Checking In…

I’m feeling the need to check in briefly. I’ve got over thirty tabs open on my computer, a scatty brain, three draft blog posts that I have been working on over the past few weeks and a fast beating heart. Nothing is coming easily at the moment. I’m constantly perplexed at how busy life is… and I’m forever fighting a losing battle against it.

It’s times like these that I absolutely ache to run away, to pack our bags and throw things in the car and head off into the sunset. The urge to run away from this uncomfortable, anxious, overwhelming feeling is strong.

I’ve just put the smallest to bed for a nap. The other two are at school and kinder and I’ve got 45 minutes to spare to have lunch and a moment to myself before kinder pick-up. I spent the morning playing blocks, making bliss balls, folding the washing, putting the washing away, and I’ve also put on four loads of washing (and the dirty basket is still overflowing). I’ve changed the sheets on our bed, picked up what seemed like hundreds of pairs of shoes from the floor (so many shoes), and drank half a coffee… cold. Some yarn arrived via post this morning and I’ve got a list of birdie said orders to finish. I have a meeting tomorrow about a new project I’ve been asked to work on by a community health organisation I worked with last year.  I have an assignment due on Sunday as well as two teaching blocks to practise so I don’t humiliate myself in front of my peers at yoga on the weekend.

Yoga Teacher Training is at the intense end, with the final three months focussing on practicing teaching, assessments, an exam and I’m also (drum roll) completing my pre-natal yoga teacher training in a few weeks as a little extra (because I didn’t have enough to do). Although it feels intense, I’m thrilled to think I will be a qualified 350 hour Level 1 Yoga Teacher come December this year. And trained in pre-natal to top it off. Exciting times!

In saying that, I can feel myself yearning for simpler things. For time at home that doesn’t have my head spinning with all the things I have to do. With juggling priorities. It will be nice to have a little break from studying and for a new chapter of our lives to begin.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather, cool drinks on my back deck, trips to the beach, time to cook and walk around with bare feet, time to practise yoga without it feeling like homework.

Spring is certainly a busy time, although I heard someone say that the other day and it made me realise I kind of skipped that part of Winter where you’re meant to move inwards and enjoy some reflection. So now I’m off to do something really naughty – lay horizontal on the couch and read my book for 15 minutes. Or maybe even 20…

What are you busy with at the moment?

Immersion in the Present

Time is passing. There is only now and now and now. With young children it can be easy to daydream through the motions: the feeding, the dressing, the herding. I’ve been reading Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren and have been reminded yet again of “and this.” I find myself quoting as I pack the school lunches, as I wipe the daily grit from our old table, as I fold (or not fold) the washing, as I pull a tearful little face to my chest after a fall: And this. And this. And this. There is only ever this. At first I wondered if it only served to remind me of the monotony and take me, unwillingly, away from my airy thoughts, but with practice I have seen it bring me back into the moment, to ground me.

Over Winter I have been immersed in thought, in yoga study, in reading, in thinking. Perhaps this is nothing new (for me) but with the addition of yoga I have felt growth within myself that has surpassed all other things.

As I type, the littlest wanders over with a shell. I hold it to her ear. “Listen,” I say, “can you hear the sea?”

And this.

I sip my coffee.

And this.

Over the weekend we went to Apollo Bay and I attended a whole day workshop with Melbourne writer, Arnold Zable. The parallels between yoga and writing were illuminated as I listened to his words: “To be a writer, you have to be here, you have to be mindful, grounded. You have to witness.” Because if you aren’t there to witness something, to witness it deeply and fully, then to capture that moment in words later is going to leave you unreliable; the moment dulled through the fog of your inattention.

So go out and allow yourself to see. Notice the way the morning light hits the edges of a plant in your window. See the wisp of hair on your child’s forehead and know its habit to swing this way, or that. Feel the crackle of eucalyptus leaves beneath your feet, the solidity of your legs, your body moving through air – feel it as though you are moving through water, or soup. Step outside in the fading light and smell your neighbour’s open fire, smell the chill of the evening, the dampness of the soil.

And lastly, this: Xavier Rudd singing out from my computer speakers: Cherish this moment. Cherish this breath.

Finding Balance

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And just like that, it is February. I find it so strange that the months can sail by, unnoticed. Soon the leaves will start to show the signs of Autumn and the wind will offer us a subtle shift; a coolness that we may miss if we aren’t paying attention. Our minds, too, without assistance from us, will turn towards the quieter things, the warm and nourishing things, the things that find us inside in the afternoons, staring out our windows to watch the wind whip up the trees. We will dim the lights and light the candles which will lead us gently into muted evenings and then: Winter.

And on and on it goes.

The only thing we can possibly do in amongst it all is to slow ourselves down, calm and hush our own thoughts, remind ourselves of the things that matter.

I broke a bowl yesterday, a Peter Rabbit bowl given to the baby for her first birthday from my Dad and Step Mother. I was putting the coconut oil away and as I went to place it on the shelf, I slipped and dropped it. It landed largely and loudly on the bowl which was waiting to be washed on the kitchen bench. Almost in slow motion I watched as it fell to the ground and smashed, unable to do anything to stop it. Tears came out of no where and filled up my eyes as I swept it up and tipped it, unceremoniously, into the rubbish bin.

I still have my own Peter Rabbit bowl from when I was a baby, and I wanted desperately to give little Peach her own baby bowl when she was an adult, like my mum did for me when I had my first baby. I wondered how my mum kept my bowl unharmed all those years, and use it with trepidation, often for the older children and not the baby which it was intended for (which also makes me wonder if I am missing the point – shouldn’t it be used and used well!?). But Mum also repeatedly tells me something that her mother told her when she broke or lost something special: It’s Just A Thing. I said it to myself over and over yesterday as I cleaned up the mess I had made and used the back of my hand to wipe away my wasted tears.

In time, I’ll forget about the broken bowl, the lost things, the tidying up, the school drop offs, the nagging, the rushing, the overarching messiness of life. So often the things we think are important aren’t the things that stay with us years later, they aren’t the things that comfort us in times of trouble or give us feelings of love and importance and gratitude and value. Am I going to care in ten years time about the morning that it took me fifteen minutes to get Bird to put her shoes on? Um, no. But at the time it certainly feels valid and important.

Over time I’m slowly learning what is important and what isn’t, in that moment, rather than in hindsight, and as our family grows our values change and adjust to accomodate balancing the needs of our little people alongside ourselves. As I rush from here to there with a baby on my hip and a four year old running ahead of me chasing her big sister into the school gates, as I run around the kitchen as though I’m chasing a world record, as I let the clock manage my days, as I fall about in a heap at 5pm when I haven’t planned our multiple vegetarian/dairy free/ketogenic dinners, as I flop onto my back on my bed at night and stare up at the ceiling, exhausted, feet aching, wondering what, exactly, I achieved that day – what I did that was good, that was important, that was real – it has made me think a lot about our culture of busy-ness and rushing and the meaning and value we (for some reason) derive from being busy. It often seems like busy is the new good.

How are you?

Busy! Ha ha la la!

Sound familiar?

It’s slow and gruelling work going against the grain, having thoughts that don’t seem to be the norm, fighting against invisible rules and running from invisible law enforcers. The biggest fight though is one against yourself, pulling and tugging at those fibres in your brain that tell you what to do and how to be, seemingly always dodging around the why and hoping you won’t notice.

Sometimes it feels like it would be easier just to go along with the rest, to be busy and not care, to chock your time full of everything you possibly can and then complain along with the rest of the doers, leaving any conversation about the real things that matter behind. But for me, it doesn’t bring much joy, I like having spare time, I like being at home and, most importantly, I like to think that there is a different way to live. I like to think that as I learn that new way, I can also teach it to my children so they grow up realising they don’t have to be busy to be of value, they don’t have to rush to be important. I want them to learn a different way.

The only issue is I have to learn it myself to be able to teach it and that, my friends, is always a work in progress.

Open Space

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I’m sitting here in front of the heater. The kids are all in bed (if not asleep!) and KB is not expected home until late tonight. I am rarely alone, so I did get a bit giddy at the thought of an hour by myself at home in the evening. The evenings have a certain calm and quiet about them that is difficult to replicate during the day, don’t you think?

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Practising Contentment Within Parenthood

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I don’t know if it’s because I’ve exercised this morning and had a large coffee, but I’m feeling all energised and ready for life today. Not that I don’t feel ready for life normally, but I have more energy than usual for some reason.

I am a searcher by nature. Constantly searching for: things to read, things to learn, things to eat, things to think, things to do. Always searching for

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loosely on the subject of birds and naivety and mindfulness

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I like birds. I really do. Their elegance, their freedom, their delicate skeletons. So much so that when I was in Perth last year I bought a badge that stated the fact: I like birds.

I wear it a lot. But then one day, at the first meeting of a new writing group, one of the men asked me if I was a lesbian. I didn’t really understand, until he pointed at my badge.

How naive I felt? Did this handmade hipster badge have a meaning that was totally lost on me? Was I that ridiculous that I missed it? Ha! I still don’t really know, but I do genuinely like birds…

The unfortunate fact is though, I often find myself feeling rather unworldly. I hardly ever watch the news and I rarely read the newspaper. I like science fiction and teenage drama series. Sometimes I listen to classical music and pretend I can remember the composers’ names. I’m rubbish at trivia and have always been horribly nervous if ever invited to attend (rarely in this life, occasionally in past life). If I didn’t watch so much David Attenborough lord only knows how I would keep up to date with the basic facts of life and death.

Ok, so I’m exaggerating a little, but honestly, I hear of friends travelling the world, getting promotions, going to parties and networking at “events”. (It’s even worse if they have children and seem to be doing all this. Green Face.) I see people’s lives through the windows of social media while I am wiping vegemite off chins and putting on *another* load of washing and sweeping the floor again. There is little time to read or learn or extend oneself when you have smalls. Once or twice I entertained the idea of listening to intelligent podcasts as a means of furthering myself, thinking I could do that hands free while doing all the other things I do, but the closest I get to a podcast around here is listening to Beatrix Potter audiobooks. So instead I play with my succulents, I cook, I clean, I whinge occasionally a fair bit and I memorise the words of the Frozen lyrics so I can sing them to my children.

Can we have it all? It seems that some people (mothers) have really got it together. I’m content now in the delicious mundaneness of this stay at home life. I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to do it. Although it is like a military mission trying to get the kids in and out of the car just to deliver one child to kindergarten – I wouldn’t change it for anything. But there is a part of me that craves knowledge and learning, and there are things I look forward to being able to do when the girls are bigger. I think about my career and what life will look like and what I need to do to make that happen. I have phases where I find it difficult to maintain the patience it takes to be here and now and enjoy this thing I have got. It frustrates me to no end that I struggle to make peace with it, without throwing myself into the future, into the what ifs and the whens and the hows. It’s a constant battle inside my head. I look outside and wonder how other people do it. I want to grab them individually in the street and say, How do you do this thing? Take me through your day – I want to hear it, minute by minute. What do you do? 

For now I’ll peer through the shop windows, knowing there will be a time in the future that I can do it/learn it/be it/try it/have it and that when that time comes I will long for these simple days of being needed – needed so deeply and wholeheartedly. I’ll yearn for it, I know it. I need to remember this.

I posted a photo of Peach


on instagram the other day and a comment about the washing. A friend replied: “I know I sound repetitive but BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.” It’s good to get that reminder, because I have a feeling she is absolutely right.

moments of fragility: the intricacies of motherhood

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Listening to your children laugh.

Touching them, holding them.

Hearing them ask the big questions: “Am I going to die?”

Feeling insignificant.

Wondering how you will ever be enough.

Knowing that you will be, and you are.

Knowing nothing better than them.

Nothing purer. Nothing more willing, more open.

Loving them. Loving life. Loving motherhood.

Knowing things are good.

it will pass, nothing is permanent: the things I am learning

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I was staring out my window yesterday, as I was pacing up and down the lounge room with the pixie in my arms. I was looking out at a gumtree in the neighbouring yard, its trunk blackened as though charred. I’m not sure what sort of gums these are, but there are a few here amongst the polished lengths of ghosts and twisted skinny silver princesses.

At times like these my mind often swims and wallows and drowns in all the Things I Could Be Doing Right Now. Sometimes I become overwhelmed with all the Things I Could Be Doing Right Now and my heart is all aflutter, anxious for the big eyed babe in my arms to go to sleep. Generally this is not a good recipe for sleep, as my step becomes a bit jittery and sometimes I even get impatient and start moving things here and there with my free hand: a laundry basket, a deserted toy.

I have nearly finished reading Buddhism for Mothers. From cover to cover this time, like I promised myself. When Birdie was a baby I just read snippets here and there, and now that I’m near the end I truly cannot believe I didn’t devour it in one sitting while I was hanging about with just one little baby and not much else to do (I mean, really, I now understand that I was NOT as busy as I really believed I was… and yes, I realise all the parents with three or more children are laughing at me right now…)

One thing I am slowly learning, and constantly reminding myself with the help of this marvellous book is: it will pass, nothing is permanent. I won’t remember this specific moment, this step I am taking, this wriggle I am trying to calm in my small one. I won’t remember much of the frustration I feel, continually looking forward or backward in these times when I have nothing else to do except think. Pace and think, think and pace. I won’t remember what day it was that she didn’t sleep a wink, or what it was I missed out on doing. But if I keep on butting heads with all the Things I Could Be Doing Right Now I will remember all the time I wasted, all the minutes and hours gone, all the time I missed that I could have spent being present with my baby.

So yesterday, I paced. Up and down and up and down. I tried not to bother with the Things I Could Be Doing Right Now, I pushed those things away. Instead, I felt my baby heavy in my arms, I looked into her eyes, I ran a finger along her soft foot. I touched her hair. I looked out my window at the charred gum and pondered on the green and the blue out there. I reminded myself: this will pass.

And with that, nothing looked as bleak, and I was able to be there, right there, and spend that moment with my baby.

sometimes

Sometimes I hold my lips against my newborn’s face, and breathe her in.

Sometimes I pretend to go to the toilet so I can have five minutes alone.

Sometimes I think of the term a knob of butter and use it as an excuse to put as much butter as I want in the fry pan.

Sometimes I convince myself it’s going to rain so I don’t have to go for a walk.

Sometimes I stare out the windows and am desperate to escape the confines of my home.

Sometimes I enjoy painting and puzzles more than my two year old.

Sometimes I dance and sing and jump around my house when I am home alone with my kids.

Sometimes I ignore my phone when it rings.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be someone else. Someone rich, someone skinny or someone with long fingernails. Someone into facts and figures or microwave meals.

Sometimes I wonder what other people are feeling behind all the smiles and hello hello’s and how are you’s.

Sometimes I stay up longer than it takes to breastfeed, enjoying the quiet and the deepness of the night and the solitude.

Most of the time I just flow through my day to day, and don’t have time to think about any of these things.

exhilaration

exhilarate |igˈziləˌrāt|verb (usu. be exhilarated)make (someone) feel very happy, animated, or elated : the children were exhilarated by a sense of purpose | [as adj. ] ( exhilarated) all this hustle and bustle makes me feel exhilarated | [as adj. ] ( exhilarating) riding was one of the most exhilarating experiences he knew.

Does anyone else find themselves overcome with exhilaration and excitement and an urgent sense of I-Have-To-Change-My-Life-Right-Now-By-Doing [such-and-such] when reading blogs/twitter/facebook/other? I find myself logging on to write a new entry on my own blog. Instead of going straight to ‘New Post’ I read my subscriptions. I follow lots of different blogs. Sometimes I click on link after link until I have more than twenty tabs open. I get so excited by projects and things to do and see that I become completely overwhelmed. Which one first? How to fit it all in? How to get it right? Gee, that person really has it sussed! Why can’t I be more like that? What would it take? 

Yes, me!

Me who preaches living a slow life and taking things step by step, one thing at a time.

I find it easy to slowly act out each day physically, most of the time. But to slow my thoughts and practice mindfulness is a battle I am challenged with each and every day.

I read and I click and I read and I click and I open and I close and I tweet and I click and I think and I read and I… Before long half an hour has passed, then an hour, then two, then the baby is awake and my mind is full of other people’s thoughts and rhythms and recipes and ideas of exactly what my life needs to look like to be the perfect-rhythmic-slow-happy-family-life and why it isn’t perfect just the way it is.

Stop.

Breathe.

Relax.

My life is exactly what it needs to be, right now.

I can take ideas from other people’s blogs.

I can write down recipes and maybe even try them sometime, if I want.

I can save projects in my bookmarks and refer back to them when the time is right.

I can find inspiration in other’s rhythms and daily comings and goings.

At the end of the day, though, here I am. Immersed in my own life. Surrounded by my own family. Doing my own thing. Which is, whatever it might be right now, today, in this moment.

Right now, I am away from home. With my family. Baby is asleep. Prince Charming has found himself in a rare moment of relaxation on the couch, watching the AFL grandfinal [snore]. I’m on the other couch, looking out the window, trying not to watch the AFL grandfinal. It’s snowing. The mist is so deep that I can see one tree next to the balcony, and beyond that… nothing. I know that a huge mountain range fills the space beyond the mist and sits, day in, day out in quiet, majestic solitude. Every now and then I can hear big chunks of melting snow falling from the roof.

Ah.

There we go, found myself.

But one last little note… oh – come on, let me! Just to indulge my click-happy self, ok? I’ve been reading Unplugged Sunday lately. I just read this post by the writer of Luna Pacifica, who I mentioned a while ago. I think some seasonal journal writing might help curb my link-clinking and keep me in the present, just a little bit more. And what better time to start, than the beginning of Spring… What do you think? Do you keep a journal? Does it say anything about the seasons?

There – now you can all go clickety-clack on my links instead of the other way around! I’m off to have another cup of tea!