2017 Spinning The Plates

Well, I know it’s like… half way through January, but dang, how did that happen??? 2017, I mean, it’s like I looked up and the year was over, and the new one had begun. That isn’t meant to happen when you are trying to live a ‘slow’ life.

I’m about to head off camping for a week so thought I’d jot down a few musings for 2017. I’ve done the whole ‘choose a word’ thing for each new year for the past couple of years, but like past resolutions, the word was quickly forgotten. I can’t even remember my last year’s word, and given 2016 finished only two weeks ago, I’m thinking that the ‘word’ thing doesn’t work for me.

I know that that particular exercise is inspired by that lovely feeling of possibility that comes with the start of a new year, and I completely embrace those possibilities. There is something so wonderful and energising about possibilities.

But I want to start as I mean to go on.

And I want to mean it. 

I’ve found what most inspires me is hope. Which can include ambition, and professional goals. But I think there is so much more to life than this limited framework. For me, hope includes plans for travel; working towards more meaningful interactions: with my family, with my friends, with my clients and work peers, and within the community that I live in.

Those connections are so important. Call me a cynic, or perhaps a little bit jaded, but there seems to be a lot of grabbing going on, in insidious ways. People ‘reaching out’ with the sole intention of trying to sell you something, sign you up to something, to get you follow them to increase their stats or numbers…

This year, 2017, is about looking for hope, enjoying what I’ve created, hoping it continues, investing myself in projects, and people and family so all the beauty does continue.

Finding joy in the small things and continuing my slow journey is a central focus. I feel lucky to be able to say that mostly I’ve got the ‘work/life balance’ right in my life. That’s partly due to committing to a slower lifestyle; you actually need less when you live slowly and intentionally. I know. A revelation.

 I’m looking for things that are bigger than me. The world is shrinking into the tiny social media connections of Facebook and Instagram and I don’t want to shrink with it.

Last year, I was in a client meeting and a team member was introduced and one of her ‘achievements’ was growing her Instagram followers to over 50,000. This was one of the reasons for having her on board. I left that meeting feeling a little disillusioned.

I’d gone back to uni to do my Masters’ in Editing & Communications. During the time that I was studying I gave birth to two of my three children. Visited the Mother & Baby Sleep Unit with both of them, sold our house, bought another and moved across the other side of the city, and in my final semester of uni I joined the Marketing and Communications department of a top tier law firm. It was a struggle to say the least. To hear that someone was on board the project because they grew their Instagram followers to 50,000 left me wondering if I’d wasted my time, energy and money on study.

When I say that the world is shrinking into our social media connections, I fear for struggle and the pain and the energy that people put in to doing work that has depth and real meaning. When someone can appear with a large Instagram following and be hired on the strength of that… Social media is the way of the world, I get that, but I live in hope that there is movement beyond this flakey imaginary world. I know now that my MA could never be wasted, because it was so personally enriching. That’s what I’m coming back to. Enriching my life, my family’s life, my friends’ lives.

This is why I took the month of December off Facebook and I rediscovered life before social media. Time to read, watch great TV (although there was no Netflix back then!). Don’t get me wrong I’ve actually made some lovely friends online, through blogging, who I’ve never met in person but definitely have a connection with. So YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, they all have a place, but rightfully, they should only take up a small space in our lives.

On my month off I discovered an embroidery in a box that my mother-in-law gave me so many years ago, when we still lived in England – before we were married. I had done one corner and started the second, put it away and forgot it ever existed. I’ve come back to that, I’ve done a little bit more on it. I’m rusty, that’s for sure.

When I started I had my mother-in-law to defer to, but now we live on opposite sides of the planet. I had forgotten how to do a french knot. When I realised I couldn’t remember how to do this, she would have been asleep so I couldn’t even Skype to ask. Thank goodness for YouTube (see, not all bad!). I’m still rusty, but at least I know how to do it now.

These are the little things that I speak of. Having projects, making plans, investing in my lovely community and friends and family. Rumi offers advice for those who have lost hope in life:

“Look as long as you can at the friend that you love.”

Friendships can nourish us. Strong relationships can nourish us.

Retreat in equal measure is just as important, which I experienced with my Facebook break. But it is also part of a living a slow and intentional life. Retreat provides sustenance. I’m still learning how to spin all the plates and keep things ticking over, but setting out with the intention to go gently means I look forward to the new year, whatever it may hold, with a simple recipe up my sleeve.

Retreat, hope, love, kindness and repeat. Practise one at a time, or all together.

Do you have a plan for your 2017?

Our History, Our Mother’s History and the Family Dance: How It Impacts Us Now

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Last week I watched In Utero, a fascinating documentary screened by Suburban Sandcastles. The documentary was based on how trauma experienced by the mother whilst pregnant or prior to pregnancy can inform the foetus’ experience of life, their development and their behaviour.

I found it amazing and I have written about this before, for Sunday Life. I specifically wrote about how my experience of recurrent miscarriage prior to my oldest daughter’s birth has affected her, and her world view. If you’re interested, you can read that article here.

So this is something that I’ve had first hand experience with, so for me it was amazing to hear of the scientific research that backs this up. It was no longer just a personal experience, it is something that has been backed up by research.

[Read more…]

The Importance of Rituals and How They Impact Wellbeing

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The veil and head piece that my sisters, my Mum, me and my daughter wore.

 

Next weekend my son is making his First Communion.  The preparation for these religious rituals is always a time of reflection for me. It brings back memories of my own Communion Day, and of my daughter’s, at the same time two years ago. My Communion Day seemed like a party that lasted all day.

I wore a white lace dress, that had been worn by my four older sisters, and a long lace veil, which was made from my mother’s wedding dress. There were cousins, aunties and uncles at our house all day and there was a feast that seemed to never end. My daughter wore the same dress as me, all her cousins have worn it before her, with the veil that was made from their Grandmother’s wedding dress.

While our son wont wear the dress, there will still be celebrations. A family get-together with cakes and celebration food. We’ll make a big fuss of him and hopefully he’ll feel important. These kinds of rituals punctuate my memories of growing up. They shaped my childhood and inform the choices that I make for my son.

While it won’t be the party that lasts all day,  I can already see that he is benefiting from this process – he feels valued by what we have planned. I’m not sure he’s totally across the spiritual part of it, but for me, it’s not that important – that will come with time.

Rituals are traditionally attached to religious rites of passage – Baptism, First Communion, Bah Mitzvah, Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Marriage and finally a Funeral – to name a few. However,  our society is becoming increasingly secular with the 2011 Census statistics showing a sharp increase in people who reported no religion, up five per cent from 2006.

This appears to be a global shift, with New Zealand also reporting an increase of five per cent of ‘no religion’, Canada and the UK reported a rise of 10 per cent, and America reported a rise of six per cent. So where does that leave our children and their rituals? What will punctuate and shape their childhood, the same way ours were?

Professor Graeme Davison, a Melbourne University historian recently wrote in the Age Newspaper:

“only as I grew older and my parents passed on did I begin to recognise how much of my life had been shaped by family tradition and expectation.”

Perhaps we don’t see it as significant now, our lives are already so busy; but Davison captures how important these rituals are. Not just for our children now, but for when they become adults.

How will our children navigate the introspection that inevitably comes with the loss of a parent that Davison speaks of, if they are not given the rituals that can be so shaping in a child’s world? Although such significant numbers of the population are moving away from religion, this does not mean that traditions and rituals must also be forsaken.

Research has shown that family rituals can provide a sense of security for a child; constancy and comfort. Research published in Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Practice, Training shows how knowledge of family history influences psychological well-being. The research found that hearing the stories of family traditions and indeed enacting those traditions forms what MP Duke, one of the authors of the study, calls the ‘intergenerational self’.

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A Summer family ritual – picking zucchini flowers for these gorgeous snacks

It was found that ‘this intergenerational self and the personal strength and moral guidance that seem to derive from it… are associated with increased resilience, better adjustment, and improved chances of good clinical and educational outcomes.’

Taking part in family rituals will increase your child’s sense of family, provide a source for identity, and give them insight in to their cultural history. For example, in our house, on Christmas Eve, my husband makes mince pies with our children. This tradition binds his history with their future, and possibly the futures of their children. Our children now embrace this Christmas tradition and recognise their own English heritage through its practice.

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Mince pies in the making – Christmas Eve 2015

Rituals can also be used as a parenting tool. Creating a ritual around difficult behaviour can often turn it into positive behaviour. For example, if getting your defiant toddler to go to bed is posing a challenge, introducing a ritual that everyone looks forward to can turn this stressful situation into something everyone enjoys. Even now, my nine year old and seven year old still snuggle on the couch waiting for their Dad to read the bed-time story.

When considering creating your own rituals, be purposeful and ensure there is meaning behind what you choose to do. You can create daily rituals, weekly rituals or rituals that tap in to the seasons or religious events that you no longer follow.

Every family, what ever your story, or circumstance, can create your own rituals unique to your own family. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, look to your own family history for something that resonated with you as a child, and still resonates an adult.

What made you happy as a child is great place to start, as it is likely to have the same effect on your own children. 

What are some of your favourite family rituals?

Parenting is Hard… and Hurrah for the Sisterhood

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I don’t want to use this forum as a base to whinge and complain, but I just want to throw it out there. Being a parent is really hard!

For all the wonderful things our children bring us, the yin and yang of life says that they bring equally difficult, ghastly or down right horrible moments too.  [Read more…]

From One Mother to Another – Why I Support the St Kilda Mums Mothers Day Campaign

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Last year’s beautiful collection of donations

Mothers Day is just round the corner. For many of us this represents breakfast in bed, lovely (or interesting) gifts, cute attempts by our kids to pamper us and make our day special.

For many Mums it is painful recognition of the absence of all these things. Some Mums (many Mums, actually) have a long term lease on Struggle Street. Often it’s not their fault. Often it’s through domestic violence, mental health issues or drug dependencies.

St Kilda Mums is a Melbourne-based volunteer-run organisation that re-homes used baby goods and nursery equipment. Donating goods to families in need. They have relationships with Maternal and Child Health Nurses and local social services agencies. In anticipation of Mothers Day they run a campaign called ‘One Mother to Another’ where people can donate packages to other Mums who are not as fortunate. Here’s an outline of what it’s all about: [Read more…]