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

 

 

Colour me a poem

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Up down, around and around

Life ebbs and flows and around she goes

As the seasons change and the trees start to shake

I catch the leaves and give myself a break

Each day I make sure to count every single blessing

For I have learnt so much about living without stressing

But if today’s smile turns into tomorrow’s tears

I know you’ll hold my hand and allay my fears

Looking through the grey, a rainbow shines

Whilst gratitude reminds me that my life is fine

When I feel down and reflect on life’s ups

I will pause and remember that I am enough

PINK-DOT

Colour me sucking it up

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I grew up with two brothers. I was in the middle so I never had that middle child syndrome because being the only girl in a house of testosterone is fine. Except when oestrogen comes into play then you don’t need to be anywhere near me full stop.

One of my brothers had a saying that used to rile me. If he wanted to boil my blood, provoke me, bait me, annoy the bejeezus out of me (which he did with alarming skill) then he would say to me, “Suck it up, Princess.”

In other words, stop your first world problem, hormone induced, spoilt little girl rant and SUCK. IT. UP.

I would always lose my foshizzle when he told me this, and even still do to this day when he says it in jest. He laughs and I fume. It is the unhealthy of healthy sibling relationships.

But lately, I have had to suck it up. A lot.

Every single one of my sucking Princess (that sounds a bit weird) challenges has quite simply been a massive slap in the face of a first world problem.

On Monday, I smashed my phone. It now lives in a ziplock bag because I get shards of glass in my fingers when I use it. Besides looking quite odd carrying my phone in said bag, there is little I can do about it until it gets fixed on Thursday.

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But before then, I smashed my wing mirror. I was multi-tasking like a doofus as I reversed out the driveway, yelled at the kids to be quiet, ignored the sensor beeping the hell out of itself at me and then, wait for it, answered my phone. Hell, even Jensen Button would have crashed into the gate. Then in a display of fabulously crap female driving logic, I put the brake on so I could rescue the fully intact mirror cover only to not actually put the brake on and drove over it. When we finally arrived at swimming lessons, my six year old announces at the top of her voice, “My mum just smashed the car into our gate and she said fuck.” Thanks for that one darling.

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The next day I got a parking ticket purely because I can’t read a sign. Anyone been there? What a bitch that is.

Then moments before the phone smashing incident, we changed our internet provider. That is about as much fun as pulling teeth. Since then I have been running around the house trying to log into some odd little wifi thingy in my lounge room and giving myself glass splinters every time I do. And now I can receive emails but not send them, such is the logic of technology. Today is my first day back at the desk since we were invaded with chicken pox so you can imagine my delight in blowing smoke signals to communicate with the outside world. Then the wireless mouse ran out of batteries and after a 20 minute fruitless search for them I found them in my desk drawer which is naturally the most logical place to look first. I love wasting time like that (sarcasm font).

But really, sucking it up ain’t that hard when you practice gratitude. Yeah, sure the car makes me look like a shit driver but I probably am. And the parking fine? Not ideal but manageable. The shards of glass in my fingers? They’ll be gone on Thursday.

So I sucked it up and on the weekend I surprised myself with a run. Yes, a bonefide, fair dinkum, old fashioned plod. I was beside myself with happiness and totally out of breath. Then on Sunday, I DID IT AGAIN! Bloody hell, I may have even enjoyed myself. But because I am the Queen of Setting Goals, I am not setting myself a running goal. If I can, I will. Like the little caboose. I think I can.

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This run was such a massive mental break through for me. A way of facing my fears after hitting the wall so long ago. Perhaps my motivation was stronger because the two year anniversary of my journey is coming up next month. Or perhaps it was because I took down my expectations and faced my fears. Or perhaps it was…just because.

But then I looked at all the other fun stuff I have been doing lately. Like eating awesome food. You can grab the recipe here (I made them in a muffin tin instead).

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And the Baker has been fermenting me vegetables. Because you know, healthy guts equal a healthy head. Well, that is my opinion anyway. Plus he is a fermenting nerd so secretly I think he enjoys it. (Look at his pet sourdough starter too!)

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On Sunday, I woke with a headache so I did a Smiling Mind body scan to get rid of it. That plus a run and I felt much better. But I am no angel. I also did a lot of this.

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Two years ago, there is no way I could have sucked it up. The worries in my head were too loud for me to work out how to suck it up. Today, I know I can. Often I don’t want to. I want to throw myself on the floor toddler tantrum style and scream, “Why me?” melodramatically. But because I can’t lose my foshizzle like that anymore, I hold it together and put it in perspective. And for that I am proud.

Today, you can colour me green – with clarity + understanding.

It is a lovely shade on me, I think.

 

 

Colour me in glittered pox

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Such are the ebbs and flows of my efforts to be an amazing mother, the last school holidays saw me break out glitter. Normally this just makes me break out in a sweat and a swear fest at the stupidity of such a ridiculous craft. Kids and glitter equal me losing my foshizzle so it surprised me the most when I was the one that got it out of the cupboard.

I wonder if it was the break in the monotony of Rainbow Looms which pretty much consisted of me picking approximately 4,000 of the little fuckers off the floor each day. Eating dinner around the construction of a purse in the shape of a panda made glitter infinitely more appealing. So out it came and so did the delight on the big girls faces. I doubt I could have done glitter and the one fanged monkey so I waited until he was locked in his cage, er, cot.

The thing was that the kids loved it. And perhaps me just a little bit. Okay a lot.

Getting your craft on is good for the soul. I’m not talking a sin forgiving, walk through the pearly gates soul cleanse here but it is a bit of fun and helps you to be in the moment. You cannot craft and expect to get other chores done. No siree, it does not work that way. There was glitter from here to kingdom come when I was on watch so I imagine that the kids would be shitting glitter if I left them unsupervised.

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So we made these cute jars for the kids to put their crap in and you know where it all went wrong? They came inside.

Glitter outside is a bitch but glitter inside is enough to make you lose your foshizzle one hundred times over. Presently the girls’ bedside tables are like a glitter graveyard for little gold flecks who didn’t get enough glue in the first place.

Then just when you think you are getting rid of the stuff it multiplies like some weird gremlin in H2O. With my shitty shoulder injury, vacuuming is as fun as sticking needles in my eyeballs. All I seem to vacuum up now, besides long blonde hair and looms, is fucking glitter. And I wondered when the fuck did my life get to the stage where I am seriously considering buying one of those robot vacuums so I can just sit on my arse whilst the glitter gets stuck in that thing instead?

But one afternoon I sat down, after vacuuming again, and observed the glitter. It was different to the glitter that I had used with the kids. Had my glitter changed? Then I saw the culprit.

A cute pair of leopard print ballet flats that the princess got gifted for her last birthday, with details of GLITTER. And because she hardly ever takes them off there is still glitter all over the house. Even when she got the chickenpox before Easter, she wore her glittery shoes. She is kind enough to take them off to have a bath or go to bed or when I completely lose my foshizzle over the four billion gold flecks in my house.

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But isn’t glitter a delightful thing? Pretty and shiny and just full of happiness? To my girls it is. They would sleep in it if they could. They would most definitely bathe in it and they would totally use glitter all day on top of the robot vacuum that we don’t have. Okay, the robot vacuum is me.

The girls would just use it all the time, with reckless abandon. They would dust it everywhere because they have the most amazing ability to live in the present, without regard for consequences. And if the consequence of glitter is vacuuming then perhaps I just need to chill the fuck out.

When I feel grey, I talk about needing to have time with it to be able to see the rainbow. Perhaps the glitter came the other way around for us. I have been showered in glitter because now the house is covered in chickenpox. Strike rate at present is 75% despite vaccination. Chickenpox is as impressive as glitter for getting all over your kids. Calamine lotion on the other hand is a bitch to get on to pox in hair. Yes, chickenpox in her scalp. They are everywhere. The glitter and the fucking chickenpox.

Right now I am wondering what the colour is for glitter and chickenpox. It waivers somewhere between pink – creativity + well, because it is lovely to grey – moody + just not feeling right (woe me, yeah?). But it is neither. It is blue – calm + mindful.

It is blue because I am in the moment. I am present. And with this comes mindfulness. Glorious mindfulness.

So here is how I currently feel.

Dear Glitter and Chickenpox,

I will take you for a short time but then you may leave again. You have taught me that I can be present. Mindful, I can be.

Thank you and please fuck off.

Yours sincerely in glorious blue,

Anna x

 

 

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