  And I think it is difficult to be in a relationship with me, when I am not always present.  It has been difficult to just be …… I can’t explain this unless you have been there before.

I am sure that this year has not been a total joy for him.  No doubt he has had several moments where he has been left questioning why exactly he has tied his yoke to a “reluctant mom/wife/person” but I am glad he has decided to hang in there for a bit longer. The good egg he is.

I hope that as I get better, I will have more “energy” to focus on improving our relationship, and being a better partner.  Right now I am pretty sucky if the truth be told.

I feel more in synch with my kids in the last two months than I think I ever have.  I really enjoy them and smile when I think of them.  I enjoy just being with them.  But that being said I am still easily overwhelmed (as I am this week) and I need to keep a check on this, before I find I am putting myself into a situation that I cannot cope with.

Connor is a sensitive caring soul with a soft and gentle nature.  He is a beautiful boy, who is a good soul.   He helps me so much, and I think he is an old soul, who sees more than he lets on.

Georgia is a child that tests my mettle, and often leaves me confused, frustrated and befuddled. Kennith has suggested she will be a “creative” and we need to really find a different way of dealing with her.  I adore her and I find her so challenging, but I do need to find a better way of “coping” with her differences, and have not mastered this.

Isabelle is a third child, but who has decided to surpass her siblings to she is not left behind.  She has shown herself to be the shortest person in our house with the most clout.  She tests me each day, and most days I fail, dismally.  She starts school in January, so I am hoping that peer pressure helps her with her speech, and maybe reduces her frustration.

Work is great.  I do not say that flippantly. I really love what I do and fortunately it lends itself to some flexibility – so I can sometimes sit at my dining room table in my shorty jammies and continue working.  That has been a life line to me.  But I do struggle to find the “balance” between working and stopping working when I get home.

My blog.  My blog has become more important to me, than it was. I do not earn a living from my blog.  I don’t make any income.  It is purely a work of love and obsession.   My ramblings, mutterings and cussing have assisted me in finding me (as flippant as that sounds.)

I try never to go back and change a blog post. I leave it – as you would a diary insert – it has the feelings and emotions that I felt on that day at that time.  My blog changes as I do, and my thoughts felt on one day, at one time, were true to that time.  But I change and I often rethink my thoughts and may think differentlyc or learn something I did not know before.

Because I said it here does not make it so. Forever. I am entitled to change my mind.  I hope I do in some instances.  Try not to hold me ransom when I have said something once.

I am glad you have found my blog – and I also hope that some of my shit resonates with you.  I love my kids, and I like my kids, I just am not a cookie cutter mom. I am easily frustrated when I am with my kids.  I am easily frustrated when I am with YOUR kids, so it is not just mine.

I do struggle to keep sane in my insanity.  Right now I am on a yellow lifeboat and I am bobbing along quite nicely with my bottle of Chenin Blanc <presently looking for a sponsor wine farm, so please apply if you stock Chenin Blanc>

I find motherhood fkn hard and challenging.  I am not going to tell you that it is easy, or that I love it so damn much. I often sit and wonder if I could and would run away from it all, and just leave it behind.  Could I or would I?  But I am here and I chip away at each day.

I realise I am just a bit out of synch with the cupcake-making-craft-doing moms that I see.   I like to drink wine, lots of it, and I like to use a baby sitter, and spend evenings out without my kids.

I do love my kids – I just don’t want to be with them 24 hours of each day.  I can’t balance work, my kids, my relationship and my life, and my tentative grasp on sanity.  I have not found the secret. Yet.

So that is me … and this is my blog.

 

 

 

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I realized that I have been blogging for more than a year – my reason for blogging is about to turn two on the 10 June 2010.

I have three children and have always battled with motherhood – I find everything about it challenging and nothing about it came easily to me.

Kennith and I put off having children until I was 29 – when I mean put off, I mean, I put him off having children.  I was looking for a way to convince him that we really did not want children, as I really did not want children.

I gave in, and we had our first son when I was 29 – and really I like to compare it to the little Dutch girl – or was it a boy –  with her finger in the dyke (large dam rather than large dame type).

When Connor came along it was like an entire universe opened up to me.  And I am not necessarily talking about the happy universe where fairies and pixies play and giggled, it is more the universe where Stephen King gets his inspiration.

I focused my energies and the preparation on choosing the right colour for the bedroom, buying the right pram, would I wash all his clothes once or twice before packing them into his new cupboard – those sorts of details.

What I did not factor in was how the arrival of this 3 plus kilogram little person would create so much stress between Kennith and I that we felt our stable and very secure relationship was crumbling right before our eyes.

I could never factor in how the arrival of this baby would suddenly bring to life all my issues regarding my childhood and the issues I have regarding my mother and some of the choices she made.

The arrival of this baby made me anxious, paranoid, depressed and severely unhappy.

But, and I really must say but, I was not unhappy with him – of course I loved him with that fierceness of a love that a mother feels for a her child.  She knows she would lay down her life for him at the drop of a hat – no the pain and the unhappiness I felt was for me, my life, my relationship and well pretty much everything.

I struggled with ‘bouts of depression that had moments of light relief and others with shadows of wanting to end it all.

I hated myself.  I hated the fact that I could not cope.  I felt dreadfully alone and I began to hate Kennith because it was all his fault – well who else was I going to blame?

I felt abandoned and angry because I was becoming more dependent on him.  Dependency is a very ugly and frightening word for me.

Kennith assisted by decided nothing says abandonment quite like going off to do a two-year MBA!!

I decided – I, not we, I – at my darkest lowest point, that I wanted to have a second child.  I can’t explain rationally why, it was a primal urge and had all the makings of a breakdown.

We had Georgia in 2005.  If I thought things could not get any worse, I was severely deluded.

All that could go wrong did, we were living in a house of misery and somehow we were getting through the days.  Over the period of 2005 through to end 2006 I can honestly say we were not living, we were surviving.

But with these things, things do get better and they did.

We realized we were in trouble, and somehow find the resolve and the strength to make it better.  We started making more effort just to be present, just to be there for each other and to really value what we had.  I am not trying to indicate at all that it was not difficult.  It was hellishly hard, and running in our separate directions definitely seemed so much easier than trying to walk this path together.

Things got better each year, and my depression definitely got easier to handle, and our children flourished.

In late 2007 we decided to start “talking” about a third child.  We discussed, chatted, planned and finally fell pregnant late in 2008 – we welcomed Isabelle in June 2009.

And here is where my story begins.

I was convinced I had got over all the hard stuff.

I had endured the relationship issues, I had survived two children – often getting through difficult times alone.  I knew the realities of the situation.  I was no longer under false illusions of how easy or difficult it was going to be.  I had experience, I had this all waxed .. well that is what I thought.

However …. yes there is always a but …. but I thought ‘a however’ would sound better.

I had always nurtured illusions <delusions> that I would be a stay at home mom.

I would happily prepare kids for school, drop them off, do some of my freelance work, maybe start a business from home, and grab the kids later and well do kid-mom stuff.

That is sort of the picture I had in my mind.

When Isabelle popped up on the scanning monitor in the OBGYN office I thought, well this is the time.  I need to gear myself up to be at home with her, nurture her, and be there with her to see her gurgle, and take her first step and reach for me when she is crying – I am going to be that mom.

I work for a great company, and I really enjoy what I do.  But I thought I am going to go on maternity leave, finances are going to force me back to work, but I will work until she is about a year and then, I will resign and start this “stay at home mom” life that is all the rage.

The problem I did not factor in to this issue – was me!

I am so depressed being at home I start to slide into a rather dramatic I-think-I-am-going-to-harm-someone depression.  I just cannot cope.

I become erratic (more than usual), and start to go off the edge of my very thin postcard.

I realized while on maternity leave with Isabelle, with crushing clarity, that I am just not designed to stay home.  I will probably kill myself or sell my kids to the circus.  I am embarrassed and frustrated that I can’t do it – but the truth – as cutting as it is – is that I make a better mom working than a mom staying at home.

I am happier and saner when I brush my teeth and put my work clothes on and drive off to work, than if I stayed at home.

Recently someone asked me – a good friend – “But why did you have children if you don’t like being with them?”

Initially I thought I would bitch-slap her, but then I thought about it, and can understand how it seems …. that there are other moms  like me who love/adore their children, but do not want to be with them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  I know we are not meant to say it … because that will mean we love them less.

I love being a mom.  I just don’t like being a mom all the time.

I hide from my children, I miss the days of lying on my bed reading, undisturbed.  I would rather be out with my friends eating copious amounts of pasta and drinking wine, than sitting with my kids doing arts and crafts.

Initially the guilt I suffered for thinking like this consumed me.  Again I felt it was just me.

The moms I saw were perfectly turned out and just love being with their off-spring all the time, but that was not me.  I would see these clicks of moms at my kids schools and they were just so into everything their kids did – and I kept thinking, I need a gap to go and drink wine, I would much rather not sit and watch my child practice hockey or playball – that is why I pay these other people to do these things with my kids, so I can go off and do something else.

While on maternity leave in June 2009, I started jotting down some of my thoughts about my experiences through motherhood and the daily battles I have being me.  I was seeing a psychiatrist at the time and had just started on my new script of Zoloft.

When I started blogging, it actually made me start feeling better, just putting it out there.

But then I started to get responses from other women – who felt the same as me – possibly with less wine and Zoloft, but they echo’d some of the things I was going through.

I can’t tell you how liberating and amazing it felt, that it was not just me crying in the bathroom at 2am, there were other moms like me, who maybe did not quite fit the mould.

So, to sum up who I am, I am a mom of three delicious children, I adore them so much, and if I could have a fourth I would, I also love being away from my children and being with my friends and a large bottle of wine.

I struggle with motherhood nearly every day, and nothing about it comes easily to me.  I stopped faking it was easy and that I was coping around 2007.

Since then my life has got easier, not easy, just easier and just a little saner.