A WALKING REFLECTION

Self-reflection is a powerful tool for personal growth. For me, self-reflection has become an important part of my life journey and mental health. The practice allows my brain the opportunity to press pause on the hustle and bustle of life, to unravel and shift through interactions and experiences, and to consider my actions and words. By doing so, I can examine and learn from them and therefore, challenge myself to be a better person. In saying this, self-reflection is not always an easy practice.

Self-reflection can bring forth uncomfortable truths. For some, it’s your ego that helps to protect you from unwanted feelings and thoughts and keeps your fragile identity intact. It makes peeling back those layers of yourself difficult, especially if you don’t like what you find. It can feel unpleaseant and vulnerable to open yourself up for self-critism, but increasing self-awareness and achieving personal development and growth is a worthwhile goal.

I started the practice of consciously considering and analysing my actions and emotions when I began this blog. In essence, this blog is my journal where I reflect on the past week’s events and express my feelings and thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, self-reflection sometimes feels like I’m beating myself up over something I said or did. But once I get over the initial feelings and look deeper into the whys and hows, I get to a point where I can begin to understand and learn. And I believe self-awareness is a gift worth giving to myself.

So… I’ll give you an example of some recent self-reflection that I did. 

On the weekend, I took the children to see their uncle at the park for a picnic for the first time since this sixth lockdown started almost two months ago. I think we’ve been under lockdown for 270 days since this pandemic began back in 2020. With easing of restrictions and because my brother lives within 10 KM of us, we were legally allowed to meet up. 

My younger brother reminds me a lot of what I was like in my younger years – a bit rash, brimming with confidence, and somewhat temperamental. He’s also incredibly fit. Remember how I wrote about him being my personal trainer for a while? Anyway, lockdown has changed him. He’s not as fit as he used to be. In fact, he suggested, like it was a great idea, for us to drive the car 100 metres down the street so that we would be nearer to the cafe where we were going to get hot drinks. He wanted to save us 100 metres from the 500 metre walk. Obviously, I told him that he was being a ninny and to walk it.  

Later when I relayed the story of my brother being so lazy that he wanted to save 100 metres of walking to my husband, he gave me a look of disbelief.

He replied with, “Who does that remind you of?”

Our 8-year-old daughter chimed in with, “You always want Daddy to park close to the shops!”

Our 4-year-old son reiterated with, “Yeah Mummy!”

Upon a bit of FORCED self-reflection, I admitted to them and myself that I probably couldn’t really laugh at my brother seeing as I do the same thing. You see, sometimes it’s not easy to see your limitations and it can be even harder to admit there are parts of you that could be improved. 

So next time, when my husband parks really, REALLY, far away from where we should be, I’ll endeavour to remember the time I ridiculed my brother, and bite my tongue because a bit of walking never hurt anyone. 

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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. 

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FALLING OUT OF BED

“Mummy! Mummy!” – my six o’clock wake up call sounds the same every morning, with my four-year-old son calling out for me from his bed. I know that if I don’t go over to tell him to be quiet, he will fuss and wake the whole household. If I brave the morning chill, I might be able to squeeze in another ten minutes of peace. 

Pulling back the blankets, I swung my legs to the side of the bed and stood up. Then I fell to the ground in a crumpled heap. My legs were not doing what I thought my brain was telling those porkchops to do. 

“ARGH!!!!” My son’s morning whinge might not have woken anyone yet, but my screams of agony certainly would have done the trick.

Three worried pairs of eyes peered over my prone body.

“What’s wrong with Mummy?!”

“Mum, what happened to your foot?”

“Are you ok?”

On occasion, I’ve woken up with pins and needles in my limbs and have collapsed getting out of bed. Never have I fallen in such an awkward position that I’ve injured myself in the process. Unlucky for me, I fell forwards and bent the toes on my right foot upwards. I wasn’t sure if the toes were broken or sprained but it hurt – BAD. Other than grab my foot, I could only manage to whimper in pain. After I had managed to collect myself, we examined my foot and came to the conclusion that if I could wriggle my toes, it probably wasn’t broken. To the kids, the excitement was over. 

“Mummy, I’m hungry!”

“Mummy, can you make me a toastie?”

“I’ve got to get ready for work.”

It was time to get back to Mum duties, bruised toes or not. So I hobbled about to get things done.

“Mummy, can you pick that up?”

“Mummy, can you get my water bottle from my room?”

“Mummy, can you get me a snack?”

“Mummy, can you wipe my bottom?”

Have I mentioned that being a parent is a thankless job? 

“I have broken (maybe) toes you know!” I had to remind everyone that I was an injured person and perhaps people could cut me some Mum slack and go do things themselves. I dread thinking how anyone would cope if I was really out of action. Dropped items would stay dropped, water bottles would never get refilled, no one would do a poop. 

Anyway, I’m sure you are all thoughtful folks and want to know how my toes are faring, right? I am unhappy to report I am back to 90% servant/cleaner/cook duties. Maybe if I want a break from Mum duties next time I’m injured, I’ll need both hands broken.

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