2019 BLOG REFLECTIONS

This blog went live on March 1st of this year. At the time, it was called ‘A Day In The Life Of KN J’, homage to the fact that I was publishing stories based on days of my life. It was towards the end of April that I realised the name was not a correct representation of my writing – and that it was boring as hell! I was writing about snippets of my day or tales of my life, and so the name ‘KN J Tales and Snippets’ was born. What does KN J mean? Initials for my name. Why the space? KNJ was taken by some dudes. Very few brain cells were wasted there!

In March, I posted five stories – 100 Rocks, The Water Bottle, Lame, Fudge and It’s a Jungle Out There. These stories were my very first attempts at writing. I should probably go back and reread them sometime and see whether there’s been any improvement in my writing. It could be cringe worthy, considering I’ve since learnt about comma placement (and still not using them correctly).

During this blog’s inception, I spruiked and spammed mainly to family and friends. By the end of the first month, I had a total of 69 visitors and averaged 15 views per post. I had two likes and four comments, all from one super supportive and fantastic friend. I had ten followers, again all friends.

In April, I decided it was important to be disciplined with my writing schedule. I was going to aim for a weekly blog post, but I couldn’t commit to a specific day or time – I still can’t! I posted four stories – Lunch, The Art of Packing, Namaste and Basket Case . It would be The Art of Packing that finally enticed an internet wanderer to comment, and it elicited eight likes!

In May, I discovered the importance of SEO and terms like categories and tags. I doubled back and fixed my previous posts, in turn doubling my stats. The Silver Lining of Being Awkward and Half-Priced Discount…Still Not Enough were the first posts to break ten likes! My favourite post was Accidental Railjob.

In June, I delved into strategies to market my brand and created a Facebook Page and Twitter account. Other than WordPress, Facebook is my second highest referrer. I’ve only recently seen some engagement with Twitter. It takes a hell of a lot of engagement on all platforms to generate traffic and in the end, I stopped actively seeking inorganic methods. I found myself down the rabbit hole of the net, constantly checking stats and trying to improve traffic. It was wreaking havoc with my mind. It wasn’t my initial intent but somehow it had become my ball and chain. I forced myself to re-evaluate the reasons why I started this blog and did an overhaul in my thinking – I write because I want to share my experiences, my audience will find it in due course.

I began opening up about my mental health issues. My Struggle With Small Talk revealed my social anxiety issues and Find Your Strength was the first time I admitted to not coping with depression and parenting. It was also the month that my readership grew, and people began commenting. I began to understand that my words were being heard and people did resonate with my experiences, in both parenting and with mental health.

In July, our household suffered through influenza and a range of illnesses. It was a tough time where I resorted to fast food and self-pity – Chasing the Golden Arches.

In August, I received my first retweets on Twitter! Slaving Over a Hot Stove and How to Survive Toddlerhood. The writing community on Twitter is amazing and supportive. I do feel like an imposter calling myself a writer because I haven’t published any books but as it’s been pointed out to me – I write, therefore I am a writer!

In September, I struggled with content and motivation to write, producing only three posts – Stranger Directions, Live Without a Net and Little Bit of History Repeating.

In October, I got two awards! Sunshine Blogger Award and The Liebster Award. I think the last time I was awarded for something was in high school. The underachiever in me was extremely happy.

My Remedy for School Holiday Boredom took out the highest likes for the year at 26! I quit my job at the end of October, unable to balance working and motherhood and battle with mental health issues – Farewell Until We Meet Again was my goodbye post to my fellow colleagues.

In November, I did a creative writing course and submitted my homework as blog posts along with my usual ramblings. Funnily enough, I discovered that I like poetry and writing it. A Mother’s Love was my first poem. One of my stories, Remember to Breathe, was published for the first time in the Your Child magazine. They published When It Rains, It Pours the following month. Another magazine MamaMag published The Art of Packing. Man, it was the best feeling!

In December, The Dreaded School Run took out the highest number of comments for the year! I participated in Hoppy Tales, a short story writing tag that was super fun and brought a whole new crowd to my blog!

So… now that I’ve spammed you with a bunch of back links, what have I really got to say about 2019?

This year has been successful on so many fronts. It’s been a crazy journey of self-discovery and healing. Sitting down and penning my thoughts has taught me that I am capable of self-discipline, of reflecting on my feelings and actions, and more importantly, making the necessary changes to gain a happier me and experience a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

I’ve met wonderful and supportive people in the blogging and writing community. I’ve read some poignant, beautiful, inspiring and heartbreaking posts. I’ve laughed at funny gifs and admired Instagram-worthy photos. I’ve formed social connections I never dreamed could happen. Thank you to everyone who reads, comments or likes my posts – it means so much to me that you take the time out of your busy day to read my ramblings.

For 2020, I wish to continue my journey to create inspiring, empowering and humorous written pieces. I hope that my words can bring comfort, laughter and be relatable to those who read them.

I’ll be on a break for a few weeks so there won’t be any posts from me. I’m aiming for time away from social media so I won’t be online – much.

Happy holidays everyone! See you in the New Year! Keep safe. Love more. Hate less. Eat more greens.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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WAVES OF EMOTIONS

Pre-surgery ramblings:

There are three large frames of dusty landscapes placed strategically around the room. Lines of orange and beige chairs face towards the walkway that leads to the reception desk. It’s unsettling having eyes on you as you walk in.

Two large rugs are hung on the wall behind reception; one striped with brown, green, orange and yellow, and the other with different shaped circles. Perhaps the interior designer used the varying colours of poo as inspiration for the room. It is after all, the specialist rooms for gastroenterology.

I’m sitting here, waiting for my husband to be released post-gastroscopy/colonoscopy. We are here for investigative procedures following complaints of severe stomach pains.

If you ask me, I believe it is due to the stresses of work and life. He is known put aside his own basic needs of food and water to accommodate work issues. He works long hours and rarely takes any leave. He is always on call, awakened at all hours of the night. On days of leave, such as today, his phone still buzzes with calls from work. Having a medical procedure doesn’t give you an out.

It’s got me thinking. Is there such thing as work life balance? Can you pursue and achieve a successful career without it impacting your health, family or life? Conversely, can you have a fulfilling life without some form of work?

Post surgery misery:

As soon as my husband entered the room, I knew there was something amiss. His usually unreadable mask broken, his face shrouded with unease. The news was not positive. He was speaking but the words weren’t computing. I had to read the papers that the specialist had given him, not trusting his words.

‘Four polyps removed. One single 20mm sessile polyp removed. All sent for examination. Repeat colonoscopy in a year.’

For most people, this information wouldn’t elicit extreme emotions. No definitive results other than some polyps. There is no point worrying until the polyps are tested. However, to a person who suffers from anxiety and prone to worst-case scenarios, my mind is having a meltdown.

I’m scared. A train of morbid thoughts plagues my mind; precancerous polyps, bowel cancer, mortality rates, death. Google is fast becoming my unwanted best friend.

What happens if they are precancerous polyps? What does this mean? How can I fix this? What can I do?

I just want to cry. I can’t deal with the unknown. The thought of anything happening to my husband makes me want to break down. He is my strength, my love, my everything. I can’t help but cry as I type this.

So as I enter these next few weeks of uncertainty, I pray that I can be strong for my husband and my children, and that I can put aside my own fears and anxiety to support the man who has always been my rock. For I won’t be the only person riding the waves of emotions.

Update: We found out the polyps were indeed precancerous types, ones that lead to colon cancer if not removed. I’m relieved the outcome was not cancer but I can’t help but feel upset that there is that looming risk. For now, we continue our healthy diet and annual surveillance. Thank you to everyone for your support and kind words during the times I was feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety.

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THE DREADED SCHOOL RUN

When my daughter started primary school, I had a master plan. Despite suffering from crippling social anxiety, I was going to shove my insecurities deep down where the sun doesn’t shine, pull up my big girl pants, and be sociable. I was going to make an effort to introduce myself to other mums because I understood that I was the gateway to my daughter’s social life, and I wanted her to have positive experiences. I didn’t want people to see me as the awkward and antisocial person that seldom spoke and therefore, unfairly judge my daughter.

So in the first year of school, I tried getting to know people. I soon realised that there were many cliques and not all were welcoming, not everyone was friendly and some would outright ignore me. It surprised me to see strangers becoming fast friends within such a short space of time. People were enjoying family holidays together, picking up each other’s children and organising play dates.

All the while, I was struggling to get an invite to the end of term park gatherings and classroom parent dinners. Most of the time, I was invited as an afterthought or at least, that was my perception. I couldn’t even secure play dates successfully, bar one mum who took me under her wing.

I would watch with envy and disappointment as groups of mums would leave for coffee dates after the school runs. Why didn’t they invite me? These situations would evoke powerful emotional childhood memories of insecurities and inadequacies, making me feel like that outcast once more. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of those early days hidden in the car until the very last minute.

Fortunately, I did make a few good friends that year, and I’ve clung on to them since (You know who you are – thank you!). School runs can be intimidating, especially for someone who suffers from social anxiety. On days where I don’t find a friendly face, I feel anxious waiting around. Small talk is a mammoth task for me, especially with people I’m not comfortable with or know well.

My husband doesn’t understand my irrational fears with the dreaded school runs. How could he though? He doesn’t have social anxiety. He wasn’t an outcast as a child in school. He is confident in his own skin and has his tight-knit group of childhood friends. He has no problem with small talk or meeting new people, even though he is an introvert by nature.

I, however, allow this debilitating mental illness to dictate almost every social interaction that I have. It has become a stranglehold that keeps me from meeting new people, forming friendships and sometimes even keeping friendships. I’m plagued by insecurities and anxiety over forming connections but at the same time, I doubt why anyone would want to be my friend. I’m not interesting, I don’t have hobbies, I’m not well-travelled, and I’m not worldly or cultured.

My husband made an observation that gave me pause. “Why is it that you think so little of yourself? Why wouldn’t people want to be your friend? Why don’t you ask to join them for coffee?”

Upon reflection, I surmised that I am simply scared. I’m scared to put myself out there, to allow myself to be vulnerable and be judged. What if I’m found to be wanting? What if people don’t like me? What if I let myself hope for friendship and be sorely disappointed? What if I’m rejected for being me?

Recently, I met a wonderful and kind school mum, by chance, at one of my daughter’s friend’s birthday party. It was only upon getting to know her that I realised that I am not alone in my feelings, that perhaps there are many of us that have our own doubts and insecurities. She made me understand that having meaningful social connections and friendships are important, and that it is worth pursuing, particularly for people who suffer from social anxiety.

This year, I haven’t hidden in my car or pretended to be on the phone as much and I’ve continued to work on my small talk and forming connections with other people. I would like to think that my social anxiety has lessened in intensity and that my communication skills have improved.

But as we creep towards a new school year, where undoubtedly there will be new faces to meet and new connections to make, I know my anxiety levels will rise and there will be an overwhelming urge to hide in the car.

Does it get easier? Can someone overcome social anxiety? I really hope so because I don’t like the idea of hiding in the car for the next decade.

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THROUGH THE LENS

Perspective – the way that you see something, a point of view.

An example could be a patient and his spouse sitting in the doctor’s room waiting for said doctor to deliver the verdict of the patient’s recent colonic biopsies.

Precancerous adenomas. One considered an aggressive form that can develop into cancer and needs regular colonoscopies for detection and removal.

The two people receiving this news could be hearing the same information but have differing perspectives. The patient’s perspective could be that this is good news and some changes to the diet might be needed. What will be, will be. His spouse’s perspective might be that this is devastating news and drastic dietary changes are necessary. A ‘all or nothing’ approach.

How is it that two people can have such differing views?

We are a product of our upbringing and environment. Our beliefs are influenced and shaped by family, childhood, culture, religion, life experiences and so much more. We look at the world through our own unique pair of lens. Our perspectives are formed by our core belief systems.

How can differing perspectives cause conflict for this couple?

Well, I would imagine the woman might throw a fit and demand that the dietary changes she’s made to reduce the man’s risk factors aren’t extreme and that kale doesn’t taste THAT bad! And eating couscous is like eating rice… 

I could see that the man might try to rationally and logically explain that crash diets don’t work and smaller changes are needed to maintain longevity. He might use conversational tactics he uses on work colleagues to get his point across. He might get frustrated at the woman’s defensive and increasing volume, and start talking to her as though he’s disciplining their seven-year-old stubborn child.

She might threaten to feed him more kale. Sure, it’s bitter and tastes like medicine but that’s why you pinch your nose and swallow whole.

He might suggest eating a meat pie once in a while isn’t going to lead to cancer.

Eventually, they will reach a stalemate with neither seeing the other person’s perspective. Something about Mars and Venus is at play. Someone will cry because crying is good for the soul and an effective stress reliever.

So how can they resolve their conflict?

Time apart can help them reflect on what the other person has said. It can allow them time to consider why the other person might behave the way they do and find common ground to resolve the issue.

The man might consider that allowing the woman to have control over the family diet will alleviate her anxiety and fears of the unknown. She’s only trying to help and she might need more hugs. Plus, she can become batsh*t crazy when anxious.

The woman might consider finding a middle ground with dietary changes, that an ‘all or nothing’ approach isn’t sustainable. She’s not the only one affected by the information and her emotions must play a secondary role.

They might want to sit down and make a list of possible changes and mark what can be achieved now and gradually over time. They need to turn towards each other for support and give the other person respect and love. They must remember that everyone is different. People see the world and its problems differently, and that is ok. They both have a common goal, reducing the risk factors that lead to colon cancer, and working together is the answer.

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PROJECT HEALTHY EATING

People deal with stress in all manner of ways; meditation, nature immersion, exercise, getting support through conversation, spending time with family and friends, writing, KFC. Each to their own and hopefully, in non-destructive ways. My coping mechanism involves keeping busy to prevent my mind from rumination. Left to my own devices, I tend to wallow in self-pity and catastrophic thoughts.

Given that I’m currently experiencing stress at peak levels, I needed some “projects” to me busy. When I received an email from Henry’s childcare stating that parents could to do small jobs in lieu of the contribution levy, I put my name forth. The wrapping of Christmas presents was my first choice, but that was snatched up within two minutes of the email being sent. So the next best option was the sewing of sheets for the children’s bedding. This seemed easy enough, how hard could mending a few sheets be?

Little did I know when I accepted the job that I would be making the sheets from scratch! One of the parents had come up with a brilliant plan to use queen sized sheets, cut up into parts to make the children’s bedding. From one queen sized sheet, three sheets with a cover could be made. I was given enough materials to make eighteen sheets. To have the levy refunded, the parent only needed to volunteer two hours of their time.

Three parts of a queen sized sheet. Most sides needed double fold hemming.

I am no seamstress. I’m an amateur at best! It took me roughly an hour to make one sheet and cover! Being the person that I am, I couldn’t return the unfinished sheets and so I’m making all eighteen. It helps Henry’s childcare, the children have new bedding for the upcoming year and it keeps me busy. A win for everyone. Hopefully, the stitching lasts one cycle in the wash!

Lots of inside out, outside in stitching and hemming.
Final product.

In addition to this, I decided an overhaul of the family meals was in order. I banned all take-away, eating out and processed meats. I changed everything to low-fat (except for the kids), high fibre white bread to wholemeal and white rice to brown. I reduced the red meat intake to once weekly, added more fibre, fruit and vegetables to the meals, and cut out all junk snacks. Extreme? Probably, but I don’t do things by halves and this keeps me preoccupied.

I think the family have accepted some of the changes rather well, despite the reactions and comments that I have received so far. Initially, I was dealing with this:

Henry (3 y.o.), gagging with each mouthful of veggies.
“I’m not eating that! No way!”
“This makes me want to vomit!”
“Where’s the meat?”
“No vegetables. Yuck!”

Mandy (7 y.o.), eating only after negotiating TV deals.
“This is disgusting!”
“Do I have to eat it all?”
“How many more spoonfuls?”
“If I eat this, can I watch TV?”

Gary (hubby), eating only after I gave him my death glares.
“This is so bland!”
“I’ve lost two kilos!”
“We can’t go from high calorie meals to this!”
“This isn’t a race. It’s a marathon!”
“Make smaller changes and make it stick!”

Now, I claim victory with these wins:
1. The kids think All Bran cereal tastes like chips (poor sods).
2. The kids haven’t noticed the change to wholemeal bread.
3. The lack of available snacks has meant everyone is reaching for fruit, seaweed, nuts and Greek yoghurt instead.
4. The kids are picking at the salads whereas before they wouldn’t touch it.
5. Everyone loves the homemade air-fried potato fries.

In light of the success thus far, I was thinking of branching out and trying new things. Like organic produce and introducing different mushrooms and tofu. Maybe even trial kale?

Could this push us into the realm of too fast too soon? I do wonder if I can keep up this diet or whether my body will just chuck a fit and force my mouth to feast on all those forbidden foods.

Maybe this time, I won’t have to come clean about my secret stash of Cheesels and Aero Mints or explain why they’re hidden in my underwear tub. Only time will tell.

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WHY INTROVERTS ARE QUIET

A friend recently sent me an image of a pie chart with reasons why introverts are quiet. It had me giggling and nodding my head in agreement. There were two explanations that stood out for me.

‘I finally came up with the perfect reply but now you’re talking about something else.’

‘The words, I can’t do right when out loud they are spoken.’

Does anyone suffer from this? I over think my responses and take a ridiculous amount of time to perfect a reply. By the time I’ve mustered up the courage to actually contribute to the conversation, I’ve missed the train. And if I feel nervous speaking to the person, I just blurt out random junk in an incoherent manner – I believe the condition is called verbal diarrhoea. I’ve had it all my life – I don’t think there is a cure.

The image had me thinking, is this why I don’t have many close friends? I don’t make great first impressions and I’m not a skilled conversationalist, so are people likely to shy away from getting to know me?

I envy children. They make it look so simple. ‘Hey you wanna play?’ and BAM! a friendship is born. Ok, maybe not exactly like that but you get my drift. They don’t have the same emotional baggage and negative inner dialogues holding them back from connecting with others. They don’t see the same obstacles or barriers that an adult might see.

So what can I do? I still want to get to know people and make friends. While I like my own company, it’s nice not to answer my own questions on occasion. You know what I mean? And at some stage, my children will become teenagers and won’t have a bar of me, my husband will probably request to live solo on a deserted island and I’ll be OLD old. I’d like to think that I’ll have some old biddies to clink teacups with and chat about our latest romance reads. It’s nice to make connections and form friendships. Loneliness is literally a silent killer!

In efforts to rectify this situation, I had to do some self-analysis and admit to any shortcomings. I identified six areas of limitations that needed some serious overhaul to make a better first impression.

  1. Willingness: I prefer lurking in dark corners and hiding behind any excuse instead of being placed in an uncontrolled social setting. I would rather spork myself in the eye than talk to a stranger. I struggle with anxiety in most social situations.
  2. Small talk: I find small talk incredibly draining. It takes all my concentration and energy to listen and converse in a manner that is meaningful and attentive. I would say it’s the equivalent to a tough gym session but for the brain. I feel like a big bag of chips and a nap afterwards to recuperate from my efforts, I kid you not!
  3. Eye contact: I have an aversion to prolonged eye contact. I feel compelled to look away to relieve the discomfort.
  4. Smile: I hate my teeth, and I’m conscious of them. I tend to smile with my lips sealed tight so often I look like I’m grimacing. It probably gives me a certain RBF appearance.
  5. Body language: Unless I know the person well or I feel comfortable in their presence, I tend to cross my arms or hold a bag in front of me. It’s almost a protective or defensive stance.
  6. Inner dialogue: I have a tendency to be pessimistic and negative about my capabilities. I am hard on myself. I worry about my quirks and awkwardness.

It’s not a great stretch of the imagination to state that I don’t make the best first impressions. I can appear disinterested and arrogant when the opposite is true!

So I’ve decided to tackle one limitation at a time – first off the bat, willingness. I’m going to attempt to talk to someone who I wouldn’t normally talk to while doing school pick ups and drop offs. You never know, I might even make a friend or two who’ll find my quirkiness and awkwardness charming! Wish me luck folks.

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FAREWELL UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN

Stepping through the building’s revolving doors and swiping my work card for the last time, I felt overcome with nostalgia. My mind went for a trip down memory lane to the first time I stood in front of the security gates, desperately trying to get my visitors card to work so I that I could get to my job interview on time. I remember feeling self-conscious that I was holding up the flow of morning traffic as I did my awkward forward and backward shuffle trying to get the barriers to open. I remember rushing to the toilet to calm my nerves, flapping about trying to cool my sweaty body, and checking my armpits for embarrassing sweat stains.

I really wanted the job. At the time, this government role was what I deemed in my mind as the pinnacle of my career success in my profession. I believed that my self-worth was directly linked to my job title, and this role would be validation of that. It would satisfy my ego and dull that little insecure voice in my head telling me that my value and existence was defined by work and its accomplishments.

I remember taking extreme care in my appearance, rehearsing the lines that I would say, and trying to give myself the pep talk I needed to come across as a capable and confident person. I remember the elation I had felt at news of my success. I remember meeting my work colleagues and feeling nervous but eager to please. This job was pivotal to me feeling complete.

Over the years, I began feeling frustrated with the system, felt downtrodden with my inability to effect change, and resentment built to a point where I became an ineffectual team member. It was also around the time I was gifted with a second job title – mum – and my struggles with work-life balance, mother’s guilt and anxiety reared its ugly head.

Why did I stay, I hear you ask, if I was so unhappy?

I made excuses to myself: I needed a job, we needed the money, it was well-paid and secure, and I should have been thankful to have a job when so many others struggled to find one. In truth, I stayed for longer than I should have out of fear. I was fearful of the unknown. I didn’t believe in my own abilities or capabilities. What if I didn’t find anything better? Don’t they say the grass is always greener on the other side? My anxiety made sure to shred any remaining confidence.

And so, I stewed in my misery, negativity pouring from me like a poison, darkening my thoughts and affecting everyone around me. I was depressed and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. People were moving forward, grabbing opportunities with gusto, and surviving within the murky waters of the workplace restructures. I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore and I certainly didn’t feel I deserved to be there, taking someone else’s spot. I was lost. I was a failure as a teammate and as a parent. I was in a very bad head space. For the sake of my mental health and my family, there was only one solution and that was to resign.

Today, as I said my farewells to my friends, I felt strong emotions of grief and loss. These wonderful people had become my second family, unwavering in their support, encouraging with meaningful words and enriching my life with their presence. Today, I close this chapter of my life with fond memories that will forever be etched in my heart.

Where will my new adventures lead? What does the next chapter look like? What are my plans? I do not know.

The only thing I do know is that I am ready for the magic of new beginnings.

 


To my friends, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

FT – I will miss your hugs and infectious laughter.
MD – I will miss your jokes, even though I rarely got your punch lines.
QG – I will miss your D&Ms, you gave me strength through some of my darkest days.
WY – I will miss your tough love, no-nonsense attitude.
GS/MN – I will miss your generous and kind spirits.
MS – I will miss your inner strength and words of wisdom.
GP – I will miss your wildly inappropriate but funny comments. Don’t go changing.
JL – I will miss hearing of your small wins with coupons and freebies.
EB – I will miss your words of encouragement and support.
HS – I will miss your self-deprecating humour.

And to the rest of the branch, who are no less important to me, thank you for being a part of my life journey.


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