Colour me prepared

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If there were a picture of a girl guide in the dictionary, which would be wikipedia because hardly anyone uses an actual dictionary anymore, then I could be it.

I am prepared.

My management of myself nowadays involves some pretty awesome organisational skills. I thrive when I am feeling organised, prepared and ready to go. I have three of the four kids with birthday parties coming up in mid-August and September. The party bags are done. The sausage rolls have been made and are in the freezer. The bottles of water and straws and napkins are in the cupboard. The cake has been ordered. I am happier than a pig in shit.

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I am currently researching costume ideas for the school concert in mid-September because NOTHING freaks me out more than dress up days. Except maybe spiders and drying three lots of hair on swimming night. And the book week costume for the end of this month? Freaking me out too.

Sidebar: If anyone has tips then throw them my way. There is ANZACS for a girl – I’m thinking nurse but most of the costumes make her look like a slut instead of a 1914 war hero. The next theme is trains but I am not making a cardboard anything because that thing will be collapsed before it gets in the car. And finally a book week costume that is not fucking Elsa. I need to let it go, let it go…

So you see I am a planner, a restaurant booker, a timetabler, a midnight talker. I mean check out my laundry soaps. Does anyone else put them in nice jars? Sheesh.

I do not fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t even do change very well. I try hard to be in the moment although often, even this can be challenging.

I am so stuck in my ways that when I do have a random spout of spontaneity, the Baker and the kids look at me like I am just some odd woman that looks like someone they know but is totally not acting that way. And I’ll be all like, “Yeah, let’s just do this!” And they’ll be all like, “Who are you and what have you done with Anna?”

I guess you could call it a survival skill. A way of managing myself. My way of making sure that I can manage my head and my life without completely losing my foshizzle. It doesn’t always work for I regularly lose my foshizzle. Mostly it works though.

I have been emptying and managing my head for the past two years. Sometimes I have done it really well and other times, not so good. But even if I take one step backwards, as long as I keep taking two steps forward, then it is a path I am happy to travel. I am also loving the cliches today.

I have been thinking about it a lot lately because I have been working on my personal story for beyondblue. On Tuesday I am going to my first public speaking engagement and I could not be more proud. Or prepared.

I am ready to talk on a stage. I am ready to share my pain, my resilience and my hope. I am ready to answer questions.

I won’t get anxious about being on the stage in front 1100 teenagers. I will get anxious about the floors not being swept before I leave the house, such is the frustration of my anxiety. I may offer the kids a shiny gold coin to sweep for me.

I know I will worry about what to wear because I am vain as fuck and unlikely to change between now and Tuesday.

But mostly, I will just be proud.

Colour me yellow – with optimism + happiness.

And whatever colour proud and resilient and slightly crazily organised may be.

 

 

 

Colour my Personal Take: Teaching me a thing or two

I just had an hour in the classroom and I am ready for a lie down.

Here is my Personal Take in Geelong Advertiser’s gt magazine. The original article is online here.

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Sibling rivalry is fabulous thing.

My younger brother has an uncanny ability to land himself in the most enviable of positions. At school I studied like a teenager possessed. This made for a messy personality and a strung out VCE. My brother however turned the legal drinking age halfway through the year and spent the rest of it enjoying that privilege.

When his results came out they were equal with mine. He studied for 15 minutes for the entire year so the competitive gene that I inherited was more than displeased. At the end of Year 12 he jaunted around Portugal and Oxfordshire whilst I measured inside trouser legs in a factory in North Melbourne.

My first job was data entry at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which was even more boring than it sounds. His first job was as a writer for Lonely Planet. He flew straight to India. As you do.

When he decided to become a teacher, I knew that he was having the last laugh.

I have always been envious of the seemingly cruisy lifestyle that teachers enjoy. How fabulous is a job where your working days finish with the school bell at 3.30pm? And who wouldn’t sign up for ten weeks of holiday each year? “Me! Me!” I shout accompanied by enthusiastic hand waving.

I have visions of him singing songs and decorating student diaries with stickers and smiley faces. Every now and then he might organise an excursion or an art show or anything that requires parents to fill out another permission slip.

As a side note, I fill out every one of those forms twice because 95% of the time my kid will lose theirs somewhere between their locker and the teacher’s hands, which is about three metres.

So confident was I that I could cope with this teaching caper that I volunteered my time to help in the classroom.

Little did I appreciate that being in a confined space with 20 kids makes parenting your own children more appealing than lying under a Balinese sunset with Ryan Gosling. In the first 32 seconds of walking into the classroom, I have sharpened 47 pencils, rehomed six lunchboxes, corrected some spelling and accidentally attempted to log into the education department’s server. Then when half the class asks to go to the toilet AT THE SAME TIME I realise that multitasking and patience are required. Together.

The fact that I have not actually taught any of them a single thing is not lost on me either. Apparently stopping them from wrestling on the floor isn’t enough, as they have to learn, you know, stuff.

A parent I may be, but a teacher I ain’t.

Clearly teachers have prewired DNA for general calm that the rest of the population was not gifted. Honestly, how that staff room is not a frazzled den of winged out adults is beyond me. I reckon I’d need a Shiraz in a take away coffee cup just to get me to recess. And by lunchtime I’d be in a rocking chair talking to myself.

So then imagine my spinning head when my eldest child came home with Grade Three mathematics homework. All will remain good in my world if I can remember that a hexagonal prism has eight faces.

And in Grade One, I can tell you all about the olden days. Because, you know, according to my child I am THAT old.

So for now, I will live vicariously through my brother’s holidays. And respect his wise career decision.

For the saying should really be, “Those who can’t, don’t. Those who can, teach.”

 

Colour me puffy

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I woke up this morning a bit pissed off.

First of all my eyes would not open. It was like a tiny dream fairy had glued them shut. But beforehand they shovelled a whole heap of puff magic in there. My face looks like I have two teeny gaps where my eyes used to be. And that itch? What is that about? Some kind of weird itchy puffy eye thing is going on too.

Then I weighed myself. The puffiness should have been a code red for “Do NOT stand on the scales or you may cry.” The puffiness has taken away my sense of logic. So when the scales put me at 800 grams heavier than yesterday then I knew something was up. I waddled myself to the shower in a dazed confusion.

I didn’t bother with jeans because who needs skinny denim to remind you of your pufferfish physique? There is no wedding ring on either as I couldn’t get it over my fat fingers.

My spectacles have been stuck to my face as my itchy puffy eyes have also lost their ability to see. I have drunk so much water that I fear I may drown. So I took myself off for some pretty nails to cheer up my fat fingers. And signed myself up to Bright-Eyed & Blog-Hearted.

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I was 100% sure that this puffiness was related to something that I ate. But I think my Puff Daddy / P. Diddy / straight out Diddy status is in my head. Not literally that I have made it up but that something, somewhere in my psyche has put up a block.

In my puffed out state this morning, I really noticed how my bloated head can quickly then spiral into a strange sense that everything is wrong.

My hair has been falling out a bit more lately as well as going grey at an alarming rate. So I worry about that.

My skin is itchy and dry and looking old. So I worry about that.

My creativity has been swamped with family stresses and I haven’t blogged as much as I would dearly love to. So I worry about that.

My 40th birthday is coming at me like a freight train. So I worry about that.

Tonight I have to juggle all the kids, an OT appointment, swimming lessons and dinner. So I worry about that.

I am puffed up. So I worry about that.

I am sure that once the puff goes, many of my worries will go. It has reminded me that if one bit of me is unbalanced, my mind unbalances very quickly. So it is back to the drawing board. Back to extra sleep. Back to exercise (fist pump YEAH!). Back to awesome nutrition. Back to patience (why, oh why are you sooooooo hard?). And back to refocussing on myself. On creativity. On writing. On blogging.

On being balanced. And less puffy.

Puffiness is definitely a bit grey and blergh – moody + just not feeling right. But rebalancing is all about green – clarity + understanding. And a bit of red – confidence + bravado to deal with puffy face for a bit longer.

 

 

 

Colour me with no expectation

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I’ve never been a person that does things by halves. No siree, I have historically been a bit ridiculous with setting the bar off the scale of stupidity.

My finest example was organising my first born’s first birthday. I had chosen a circus theme which was clearly reflective of the fucking absurd standard I set for myself. I didn’t falter when I made the cake despite it sticking to the silicone tin (I know, WTF?) nor did I wobble when I hand drew every single fucking invitation.

My undoing came about when I was gluing pieces of felt to helium balloons to make circus animals. The fucking ears on the fucking bear made his head topple forward and therefore he was NOT hanging in my climbing star fucking jasmine where he was supposed to. My one year old was eating the discarded bits of felt and having the time of her life and my husband (who was not yet then the Baker) was looking at me like I had completely lost the fucking plot, which was fair enough because I had completely lost the fucking plot.

There is a deep seeded reasoning for my desire to strive for perfection. It goes back to my childhood. I have grappled with it painfully in the past when my first marriage broke down (there is a bit of controversy for you). But a lot of counselling and a CTC session with Amy Crawford later and I have made peace with this part of my past and of my personality.

Every now and then I have to slap myself across the face and say in a big loud voice to let that shit go. Like when the ideas in my head get bigger than the event itself. Or when I set a stupid standard for a Tuesday night dinner that has me panting at the kitchen bench because the clock is hurtling towards 6pm and you know, dinner is AT 6pm. (I also need to work on how to deal with change but that is a-whole-nother therapy session.)

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Lately I decided to start running again. I don’t really remember why I did but I kinda just did it. Running has been put on some weird pedestal for me. I’ve never been a massively keen runner nor have I been very good at it. But when I hit the wall two years ago, I adored running. And since then, by not being able to do it, I have missed it dreadfully. I have put it in an oddly enigmatic wonderspace.

When I then found myself running a bit more regularly, well once a week regularly, I made a promise to myself.

Never EVER set an expectation.

I did not want to be disappointed if I decided to run 6km and only ran 4km. I wanted to celebrate the four kilometres. I wanted to celebrate the fact that I was running at all. I did not want to berate myself for not achieving a goal that I set myself that may or may not be reasonable. I wanted to be glass half full. And I wanted to appreciate the goodness in the sky as I plodded along.

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So then I completely contradicted myself and signed up for 10km in the Melbourne Marathon Festival in October. But before you pick up your jaw from the floor, there is method in my madness. You see I am Running for River. You can read all about him here.

When River died, my little one fanged monkey was the same age. I became that mother who stood over my sleeping child’s cot enveloped in fear. I would wake constantly during the night and get out of bed to check him. I would check the other kids too. I was gripped with insanity and combined with severe sleep deprivation I was a ticking time bomb. I Ran for River in May 2012 and have not been able to run since.

Part of my recovery from anxiety has been about facing my fears no matter how ridiculous they seem. So I have set myself an achievable goal. I can run 10km now but I am not sure I can train for 15 weeks. I don’t know if my cuboid bone or my shin splints or my nearly 40 year old body will cope with the program. I have all my fingers crossed that it will.

Then the Baker asked me what my expectations were.

I looked at him and answered, “To run sub 60 minutes.”

He said nothing, waiting for a better answer.

I said, “To run sub 50 minutes,” sheepishly.

He continued to stare at me.

I finally answered, “To complete the training program without getting injured and to finish the 10km in October.”

He smiled and nodded.

Managing my own expectations is no easy feat for me. On every single run, I force myself to slow down and take it easy. I will have to take my time and look after my leg and my foot. I will have to listen to my body.

I imagine I may have to listen to my head too. I will continue to process all the emotions I have about Running for River once more. But I am confident and a whole lot optimistic that I can do this. And that I can run in the dark in winter in Victoria if it is on a night like this.

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Right now, my head is feeling great. And that, is truly liberating.

You can colour me coming out of the grey and into a rainbow. I am not sure I can colour myself anything but blue. Blue for me to remain calm + mindful. And blue for a beautiful little boy.

https://runforriver.everydayhero.com/au/anna-spurling

 

 

Colour me stressed

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The other day as we were all leaving for school, my five year old turned around to me and said, “You didn’t get angry at us this morning Mumma.”

I was taken aback by this well intentioned compliment from an insightful little girl.

You see, the thing is that I have been trying really, really hard to stay calm in the chaos of the morning rush. I have had to let shit go like a perfectly clean kitchen, swept floors and an unpacked dishwasher. I have had to step back for a moment and give myself a great big slap across the face. When did my life become so ordered and controlled and full of unrealistic intentions that I cannot leave a house without a bed being made?

Just one day after my calm morning, I completely lost my foshizzle at the kids as we were getting ready. The one fanged monkey spilt his entire bowl of rice bubbles over himself and the floor. I went berserk. He cried and so did I. Over spilt milk. FFS, he is two years old. What is wrong with me?

The thing is that when you lose your foshizzle like that it takes you a long time to recover from it. My heart races until at least mid morning. The kids have moved on and are happily at school or daycare or pottering around the house but I am still looking for my foshizzle. I always think that the kids just tune out to my ranting and get on with their lives and that they don’t really notice how angry I am. That is, until one of them congratulates me on not losing my foshizzle.

Then I overheard the girls in their bedrooms one afternoon. They were conspiring to tidy up because “mummy loves it when it is tidy.” The truth is, I do. I adore it. But do I really place such a strong value on tidiness that the kids feel they need to do it to please me? Surely my affection for them comes when I am sitting in a messy house as well?

But mess stresses me. I find it hard to focus when all I can see is mess. I mean, who lines up shoes and instagrams them? Er, me.

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So after a big dose of shitty, challenging news I have been working really hard on my stress. I am embracing stress. I am seeing stress as positive and not the foshizzle losing, heart racing, self esteem destructing emotion that it can be.

I am making stress my friend. Check this out. It is THE best thing you can watch today. I promise you.

So here we go.

Hello, my name is Anna and I am stressed. I have been for a long time and I have no doubt that I will be for some time to come.

And I am okay with that.

You see for the past two years, if there has been any rush in my adrenaline levels I have been very cautious. My association of these adrenaline spikes with the uncomfortableness of my panic attacks has been quite severe. And to be perfectly honest, I have been scared too.

It has been a long time since I have had a panic attack but the rawness of my frazzled nervous system remains acute. One thing has remained constant, I have avoided stress like the plague. Or, I have tried to.

But over the past two years or so, I have renovated a house, studied two diplomas (apparently one was not enough), had a baby, managed a house and partly a business and parented four kids to the best of my whinged out ability. I said yes to every single board or committee I was invited on to and maintained a house cleaner than a fricking hospital dipped in bleach.

So I forced a shift upon myself. I stopped working with the Baker and now freelance as and when I can. I completed my two diplomas and vowed never to study again. My baby is nearly three years old. I resigned from pretty much every committee and board I was on and from then to now, I am a completely different person.

But I am still stressed. I still feel borderline panic some mornings just getting the kids to school. I still feel the exhaustion after an adrenaline filled day and take some time to recover again. And I am still trying to work out how to calm the fuck down. It is a work in progress.

My recent stress has been compounded by my fear of stress. And then after I got through all the tears, I finally worked out that in this shitty, hard to manage situation is a massive silver lining. Our little family is going to benefit so greatly from these big changes. They won’t all be easy to implement but they will help us all. And I genuinely think that I may learn, somehow, to calm the fuck down.

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My promise to myself is that I am going to do a lot more of this. Laughing, that is. Not wetting my pants as some may interpret it.

Yes, I have a tendency to get very anxious.

Yes, I feel stressed.

Yes, I have unrelenting standards that make a lot of my life impossible to live.

No, I am not going to let these things define me. Or control me.

Yes, I am going to let them be my friend.

And because positive friendships are one of the most glowing things around, then I am going to colour myself yellow – with optimism + happiness.

And relish in my new relationship with my old friend, Stress.

 

Colour me okay

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It is no secret around these parts that I have been struggling lately. There has been some shitty news that I am really struggling to understand. I feel pissed off, angry, overwhelmed, tremendously guilty (what a fucker that is) and quite stressed. But most terrifying for me has been my acute sadness. Overwhelming sadness in fact.

There are some big changes that will need to take place in my life. Some are practical and others are whole mindset shifts which are so challenging to my ordered, controlled, structured way of thinking. This order has been my safety blanket for so long and now it feels like it is being pulled away from me. At the moment I am struggling to get comfortable with that.

I don’t want to go into much detail here, it is too raw and difficult for me to articulate. But I wanted to let you know that I am okay.

My Mother’s Day post resonated with so many of you. It was, without a doubt, one of the most cathartic posts I have ever written. I have been overwhelmed with beautiful comments, many of which have made me cry again. It felt to me like it was more powerful than my diary posts including when I hit the wall and when I hit rock bottom.

So my approach has been to be kind to myself. I have been told by many people to do so. I am listening to you all and doing what I am told.

This week’s weather has been just glorious so it is easy to be mindful when you stop and enjoy a Victorian autumn in all its colourful glory. Perhaps a change in the seasons is simply a reminder for me to learn to change too.

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I am getting plenty of rest, now. It was hard for me to rest last week when I was so tired from crying.

I am eating well. I have been baking delicious sugar free goodness. A nesting response perhaps?

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I am exercising, a lot. In fact, I can hardly feel my legs after this morning’s session which is probably a good thing after the previous point.

I am slowly, very slowly, processing and I have started seeing my lovely psych again to make sure I can process everything. I immediately held up my hand as I knew I couldn’t do it alone. It has been six months since I last saw her so I feel proud of myself as well.

I have opened up to a few close friends telling them that I am not coping. They have hugged me hard.

I have started to look at my own advice, that I share here all the time, and oh look, I am starting to take it. Eating my own medicine, practicing my preach, whatever you want to call it.

I am being patient. This challenges me a lot.

I am being calm. Well, I am trying really, really hard.

And finally, and probably the most importantly, I am being positive. I am looking for the silver lining. I am radiating positive vibes. I am putting it out there because it will come back to me. I am positively positive. Yes. I. Am.

I am not quite yellow yet, but I am close.

Today, I feel green – with clarity + understanding. And that is okay.

I am okay.

 

Colour me mum

This past week has been one of, if not THE most emotionally challenging week of motherhood I have experienced so far. There are some big head issues that I am really struggling to process. My approach has been to write and cry and cry some more. With Mothers Day coming this weekend in Australia, this is what came out of my very busy head. 

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To my beautiful children,

Since you all came into my world I have changed completely. Some of this change has been wonderful and some of it has been hard for me to deal with.

Every day my head processes how I have mothered you and I hope with all my aching heart that you only remember the happiness.

I hope that you remember me as the mum who picked you up when you fell over, healed you with a bandaid and hugged you until you felt better again. I hope you don’t remember the mum who said, “You’ll be okay,” without even noticing your teary eyes.

I want to be the mum who plasters your art all over my walls instead of looking for the moment when I can put your giant cereal box creation in the recycling bin.

Try to understand that as I hassle you to do your homework or unpack the dishwasher that it comes from a place of good intentions. That I am willing for you to learn well and appreciate hard work.

Don’t recall me yelling at you to get in the car for school but remember the person who held your hand as you walked into the classroom.

Let your memories be filled with my joy at your successes and support for your challenges. Let your childhood not be full of a hurried, harried woman who mostly feels she is just about holding it together. May you remember your mum as fun, full of life and completely in the moment with you.

Help me understand that each one of you is different in the way that you learn and you love. And that no matter how much support and nurturing I give you, I can’t change who you are. Nor should I need to. Give me strength to guide you and to build your resilience so you can go confidently about your days.

Allow my heart to ache as you struggle to comprehend some of life’s tougher experiences. Know that my tears for any one of you are equal and can be divided. And that I will continue to cry tears for you all. Some will be of complete frustration and others will be full of hurt. All of them will be from my heart.

Change my vision so that I don’t see the dirt on the floor or the unmade beds but only opportunities to play and be with you. Give me the eyes to see the excitement in your world. To view everything as being wonderfully new and interesting. Close my lids to the chaos and mess.

Let me embrace you before you don’t want a cuddle anymore. Let me squeeze you so hard that I leave an imprint on your shoulders that reminds you of me. And that you remember that I am always ready for a hug from you.

Please keep asking me if you can show me your latest creation.

Please keep asking me if you can sit on my lap.

Please keep asking me to tuck you in at night.

Please keep asking to hold my hand.

But do not ask me to stop worrying about you because I don’t think I ever could.

Not even if I tried.

So as you colour your world with learning, friendships, opportunities and life colour me happy right beside you. Colour me calm, colour me hugging, colour me crying, colour me loving, colour me proud.

Colour me any way you want me but please colour me there.

Your loving mum x

 

 

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