Monday, 28 January 2013

A Darker Moment

What a crap day! It's been pouring rain and I've been fighting all the usual insecurities. The kids will be heading back to school soon and I'll be home by myself. All day long I tried to remind myself of the good things in my life, but the truth is that I feel like I just don't fit in. I'm as lonely as I've ever been! I live in a beautiful country, but it's not the country of my birth. Maybe I'm homesick? For what, though, I'm not absolutely sure.

It's amazing how quickly thoughts can change from hopeful to hopeless. A thousand times today I thought about deleting this blog. Instead, I added a subtitle: An Attempt to Laugh through Life's Darker Moments! Only laughing is the last thing I feel like doing at the moment. But I won't give up, at least not today.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Nervous Breakdown or Midlife Blues?

Sunday Blues

I am reading the Sunday Life magazine from the The Sun-Herald and I come across an article called "The Female Midlife Crisis". My first instinct is to flip right past it to "Summer Fruits with Bill Granger" (who came up with that title?!), but I can't cook, so ... back to the midlife crisis! Here's the list of signs:

1. Constantly asking yourself: "Am I the person I really want to be?" (Yes!)
2. An overwhelming desire to tackle a desire or goal long forgotten since childhood. (Well, my desires and goals sadly aren't forgotten ... just not achieved. Does that count?)
3. Suddenly wanting another child. (No, no, no, no!!!!!!)
4. A new addiction of anything, from sex to shopping to extreme sport. (Oops ... I've taken up yoga, Latin dancing, blogging, painting.)
5. Unexplained depression, listlessness or lethargy. (I have countless reasons for my depression, so I'm not sure if I fit into this one?)
6. The feeling that you're trapped in a life you don't want. (gulp)
7. Constantly asking yourself: "Is this all there is?" (double gulp)
8. Feeling confronted by mortality, and the wish to live a life of greater meaning. (If this means a fear of death and panic that I haven't achieved anything ... then I guess that's a yes.)
9. Out-of-control emotions. (I don't really need to answer this one.)
10. Unexplained crushes on a bass player from Canada. (At least this is a "no"!)

I like how the list conveniently falls into ten items! I'm wondering now if I chose the wrong title for my blog? Or could it be that I am having a nervous breakdown and a midlife crisis simultaneously? I'm thinking the latter. Don't be dismayed, however, if you find yourself in a similar scenario, the article ends on an upbeat note! Apparently "the midlife crisis is not something to be feared but, rather, embraced". One woman "started doing farm work on a friend's homestead, and now, at 61, she has found love again with an outdoorsman with whom she goes on numerous hiking and adventure trips"!!!  Oh, man, I'm screwed! Why do people always find themselves in nature? Nobody ever seems to become enlightened while sipping coffee in Newtown. 

The author of the article states that her own solution to the problem was to get pregnant!!!! Good luck with that, I say. I have four children and that hasn't given me purpose or meaning ... just insecurity and doubt!!! I am terrified that one of my kids will be the one on the shopping mall roof with a shotgun, blaming their mother. 

Home is Where the Lamington Is

I mistakenly turn to the Telegraph's Sunday Magazine for reassurance!!! Angle Mollard has an article entitled "Living by Instinct". Surely that's more my style! Ironically, she only lists nine things ... nine things her mother taught her. She assures us that to list "10" things would be "too perfect" and not her mother's style. OK, this is promising!

First on the list is: Loving is showing someone they're deeply known. Alarm bells are faintly ringing. Terms like "deeply known" fill me with anxiety! What does that even mean?! I read on. "Going home is like returning to a nest still etched with my imprint. Mum has my favourite jam, books she knows I'll like, a doco recorded. In these gestures, she says, 'I know who you are and what you need'." Arrrrrrrgh! You're kidding me right!!! Ok, it's time for me to summon everything I've learned from yoga and not be judgemental. She obviously has the perfect mother, so good for her!!!! 

I move cautiously down the list until I come to number four! Ouch. Celebrate all victories. "Turning 10, a handstand, taking a deep breath when you'd rather scream -- all are clap-worthy. When I'd returned from Mt Everest last year, Mum built a mountain of lamingtons in celebration, not of what I'd achieved, but of who I am." OK now I feel like vomiting!!!!!! How does Angela Mollard move from a handstand to Mt Everest???? I mean does she really think her readers are that daft? One thing I can't deal with is false modesty!!!! A mountain of lamingtons to celebrate who she is? How about NOT mentioning how great she is to celebrate who she is!!!!!!!

Now I'm on a roll. I skip right past Gender isn't important and Solutions aren't found, they're made ... and hit the last item on the list, number nine!!!! This one, I think, should be good ... and it doesn't disappoint: Being your parent is a joy. "In the novel Room by Emma Donoghue, a boy seeing the world for the first time observes how parents act around kids: 'Adults mostly don't seem to like them. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo but they don't actually play with them, they'd rather drink coffee talking to other adults.' Blessedly, I've never felt that way."

The last comment is, of course, Angela's response to the kid's observation of adults. Please, Angela, please don't tell me you would rather "play" with your children than have coffee with your friends!!!! I love love love my kids, but the games they play are generally mind-numbingly boring. I used to feel so guilty about not enjoying playing with them until a friend confessed she found it boring, too. That being said, I am willing to concede that maybe I just have kids who aren't very sophisticated, or maybe I'm the one who isn't mature! I am also willing to concede that there are adults out there who love to play with kids. I've seen plenty who look like they are really having fun, not faking it like I've learned to do! What I take issue with is Angela's need to include that comment: "Blessedly, I've never felt that way"

NEVER?????? NEVER EVER????? 

The Moral of This Story

I could take many things away from this. I will spare you my list of 10 things ... not even the perfect nine!!! I will sum it up with a measly three:
1. I think I should stop reading newspaper supplements.
2. Maybe I do need to "find myself" in nature, perhaps starting with Mt Everest? 
3. I am going to ask my friend what she thinks, over coffee!!!!!

A Final Thought

Why was Ita Buttrose named Australian of the Year????

Friday, 25 January 2013

In the beginning ...

True Confessions

Istina Mavet isn't really my name! She is a character that New Zealand writer Janet Frame created. So, why am I using that name? Well, Istina, Janet and I all have something in common. We have all, to varying degrees, descended into the hell of anxiety, depression, extreme self-doubt, self-loathing, shame, vulnerability, panic and fear! 

Janet is no longer alive, but she grappled with anxiety her entire life. Her legacy comprises some of the most beautiful, sad, truthful books I have ever read. Istina doesn't exist. I do. And I am still trying to climb out of that dark place! 

As It Is Written

Writing helps. I have turned to words my whole life. When I was at school, and terribly lost, words helped to save me! Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Kate Chopin. So many writers struggled with the same issues of identity and self-worth, and their stories made me feel less alone.

I thought then that if I could just survive school, and go out into the wider world (and of course be a huge success!), that everything would be ok. I thought that if I got married, had a family, bought a house, carved out a career and created a stable life, that I would be ok!

I thought I was doing ok, until I realised I wasn't. In my family it was considered a sin to ask for help. My mother's idea of consulting a professional involved seeing a psychic!

Blogging My Way to Sanity (or Have I Finally Reached Bottom?)

Perhaps this should be under the first heading "True Confessions", but seeing as I am really writing this to myself, what the hell! My daughter was teasing me yesterday about starting a blog. 

"Who's gonna read it, Mum?" she said, laughing hysterically. 
"Yeah, I know," I replied. "It's really tragic, isn't it?" 

And then I was laughing, too. And while I'm on a roll with the confessions, I even took a "Blogging for Beginner's" course. Fuck. This really is my life. I used to go to Tupperware parties, and candle parties and linen parties because I was so desperate for friendship and adult conversation. You have no idea the mind-numbing conversations that took place at these "parties"! Or perhaps you do? Anyhoo, now, it seems, I am resigned to blogging to myself and trying to make virtual friends! Could it get any worse? Please, please, please don't answer that! 

In a nutshell, I am lost and terrified, and, even when surrounded by family and the few real friends I have, I feel alone. I am pulling out all stops to figure out who I am and how I can stop sinking further into the abyss. I have so much in my head and in my heart, and I see this blog as a chance to spring clean! I need to de-clutter my brain. Whether I will be left with the sane bits or the crazy bits at the end (or maybe a little of both), I am unsure. But I was reading Kim Berry's blog and came across an entry she did about vulnerability and shame. She'd posted a video of a Ted lecture by a woman named Brene Brown. Normally, I would avoid watching something like that at all costs. I remember going to a Dale Carnegie confidence workshop with my mom, after my dad had walked out. I found the whole thing cringeworthy. But, I really like Kim Berry's blog! She is honest and funny. She was supposed to be teaching the "Blogging for Beginner's" course, but, as luck would have it, emergency back surgery prevented her from teaching it. (Of course, I was only thinking of my own bad luck at the time ... before I suddenly realised that Kim might be suffering just a little bit more than I was!!) So, on Kim's urging, I watched the video and found myself in tears. Ok, I pretty much cry at anything at the moment, but this really moved me. I could relate to Brene Brown's admission that she was petrified of letting the cracks show. I am guilty of that, but, on the other hand, I am absolutely drawn to people who aren't afraid to show their vulnerability. That's exactly what I love about Janet Frame's books. She writes with such skill and pathos, yet she was terrified! 

Back to the blog! I warned you there was a lot of crap going on in my brain. This blog is my attempt at vulnerability. I could just write this all down in a diary, and, actually, I am keeping a completely whiney, "poor me" diary. At the height of my "meltdown", I found a book in a junk shop called "Instructions to Lightkeepers". The book was blank except for diary dates. At the same junk shop I also bought a giant statue of the Virgin Mary! I am not religious, but, I am a mother ... and I am desperate. I told you I am pulling out all stops!!! I saw this image of Mary in a magazine and I was instantly drawn to it. It showed her heart surrounded by light. Light and love! So, I went home with my book and my Mary. In the book I started writing to Mary. It's not a prayer or a supplication. I just thought who better than Mary to pour my heart out to! I've dubbed it "The Virgin Mary Diaries" or "Instructions to Lightkeepers"!!! But more on lighthouses and coincidences later. 

I am blogging because I'm hoping that by sharing my vulnerability, it might help me to let go of all the crap I am holding onto. And, if my daughter's prediction is correct, and I'm the only one reading it, then I'm good with that. If, however, anyone else stumbles across this and it helps them ... even better!