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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THE CURSE OF IMPULSE BUYS

My husband and children like to gang up and tease me. It’s probably because I give them lots of reasons to… I’m giving in that way. I have a tendency to be explicit about obvious things and non-explicit about non-obvious things. What does that mean exactly? I’ll give you some examples. I might say “You should park here” when my husband is practically reversing the car into said space. Or I might say “Can you pass me that thing?” and no-one has any idea what that “thing” I’m referring to is but me. What can I say? I have my flaws.

I blame it on the fact that my mind is on constant overdrive, mentally juggling the billion life tasks that need to be done. That’s my excuse anyway! My husband suggests I should apply the “just in time” strategy to my decision-making processes and not waste time thinking too far ahead. In doing so, I might free my mind to make better choices or decisions in a timely manner. He’s probably right but then again, he would rather be wet than use an umbrella and thinks thongs have no place in footwear, so it’s hard for me to take him seriously at times!

Anyway, recently I went to a bookstore with our 8-year-old daughter and on an impulse buy, I bought an adjustable travel book holder that was sitting at the counter. Those merchandisers are sneaky bastards, and I’m the perfect example of an impulse buyer. I see colourful products and red on-sale signs and my brain goes off like a circus monkey on speed. I can’t help it! I reasoned that our daughter needed help keeping the pages of her book opened. She complained that one time, a few months back somewhere, and that was reason enough for the $17 purchase.

My husband took one look at the book holder and declared it a useless invention made to con easy prey like me. How dare he?! My daughter quickly sided with her dad and wanted nothing to do with the product despite originally agreeing to try it. My son joined in on the fun and soon, dissension was rife.

“I’m going to use it to keep MY research books open!” I argued, attempting to win the debate on the worthiness of a travel book holder, despite not travelling anywhere.

“See? I’m using it right now,” I said, as I failed miserably to prove the book holder useful. Instead of placing the thing on the sides of the book, I put it on top so I couldn’t turn the pages. Then when I realised my mistake and tried putting it on the sides of the book, it wouldn’t stretch far enough for the book I was using as my demonstration. Sigh.

The against team rebuttal included a Google search of the most pointless items ever made and my product happened to make the top 10 list. It didn’t help that my book kept slamming shut because the book holder was a useless piece of junk. Suffice to say, it destroyed my credibility and rendered my arguments invalid.

“That thing is cursed,” my husband joked, “you better get rid of it!”

He and the children went off on a tangent about what cursed objects were and ways to rid one of it. They even drew a pentagram symbol on a whiteboard and placed the book holder within it to keep the curse from wreaking havoc on our household. And to strengthen the protection spell, they drew three more pentagrams around the original symbol. They came up with the idea that the curse could only be broken if the cursed item was accepted by someone else. I couldn’t re-gift or throw out the book holder.

Obviously, it was all done jokingly and the children knew it was all said and done in good nature. But two weeks on, they are still taking the piss out on me. Every time there’s a misfortune, they joke that it’s because of the curse. Like when we couldn’t find a carpark at the shopping centre during the peak hour weekend crowd… it was because of the curse. Or when we had to walk up the broken travellator… again, the curse.

Every day, my 4-year-old son asks if today is the day I’ll rid myself of the curse and therefore, his curse through his association with me. I really don’t want to give it away because it cost me $17 and a stubborn part of me doesn’t want to admit that the book holder is in fact, useless. I’m still holding out hope that one day it’ll prove handy.

BUT at what point does a lie become the truth? If you believe something hard enough, would you eventually create an illusion of the truth? Because at the rate everyone is saying I’m cursed, maybe it’ll really end up that way. Maybe if I really think bad things will happen, it’ll end up true. And if that’s true, then shouldn’t happy thoughts lead to happy things? What if the Universe knows that I’m purposely thinking happy thoughts for happy things, will that mean something bad will happen? What if the Universe is really trying to speak through the curse?

Wait a minute! Maybe this is going too far. Before I book myself into a bootcamp for cosmic curse cleansing…

Does anyone want a free and really useful travel book holder?

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CURE WORSE THAN DISEASE

I don’t like massage parlours. There’s something about the neon flashing open signs that makes me wonder if these establishments are legit or not. But mainly it’s because I’m uncomfortable with the idea of some random person touching me while I’m half-naked.

It’s been about a decade since a girlfriend roped me into a couple’s massage with a Groupon. The place ended up being a seedy joint with blacked-out windows and questionable stains on the carpet. I was tensed the whole time. Probably not the usual clientele outcome.

Fast forward to yesterday, after enduring a headache for five days straight and waking throughout the night with pain, I was at my wit’s end and ready to try anything, including a massage. There had been little relief from the assortment of pain killers I’d been taking and so a remedial massage was my next treatment option.

Have you ever been elbowed in the ribs by a small child or by someone with bony elbows? It hurts, right?

There should be a warning sign that reads “Remedial massage – not for wusses!” Cos I’d have retreated faster than Road Runner himself.

When I showed up to my appointment, I explained to the massage lady that I wanted a neck and shoulder massage to attempt to alleviate my headache.

She got me to lie face down on a bed in a darkened room and asked if I wanted a dry or oiled massage. Not wanting to remove any layers of clothing, I opted for a dry massage.

The massage lady was zen-like in her focus, saying little in her words but vigorous in action. She worked on giving me a deep tissue massage on my shoulders and neck.

I kind of think deep tissue massage is just code for elbow the crap out of the person until they cry. Because that’s what I did… cried. My four-year-old son would have laughed at seeing me cry like a baby as a little Asian woman karate chopped my back.

But seriously, it was so bloody painful. I had to take deep breaths, count sheep and remind myself that the torture was a necessary evil.

“Is it supposed to hurt this much?” I wheezed out between her finger jabs. Being jabbed in the eye would have been preferable to whatever she was doing between my shoulder blades.

“You are very tense.”

Of course, I was tense! It was like someone was pulling the tendons and muscles from my bones then doing karate chops with their elbows. Why did she have such bony elbows?!

I swear I could hear my bones clicking and croaking as she rotated my hip bones and stretched out my back.

“You can turn over.”

Can you imagine my relief? The thirty minutes felt like forever under her painful ministrations. Unfortunately, only fifteen minutes had past so my relief was premature. Being asked to turn over was just the halfway point, the torture would continue for another fifteen minutes.

Did you know hair pulling is part of therapy? I should have stopped her on the account that I’m shedding hair at an exponentially fast rate and entering the balding phase but instead I quietly suffered through.

I whimpered and got teary-eyed even after she reduced the firmness of her kneading, elbowing and finger jabs. It didn’t matter, my muscles were so tightly coiled that it was going to hurt regardless.

“Go home and relax. Don’t wash your hair.”

That was odd. Not sure why I wasn’t supposed to wash my hair. Paying proved difficult with two sore arms not wanting to play ball with the brain’s commands.

Did the massage relax me? Hell no.

Would I ever go back? No bloody way!

Did the remedial massage help with my headache? Unfortunately not.

I suspect the torturous pain of bony elbows and finger jabs would far outweigh the pain of any headache.

Sometimes the cure really is worse than the disease.

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