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Birthdays, bereavements and being

Life is all about phases. Sometimes we want the phases to last forever and other times we are thankful that the phase is about to end!

It’s a year since my Mum died. Six weeks since one of my oldest best friends died. My husband has had a Birthday, of which we’ve celebrated 25 together and we went camping over Easter. Our girls are 10 and 12, the phase where they both love camping is sadly coming to an end. How grateful I am that they had the experience to camp.

‘Being’ is rare in our busy lives.

Camping is a fabulous escape and a wonderful way to facilitate living in the moment. A great place to be when it’s the first anniversary of one of the saddest days of my life. To heal from losing a beautiful friend.

Sharing time with family and friends with no distraction is deluxe.

My favourite type of camping is without power and out of mobile range. No temptations! Where I can talk and listen without distraction. Where I can swim when I’m hot and sit by the campfire when I’m cold. Where there are no shops.

At Easter, watching the full moon rise is beautiful.  The star gazing is incredulous. The conversations around the campfire are invigorating.

This kind of camping energises my soul.

My 12 year old daughter says she ‘hates’ camping, it’s boring, she says. Oh to be bored! She survived and no doubt when she’s an adult she will be grateful for the experience that she had to ‘suffer’ through.

It’s a mission to pack for camping. To set up, to pack up. For me that effort is totally worth it. We don’t rough it when we camp, aside from no power.

We eat beautiful food at a table with a tablecloth and candles. I drink champagne. We toast absent friends.

I am forever grateful for my parents sharing the phase in their life where they took their 3 daughters camping. Trips to the middle of nowhere to experience amazing things.

Through my childhood and into adulthood, I thought everyone went camping. Or at least had experienced it once or twice. Today, I dropped my 10 year old daughters friend home and she asked me how our camping trip was. Fabulous, I shared and then asked her if she had been camping. No, never, she replied! Oh my goodness. NEVER? I now feel compelled to take her with us on our next trip.

Camping is an experience everyone should try, at least once. No power, no internet, no mobiles. The opportunity to ‘be’ without distraction.

To experience nature first hand. To learn patience and tolerance. To star gaze whilst sitting by a camp fire.

Above all, my recent camping trip helped me slow down. To embrace life and take time to reflect on the loss of two really important people. To celebrate the moments we are so blessed to have and to remind ourselves of the importance to live in the here and now.

 

 

 

Embracing Fear on a Mountain Bike

Fear, we need it, but boy it can be challenging!

The first race of our local mountain bike club’s winter championship series was held yesterday afternoon.  The chatter in my head that went on in the lead up to the race and even now, post race, was incessant.

I‘m learning to embrace the fear. It takes you to amazing places.

Mountain biking is a new sport to me and I’ve been racing at a local club level for about 18 months. I’ve participated in a 4 day mountain bike event and been part of a trio in a 12 hour overnight event outside the local club stuff. Fear is always there and it’s mostly a result of comparison to others and worrying about what other people think, you can read about that here.

As a female mountain biker, I am part of a  minority. At yesterday’s race there was 16 ladies in a field of 65. In the 4 day event I entered, there were 150 ladies in a field of 1200! The men can be intimidating, if you let them, but it’s all in our heads. There must be so many people who don’t attempt to do something different, because they are afraid.

You can have changes or excuses, but not both!

My mantra continues to be ‘moving outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens’. It is so true. If I had never challenged myself to get on a mountain bike and then face the fear and try a club race, I would not have experienced the wonderful things I have. Improved fitness, time alone with nature, time with friends surrounded by nature, travel to beautiful places to race a mountain bike, new friends and the exhilaration of racing.

Excuses are plentiful and once, last season, I found an excuse not to race because I was scared. It was a technical course and I felt intimated (in my head). I used the excuse of not feeling well and didn’t even go to the race to watch and socialise.

My conclusion is, it really is ‘mind over matter’.

This season, the ladies don’t have an individual category as they have done in the past. Ladies are a sub-category in 4 levels of racing that have a set number of laps in a course that changes every race. I chose to ride in the elite category, as the length of the race is longer and I enjoy the endurance. Making this decision was a big challenge! The what-if’s were prevalent in my thoughts. What if you get lapped? What if you’re the last in? What will other people think? Am I good enough? Can I do it?

I raced and I didn’t come last, but who cares if I had? I was out there, challenging myself and riding as hard I possibly could at the time.

I had fun (despite the hard work) and the sense of accomplishment at the end was fantastic.

This morning when I woke up, I smiled at my achievements and thought of everyone in that race that pushed boundaries and faced their fears (more on facing fears here).

A friend of ours raced for the first time, we’d tried to talk him into it for the past year. His comment after the race; “I enjoyed it alot more than I thought I would. I didn’t get passed by loads of people and I had fun’. His excuse for not racing sooner was that he wasn’t fit enough. I am so impressed that he found the courage to face his fears and just did it!

Managing the ‘self-talk’ is possible and it makes life much more enjoyable. I am so grateful I discovered mountain biking and the journey it has taken me on, in less than two years, has been remarkable. Physically and emotionally. I’ve made some fantastic friends and seen some awesome sunrises and sunsets. I’m in awe of nature; kangaroos, lizards, snakes, birds and stunning flowers too.

mountain bike quote

 

Negative thought management

‘You are such a crap Mum, you can’t even get meals happening regularly’; ‘Are you ever going to deal with that pile of paperwork’ ;’Seriously, who’s going to talk to you, you never have anything interesting to say’; ‘You are always rushing, can you ever get your act together?’.

Many years ago I went to a ‘wellness’ talk and the presenter asked the audience which of us experienced ‘voices in their head’. I didn’t understand what he meant, until some years down the track.

When I write down what goes on in my head I start to wonder if I have a mental health problem. As far as I’m aware, I don’t have mental health problem and feel so grateful. 

I am VERY fortunate to have found the ability to step ‘outside’ my head and observe the different personalities at play. They’re actually at war some of the time!

By observing, I have the ability to manage the thoughts/voices/chatter on a regular basis. Not always, but most of the time, making me a much happier person.

We can be SO mean to ourselves. Would we ever say these words to a friend?

The chatter only really stops when I sleep, or practice mindfulness or meditate. I’m sure I am not alone, it was incessant before I discovered mindfulness and meditation.

I am now blessed to be able to recognise the ‘voices’ in my head and manage the negativity. It’s so much easier when we learn to recognise the chatter.

I even have names for the different characters that preside in my headspace, some welcome and others not so welcome!

NIC, the main critic stands for NOT IN CHARGE.  Miss Perfecto is there, too – jeepers , she’s a hard task master and likes everything ‘just perfect’. Miss Positivity is present, yay for her, she keeps NIC and Miss Perfecto at bay. If it wasn’t for the fabulous Miss Positivity and my awareness of these ‘characters’, I would be curled up in a ball hiding from the world a lot more often. NIC is so mean, horrible in fact and Perfecto goes on and on and on, she’s never happy.

What I have learned is that the ‘chatter’ will always be there but it gets much quieter. Almost like being in a library, like they know I’m listening and won’t tolerate what I hear.

What do you call the chatter? Voices? Inner critics? Whenever you become aware of negativity, stop yourself and observe.  It’s hard at the start but it gets easier.

You can learn to laugh at yourself.

Once I discovered the ability to laugh at myself, I suggested a friend try it too. This friend had been diagnosed with depression and was in a very dark place, very ashamed of the thoughts that went on within. There was an inability to believe that laughing at the antics that went on within, would ever be possible. Thankfully that changed, it IS possible.

Catch yourself and step outside your head. You’ll learn to like observing.

Being kind to ourselves and talking nicely, as if we were our best friend, is super important and it’s totally DO-ABLE!

What exactly is ‘mindfulness’?

Mindfulness. Heard of it? Practice it?

As I opened the pantry door an olive oil bottle ‘jumped’ off the shelf. On it’s rapid journey south, toward the cream tiled  floor, I attempted to catch the bottle with my knee. My attempt failed miserably and the olive oil bottle shattered on the floor, spilling it’s contents everywhere!

Staring hard in disbelief, I let a minute pass. Then I observed.

The viscous pool of yellow-green liquid made an interesting shape on the floor. The splinters of glass had managed to spread themselves far and wide across the kitchen floor. Wow, look at how the glass broke into so many pieces. I smiled, as I do when I realise I am ‘in the moment’ and thought about how I could clean up the mess.

Grabbing some paper towel I placed it on the oil puddle before me and continued to observe the interesting pattern rising up the paper towel as it absorbed the oil.

This is my take of being in the moment and what I think is the practice of mindfulness. It makes doing an unpleasant task much more bearable.

Fast forward just one day and I managed to break 3 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of sparkling white and 1 bottle of red. Oh my goodness to the mess that made. Of course, I was rushing and had to be out the door minutes later, to take my daughter to dance class.  I did make time to observe the liquid that was quickly spreading across the same cream coloured tiles as the olive oil had the day before.

It was  a sensory experience of sight, smell and touch as I rushed to get towels to soak up the liquid before it disappeared under cupboard doors.

Mindfulness, to me, is paying attention to the present in a sensory way. Being in the here and now. It’s such a cool place to be. It makes yukky things so much less yukky! It does take practice and once you get there it’s awesome.

I practice mindfulness whenever I’m in a situation I’d prefer not to be; a queue at the supermarket, the bank or the post office. The times I drop something and it breaks or my kids make an accidental mess.

Next time you find yourself saying ‘I hate this’, step outside your head and feel the present. Give it a try, take it all in. It will make you smile and make those challenging times so much easier.

 

 

Coping with loss when it all feels too much

A month away from the anniversary of losing my Mum (suddenly to a stroke), her presence in my thoughts, dreams and daily life is more obvious than it has been in a long time. Just when I thought I was moving forward and healing, I felt a regression in my emotion.

Of course I have grieved and healed. I am nowhere near the place I was a year ago, and realise that I am learning to cope with the emotional roller coaster a lot better every day. Thank goodness for meditation and my mountain bike. The problem was that I wasn’t able to  exercise regularly because of a virus that  grounded me on and off, for  6 weeks. Perhaps that heightened my emotion, though I  listened to my body when it told me to rest. What a challenge that was!

At 10 in the evening,  2 weeks ago the phone rang. I saw the callers name displayed on my phone and felt a rock drop within me. It was the husband of one of my best friends, calling to tell me that my friend, his beautiful wife, had lost her fight with kidney cancer after an incredible 4 year battle. Leaving behind 3 teenage boys and her husband that had been her soul mate for  26 years.

Living remotely, a 17 hour drive from the city  where my friend lived, I only saw her  3 or 4 times a year over the past 38 months. I knew things weren’t working in her favour, I just didn’t want to believe that she wouldn’t survive. She had been very present in my thoughts the week before that 10pm phone call and I had a vivid dream about her, that wasn’t pleasant.

The news of her passing wasn’t unexpected but it left me reeling.  I wanted to believe she would survive, so I had never really accepted that she would die. She was one of the strongest people I have ever known.
Relieved that she is no longer suffering, I am also grieving the loss of an incredible friend who was a remarkable woman that enriched lives.

We went to Uni together and have been friends through the highs and lows of life for 27 years. She packed her life full of the fun stuff. Making adventures happen with her family and friends and living in the moment whenever possible. It was this friend that introduced me to meditation.

What I have learnt through all of the grief, is that we have to learn to listen to our body. No one is exempt from this. If you are fatigued. Rest. If you are sad, go with it. Bottling up emotion is very damaging, it eats away at your insides bit by bit.

Mediation on coping with loss (I use Yogaglo for guided meditation) has worked well for me and allowing myself to feel sad, while trying not to cling on to the memories. To keep those memories but to learn to let go and for me, to accept that two really important people in my life are no longer present (in the physical sense).

I miss my friend immeasurably and will think of her, as I do my my mum, every day. I meditate daily, sometimes just for 5 minutes and this is my greatest coping mechanism (you can read my blog on meditation here).

Every cloud has a silver lining (read about it here) and you can find the silver every time. For me, I  got to visit my hometown unexpectedly (for my friends funeral) and  spent time with family and friends I would otherwise only be I touch with remotely.

The loss of my friend is devastating but I will be influenced by her in my daily life and will be forever grateful that we had a wonderful friendship for such a long time. Her legacy will live on through her family and those that were lucky enough to have known her.

Grief is an inevitable part of life and we all deal with it in different ways. Listen to your body and find the silver lining. Oh and meditation works wonders, try it for yourself.

I’d love to hear from you. What have you done to help you through difficult times? Share your comment in the comment box, it might help someone find the silver lining.