Time Does Not Equal Distance

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We used to measure it in minutes and then hours.

We counted the days, the weeks and then the months since you’ve been gone.

Now we count the years.

Two years to be exact.

They say that the passing of time gives you distance, but thoughts of you are never far away.

Time may heal, but we’ll never forget.

Never forget those few precious moments we had with you, and they are just moments.

Too brief, the time we got to share with you.

The days seem long now, although they are still the same amount of time.

Those brief minutes when we thought you’d be with us forever seem so much shorter now, compared to the time without you in it.

Now you are in eternity, but you are never far from our hearts.

Time does not equal distance.

You will always be with us, no matter how much time passes.

Hearts and minds, thoughts and love.

You still reside with us and always will.

It doesn’t stop us missing you.

Two years.

Time does not equal distance.

 

Failing Forward

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This week marks the end of a seven year journey that my husband and I have been on.  On Friday of this week, we will be closing down our business, a business that we have poured our blood, sweat and tears into.  We didn’t come to this decision lightly.  Closing our business effects more than just us, it effects our kids, our staff, our suppliers and our customers.  We held on for as long as we could, but the fact is, we just couldn’t do it anymore.

The last two years of our lives has been harrowing.  If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know that I have been suffering from anxiety, depression and grief.  These take a toll on a person, physically and mentally.  I had a breakdown a few weeks ago and was housebound for two weeks and I walked a very fine line between giving in to it and fighting back.

Fighting is hard and I’m tired.  There were only three things that kept me from giving up; my husband and my two children.  They kept me tethered to this world when all I wanted to do was disappear into the ether.  I can’t see beyond the bleakness that consumes me, but they can, and I hold onto them in the hopes that their belief in a brighter future is what will get me through.

There are so many negative emotions associated with closing a business and for someone like me, who has way too many negative emotions to start with, dealing with this failure is like stepping on a landmine.  My whole world is about to explode and I don’t know what will be left in the aftermath.

One of the hardest things to cope with is the fact that I know that I am about to become fodder for gossip.  I have lived my entire life feeling the judgement of others, never measuring up to what those around me thought I should be and now I am proving them all right.  The fact that these people, so-called friends and family, will look at us and judge us and then use our story to titillate the ears of others, hurts, but what can you do?  People love a tragedy and my life has become very like a Shakespearean tragedy.

Nobody ever goes into business thinking they will fail.  This was not our first business, not the first time we failed, but this is probably the hardest.  We survived for seven years, sure we made some mistakes along the way, but seven years is a pretty good batting average for a small business.  I know that we’ve done everything we can and now it is time to let go.  It’s the letting go that is the hardest.

How do you let go of something that you have lived and breathed for seven years?  How do you get up in the morning knowing that there is nowhere to go, not even a reason to wake up?  They tell me that my stress levels will go down and my health will improve.  They give me reasons why this is a good thing, why this is a positive move, why I will be better off when everything is finalised.  I want to believe them, but right now, I can barely see the world beyond Friday.

I don’t want this to be the end of my story, and I suppose that is a good thing.  It means that I, at least, have a tiny ray of hope that I can go on.  I want to rise from the ashes, like a phoenix.  The legend of the phoenix states that the bird that rises from the ashes is more beautiful than the one before.  I want that.  I want to be able to rise out of this mess and be better, stronger, happier, healthier.  Isn’t that what is meant by failing forward?

Maybe in a month’s time I will look back and know that, although it was hard, we did the absolute right thing.  Maybe I won’t even recognise myself as the same woman who sat here and penned these words.  Maybe I will have found a new dream.

Or maybe it will take longer than a month.  The point is that it is in the rising after a fall that determines the future.  I may not feel the strength to rise right now, but I know I will.  One day.  One day in the future I will feel strong enough to lift my head and look to the horizon and dream of what the future holds.

I look forward to that day.

I’m Fine

imfineEver have one of those days when everything seems to be slipping out of your fingertips?

Ever looked in the mirror and not recognised the person looking back at you?

Sometimes that can be a good thing.  If you’ve been dieting or exercising and then one day you look at yourself and you see those changes that you’ve been striving for.

But sometimes it’s as scary as hell.

In the last twelve days I’ve only left my house four times.  I haven’t been able to work, I can’t go to the shops, I can’t drive or go to the gym.  I can barely get out of bed.

Am I sick?  No, I’m fine.

Okay, not so fine.  But I’m not sick, I don’t have an injury or an ailment.  Twelve days ago I had one of the worst anxiety attacks that I’ve had in two years, and now everything has changed.

I’m not a stranger to anxiety or depression, I’ve lived with it most of my life, but two years ago something happened to exacerbate it to the point that I could no longer ignore it, could no longer sweep it under the rug and pretend it wasn’t there.  So I started seeing a psychologist and things were getting better…good even.

And then twelve days ago happened.

Just thinking about it brings the symptoms back.  Since that day I’ve had numerous smaller attacks and just the thought of leaving my house is enough to bring one on.

I used to joke that I could quite happily become a hermit, now that it’s a possibility, it’s not so funny anymore.  The fact that I welcome it is even more of a worry.

Being a shut-in is appealing.  Never having to leave my house, not having to face the world outside, it sounds like paradise.  Maybe that’s just the anxiety talking, or the introvert, either way, I like the sound of it.

I’m not saying I want to be that way forever…just for, you know, a while…just until I feel better…just until the anxiety isn’t so bad…just until…

That’s how it starts.  Little by little it creeps into your life and before you know it, even if you want to go outside, you can’t.  I can see the future of my life if I give in to this need to withdraw from my life.  But it doesn’t make it any easier to face it.  And forcing me to go outside brings on an attack that is likely to set me back yet again.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t recognise this person I’ve become.  I always thought of myself as someone who was strong on the inside.  Now the woman I see in the mirror is weak and I don’t like her, I don’t want to be her.

When did this happen?  Surely I haven’t become this person in just twelve days?  No.  This has been a long time coming.  Every time I told myself I was fine when I wasn’t.  Every time I told someone else I was fine when I wasn’t.  Every time I gave in to the fear and the anxiety, every time I withdrew, every time I kept silent.  Little by little those small, seemingly inconsequential compromises changed me, changed who I thought I was.

Now I’m someone who can’t leave my house.

But I’m fine, really.

Mother’s Day

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Okay, I know.  Mother’s Day is past, but it has taken me a few days to get my head on straight in order to write this post.

Mother’s Day has become to be a kind of…demarcation?  Benchmark?  Report Card?  Whenever Mother’s Day comes around I always feel melancholy and reflective, more so than on my birthday or New Year’s Day.  Mother’s Day has come to be the day that I look back over the previous year and see how well I’ve done.

Unfortunately for me, this last year has been a tough one…the last few years have been tough in fact, but whereas this time last year I felt I had been making progress, this year I feel that I’ve been doing the dreaded cha-cha…one step forward, two steps back.

Anxiety and depression are hard taskmasters to live with.  They are the voices that tell you you can’t, you won’t, and you never will.  Some days they are the stronger voices, the ruling voices and some days they are just background noise.  This last year, I have had more days of them being the strong voices.

To anyone who has not really suffered from these ailments, it might seem a bit of a cop-out to say that these voices are stronger, that they can dictate how you feel, how you act.  I say that to myself quite a bit actually, because inside my head I still have a rational brain and that brain tells me that the voices lie.  And then I feel guilty.  Guilty because I am letting the voices win which only makes me more depressed and more anxious.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

That guilt has been the ruling emotion this year.  Guilt that I am not being the mother, wife, human being that I should be, that I could be.  I feel guilty that I am letting everyone down, that I am causing my children and my husband undeserved stress by my inability to function as a normal, well-adjusted person.  And that guilt only does more harm.  It causes me to pull away from friends and family.  It causes me to think and say things like, ‘You’d be better off without me.’  But that is not the truth, that is just the guilt lying to me.

I think a lot of mothers (and fathers too) feel guilt.  I think a lot of us feel that we are not doing it right, that we are, in some way, doing our children a disservice.  We all want the best for our kids, we want them to become healthy, intelligent, well-adjusted humans who are successful in whatever they choose to do and we feel we are responsible for them achieving that.  And we carry the guilt if they don’t.

Guilt causes us to do and say things that can sometimes have the opposite effect than the one we intended.  It causes us to be overly critical, overly hard, or sometimes, overly permissive.  There’s a delicate balance in parenting, the one between too hard and too soft, and we walk that tightrope every single day.  And then we beat ourselves up because we think we’ve done it wrong.

flowerquoteI don’t have an answer for that, only to say that the only thing we can do is do our best.  Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual (although there are a myriad of books on parenting available and most will contradict each other).  Every child is different, every child needs different things, our only job is to love them in the best way we know how.

So, my point?  Mums, give yourselves a break.  We are not perfect and, yeah, we are going to get it wrong sometimes and that’s okay.  Love covers a plethora of sins and if your kids know that you love them, then you will get through those mistakes together.  Showing, telling and giving love to your kids is the most important thing, everything else is just set dressing.

In Defense of the Introvert

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“One is the loneliest number…” – Harry Nilsson

For a long time I have thought that there was something wrong with me (well, apart from the obvious, of course) and it has only been in the last twelve months or so that I have discovered that it’s not true.

You see, I am an introvert.

Most of my life I have wondered why I preferred my own company to that of others, why I would rather spend a night home reading then go to a party.  I wondered why having lunch or even just coffee with friends was such an ordeal and why, after forcing myself to socialise, I always felt drained and couldn’t wait to shut myself away again.

Was I a narcissist?  Selfish?  A snob?

As a child I was classified as shy and was forced to confront my shyness and overcome it.  Apparently being shy is a character flaw.  But this only made my need for solitude more acute.

As a young wife and mother working as a Beauty Therapist, I struggled to understand why, when I got home and my husband and children wanted my attention, all I wanted was to be left alone for an hour or so.  For years I felt I was letting them down or that I was somehow damaging the bond between myself and my children.

20150412_200458964_iOSNow I realise that I was working in an industry that made me spend at least eight hours a day up close and personal with other people.  I was literally in their personal space, touching them, and they were in mine, all day.  As an introvert, it left me so depleted that all I wanted to do was run and hide from the world.

Losing a close family member, grieving, living with depression and anxiety have forced me to really look at what makes me tick, to find what it is that I need so that I can find my equilibrium and function like a normal human being.

I have been a journey of self discovery over these last twelve months or more and have finally been able to make peace with that one part of myself that has always eluded me.  I am an introvert and I am proud of it.

The topic of introvert vs extrovert has become a popular one recently, or perhaps it’s just something I have become more aware of as I discover this thing about myself – a case of always seeing cars like your new car.  And the more I come to understand what makes me tick, the more I realise that it’s not one versus the other, but more a spectrum thing.

But before we get into that, I should probably explain to you my own definition of the difference between introverts and extroverts.

In my experience (limited, I’ll admit, but being an introvert myself and being married to an extrovert, I have had some experience in the two camps) the difference lies in where you get your energy from.  For example: Introverts tend to gain energy from being alone and being in a crowd drains them of energy.  The opposite is true of extroverts – they get energy from the people around them and being alone drains them.

 

iStock_000020985299XXLarge.jpgDoes this mean that an introvert never wants to be around people?  No.  What it means is that when you realise why being around people is so draining, you can manage it better.  Nobody lives in a vacuum and we all need community – even us introverts – but if you know that being in a group is going to tire you out, you can bank some energy beforehand and even plan to have some alone time afterward to restore what has been depleted.

Being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy, either.  I know of introverts who are more than happy to share their opinions loudly and proudly.  I, myself, used to love to perform on stage and considered a career in dance when I was younger – despite my being an introvert who was also shy around new people.

Being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean you are weak, either.  Despite my battles with grief, depression and anxiety, I believe I have a deep strength, a resilience that means I can keep moving forward in spite of the things that try to pull me down.  I also have strong opinions and a strong work ethic and don’t you even try to start something with my husband or my kids because then I’ll be barrelling down on you like a wounded momma bear.

As I eluded to earlier, I also believe that we all have aspects of both in us and it’s more of a spectrum than one versus the other.  I happen to be very much towards the introvert end and my husband is probably my match on the extrovert end.  In other words, I need more alone time than people time and he needs more people time than alone time.

And that’s okay.

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It is actually quite liberating to understand this about myself, especially when for so long I thought I was defective.  And it’s good that my husband understands it too because it means we can give each other what we need.  I can identify when he needs people time – his mood gets low and he becomes less like himself – and he can identify when I need to leave a party – I become agitated and withdrawn.  We can support each other without judgement, especially when we understand each other’s needs.

And that’s the key here.  Understanding that not everyone is like you or has the same needs as you.  When you can identify what you need, what makes you tick, then you can be more understanding and accepting of what someone else in your life needs.

I titled this post “In Defense of Introverts” because for a long time I felt that this part of me made me a lesser person, a person who could never succeed because of this terrible fault in my makeup.  But there are a lot of recent studies that disprove this long-held belief of mine.  Being an introvert doesn’t determine my success or failure.  Being an introvert doesn’t make me a lesser person.

Knowing that I am an introvert and knowing how to manage it means that my options are open, it means I can have a successful career and I can have a long and happy marriage (even though I’m married to my complete opposite) and that I can educate my children on their own introvert and extrovert tendencies so that they can have successful careers and happy marriages.

It all comes down to knowing yourself and using that knowledge effectively.