WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS

For the past several weeks, my emotions have felt like water boiling in a kettle, escalating to a rolling boil with the increased pressures of life and threatening to erupt in a burst of hot scalding anger at anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby. Have you ever felt like that? Like you’re spinning a lot of plates in the air and then life throws you another just for sh!ts and giggles? Or maybe you felt like your life has been one bad event after the other? Sometimes I feel like that and I can’t help but wallow in self-pity. Why me?!

Two weeks ago, we plunged into our fourth lockdown since this pandemic started. We were allowed to leave home for authorised work or study, food, medical care and care-giving, 2 hours of exercise per day and vaccinations. We were allowed travel within a 10 km radius from our house for food and exercise. Lockdown hadn’t really fazed me this time around as it was to be short-lived and kindergarten was still open. So in a way, I was less concerned about my 4-year-old son regressing in terms of socialisation, and I could balance helping my 8-year-old daughter with her remote school learning while doing my studies.

As fate would have it, my 4-year-old got the sniffles and couldn’t attend kinder with cold symptoms. So with the old adage of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” chanting in the background of my mind, I made the best of a bad situation.

During the day, I was a cheerleader and sub-teacher to the 8-year-old doing remote school learning while trying to keep the hyper 4-year-old occupied with board games, reading and arts. Every other second available was spent on micro-cleaning, attacking the laundry monster and cooking. At night, after the children had gone to bed, I stayed up to finish the 3000-word research proposal, 2 teaching plans and Powerpoint presentations and coursework that was due. I was optimistic that the following week, my 4-year-old son would be back at kinder and I’d have more time.

But seriously, how can anyone truly plan for anything in life. Life happens, and you just have to roll with it. The following week, my son did actually return to kinder but for unknown reasons, began to wake at 4 am instead of his usual 6 am needing reassurance. There were nights he’d run over two or three times needing a hug before returning to his bed. My sleep suffered. And then I fell out of bed and sprained my toes. You know those lemons? I started hating the idea of making lemonade. 

I hobbled about with a bung foot, sleep-deprived and stressed with the looming deadlines. Half-way through that week, I was still trying to keep a positive mind. It wasn’t until a zoom meeting with my university professor over my research paper and realising how much rework I needed to do that I decided lemonade was bloody overrated. 

I threw a tantrum and gave myself a pity party. My low-carb diet became a lets-order-takeaway-cos-lockdown diet. I went on a Flamin’ Cheetos binge. Other than helping the children, I put my studies and housework on the back burner. I reacquainted with my kindle and indulged in some romantic comedy reads. And you know what? It was exactly what I needed. A guilt-free break. A time-out to regroup and re-energise. 

The 4-year-old started sleeping through again. My 8-year-old needed less support and became more self-sufficient with remote learning. My bung foot gave me less grief. I ended up with a clearer mind and finished my research proposal. I completed the coursework and one of the two teaching plans and Powerpoint presentations. 

The mental load I set for myself is astronomical. The high expectation and pressure that I pile on myself to be “perfect”, to achieve success, and to do things the “right” way is unrealistic and unhealthy. Whether it be house work to parenting to my studies, I overwhelm myself with this invisible burden and will often forget to give myself grace to simply breathe. We can all cope to a point but when we go through tough times and everything in life seems to be going downhill, it can be easy to lose perspective and fall into a poor mindset. It’s often hard to ask for help or even acknowledge that you don’t have it all together like how you think you should. 

I’m waffling. What am I really trying to say with this post? That sometimes when life gives you a lot of damn lemons, you make yourself a nice big jug of lemonade margarita and sit down with a good book instead. 

Copyright © 2021, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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PUBLIC SPEAKING PAIN

Yesterday I finished the first week of my face-to-face classes to become an adult educator. It was a tough week of learning and trying to absorb new information, and doing things outside of my comfort zone.

The class was small with about twelve students of differing ages and backgrounds being taught by a knowledgeable trainer. Everyone had similar challenges in balancing studies with life commitments, and so they were supportive and helpful with one another. It was a great atmosphere to be a part of.

Despite some experience with public speaking in previous jobs and volunteering in classrooms, I get nervous standing in front of a group and talking.

It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to children or adults, I’ll still react the same. It could be a bunch of staring lizards and I suspect I’d still get the shaky hands, tremor in the voice and sweating.

On the first day of classes, we had to do introductions. Say your name, why you’re there and what you want to improve on. If you wanted to elaborate further, you could talk about a hobby. There were talking prompts on the board. Sounds easy right? You’re talking about subject matter that you’re an expert on…you.

There’s just something about having the focus of your peers and standing in front of a room that automatically has my pulse racing and my hands wringing. I got through it but internally berated my performance, dissecting it to pieces. I wondered how others felt despite everyone seeming to sail through their introductions.

The next few days, the trainer got us doing one on one, small group and class activities. There were fun learning tasks, short quick “energisers” (quick games to refresh during the arvo slump), and public speaking tasks.

It was rather clever how the trainer worked on building group rapport to create a supportive and comfortable environment for us to do talks. Initially, the trainer got us to do micro public speaking tasks, increasing the time and complexity as the days went on.

By the last day, we had to give a lesson to last twenty minutes that involved a resource of some kind and ideally involved class participation.

I used a PowerPoint presentation on customer service and looked at some of the worst scenarios I’ve experienced. One example involved a customer double parking his Mercedes-Benz in front of the pharmacy and demanding I did his prescription quickly because he didn’t want a ticket. That was used to explain the entitled customer.

After each slide, I tried getting audience participation by asking them their ideas of how I chose to respond in each of the scenarios, using multiple choices as options. It generated some interaction but nowhere to the extent of other people’s talks.

I also got a couple of people up to role-play a scenario but that didn’t work too well. I think I needed to work on my lesson plan and found better ways of generating fun, practical and engaging activities. What I learnt from watching other people do their presentations was that I needed to make my delivery more engaging.

I knew that I’d be more critical of myself, and how I thought I performed wouldn’t necessarily be accurate, so I asked the trainer for her feedback.

Hand tremors, sweaty armpits and hands, shaky voice, racing pulse and jitters aside, I needed to know how I “presented” to others.

The trainer opted for the sandwich method. You know, one good comment on either side of a constructive comment.

“You’re really professional and presentation was great. You could smile more. You look stern, a bit serious. You could inject a bit of humour to lighten the talk. Otherwise, it was good.”

I need to work on my delivery. The problem is, I’m pretty sure smiling isn’t possible when I’m in fight, flight or freeze mode. As for humour, does laughing at your own jokes count?

Copyright © 2021, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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MY STRUGGLE WITH SMALL TALK

Do you find it hard to partake in small talk? Does it make you feel anxious? Or do you have the gift of the gab?

There are so many factors required to have a successful conversation with another person.

  • Using exact words to effectively express your thoughts
  • Understanding body language and its nuances
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Finding a balance between listening and speaking
  • Showing an interest in the person and what they have to say
  • Offering interesting topic threads
  • Remembering to relax
  • Smile

If you suffer from social anxiety, being thrust into situations where you must engage in conversation can be scary. It might feel easier to avoid it altogether.

So why do I force myself to engage in conversation?

I recognise that to communicate and engage with others means social interaction. It means forging new relationships and strengthening others. It means developing my sense of self and belonging.

Ultimately, I don’t want my life to be consumed by my anxiety. I won’t allow it to tear me down. Therefore, I must engage.


Butcher: “Hello there!”

Me: “Hi.”

Butcher: “How can I help? What would you like?”

Oh my God, I don’t know. Sh?t, I better hurry! Sh?t, how do you say that word ’enchiladas’?

Me: “Um. Six en-chill-a-dars please?”

Butcher: “My wife just took one of these last night and upped to Mildura.”

What? What did he just say? Am I supposed to reply? I just want to tick dinner off my list.

Me: “Oh. That’s a long way.”

Butcher: “She loves them. Drove after work last night and got there this morning.”

Okay, I think I’m supposed to say something here. Fudge if I know. Why is he telling me this? Breathe. Relax. You can do this. It’s just a conversation. Be normal.

Me: “Yeah, she must love them to drive that far.”

Did he mean she loves enchiladas? Is six enough for dinner?

Butcher: “My daughter lives up there and had her baby last night.”

How long does it take to wrap these enchiladas?! I can feel my anxiety levels rising. This conversation is hurting my mind. New baby. Ok, so remember to congratulate him.

Me: “My husband loves your enchiladas.”

Butcher: “Thanks. My wife’s already saying she wants to come back.”

You seem like a really nice dude and I’m really glad you’re chatting to me but I suck at this and I feel awkward. Please have mercy on me!

Me: “My husband loves your enchiladas.”

Fudge! That’s not what I meant to say. I forgot the congratulations.

Butcher: “Uh, thanks?”

Me: “Um, congratulations?”

Oh my gosh! He did say his daughter, right? He looks young. I hope I haven’t misheard. This conversation is going downhill. Abort! Abort!

Butcher: “It’s my third grandkid. Here you are.”

Oh thank goodness.

Me: “Thanks. Have a great day.”

I need to get out of here.

Butcher: “You haven’t paid yet.”

Me: “You too. I mean, sorry I haven’t.”

Did I just say that? How embarrassing! I hope the next butcher isn’t as talkative.


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