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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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Anxiety

TTT – The kindness of strangers and friends

Today was a good day.

Which is a happy coincidence, because Thursdays are also when I blog about what I’m thankful for. And while I usually try to keep it to three main things, I haven’t been able to stop at that magical number lately.

Here’s why.

I’m thankful for a beautiful girl with a beautiful temperament

Arddun walked a lot today. She spent pretty much the whole afternoon in a mall, shadowing her Nanna and I as we went about trying to get last-minute supplies. Presentable Pajamas for my hospital stay, for instance. A swimming top so if I were to end up in a bath tub during labour with the shower head beating warm water down my sore back, I have swimmers that finally fit me in my beached-whale state. I went to the post office. We went to Babies R Us. And everything took four times the length of the time it usually takes, because I’m getting slower and slower…

It’s boring stuff for 3-year-old girls. And she didn’t complain, not once in that mall. She did ask very politely whether she could go to the little indoor playground a couple of times, and then waited very patiently when we explained the sequence of events that were to unfold. (Lunch, shopping at Target, then playground.)

I jumped onto Facebook this afternoon, and someone had posted this challenge:

For 24 hours without complaining

And you know what? This little girl, from the second hour since her day began, didn’t complain a single time. I was so proud of her.

These kind of days happen more often than I give her credit for, but perhaps I sat up and noticed this time because we had her Nanna’s company. And as much as I know that part of it is Arddun’s natural temperament and part of it is consistent messaging from Tony and I… I’m just so thankful she has a teachable heart.

 

I’m thankful for hand-me-downs

I have received so many boy clothes that Boy Blob’s entire wardrobe is settled for 2015. This, of course, has not stopped me buying the occasional to-die-for outfit for my little man – but the fact remains that the entire half of Tony’s tallboy reserved for Boy Blob’s things is now almost full.

Sarah V came by tonight to hand-deliver my Norwex things… and she has been carting around boxes of boy clothes from size 000 for a while, so when I get the space and chance to go through them, I can. And now she’s offered to wash them for me. Seriously!

 

And it’s not just clothes. If I were to just whimper in passing about perhaps needing something, someone invariably rushes back with an answer. It’s probably why I’ve been less organised with baby prep this time around. Help seems available every which way I turn. I’m so thankful for this community.

 

I’m thankful for caring strangers

Have I ever mentioned how Canberra, for the most part, loves young families? Until I started carting Arddun around when she was a baby, I never got so much as a cursory glance. No one would ever think to strike up a conversation with me randomly. Once I started carrying a baby that was obviously mine? BAM – passing smiles, offers to grab things from shelves, people unpacking my shopping trolley at the conveyor belt while I’m queueing, passing me compliments and encouragement, the works. I was no longer invisible. I now had status – I am a Mother.

Last Friday was freakishly hot for Spring – a scorching, dusty and windy 35°C, real skin-cancer inducing weather. And while waddling around Garema place and Canberra Centre, I had total strangers coming up to me and asking if I was alright, and if I was keeping myself hydrated. I mean, it’s no secret that pregnant women have an inbuilt radiator behind their belly buttons, but that level of sympathy or empathy blew me away, frankly.

 

I’m thankful for professionals who truly try to help

Last week, I alluded to the frustration that we had been facing for the better part of our month. Emotional and financial interests spread across two continents can be hard, hard work. Throw in the complications of a home build and a newborn Coming Soon to a Bassinet Beside our Bed, and it’s enough to get a little angsty about life — a reaction we were working hard to avoid because we are grateful overall… but it made us feel anxious now and then.

For a good chunk of time, it looked like our options were getting narrower and more awkward. It seemed like the only road ahead was for me to travel back to Singapore very soon. Try figuring that in your schedule when you have a brand new baby to look forward to. When Arddun was born, she had arsenic hour from 4pm to 1am for upward of EIGHT. WEEKS. And then there were vaccinations and Boy Blob’s immunity to consider, the need to establish my milk supply, passports…

The alternative was for me to travel alone. And that was an even more difficult option for me to swallow.

Meanwhile, two professionals on two different continents were beavering away in the background to find a solution that other institutions weren’t interested or able to pursue. And this evening, I was finally given the word that I would NOT have to make this crazy dash, perhaps with newborn in tow. And that, my friends, is something that we are very thankful for.

So for those of you who have been praying… thank you.

And then, there’s the other kind of hell

Today, I read that Adam Lanza had pumped, on average, 3 to 11 bullets into each child he killed. They were aged between 5 and 10 years old. And my heart filled with so much anger, pain, and fear… that I called him a little shit.

And then this evening, I read this, and my heart filled with even more pain and fear. And the pit of my stomach went cold with helplessness and paranoia. Because if Adam Lanza had been dealing with severe mental illness; if he had been a victim as well, and this had been the gut-wrenching result… what then?

The realisation that none of us is immune.

There were a couple of comments in that article from parents who thought they had it figured out. That the child “Michael” in the article was mis-parented, and that a good diet, strict discipline and a daily dose of Godly values are what is sorely lacking. And while I think those things – good diet, firm but reasonable and loving discipline, and a values-driven upbringing – are important, I really think there are exceptions to the rule.

We’ve all seen tantrums. Arddun is starting to throw a few of her own with, what we hope, very little gain. But if a child is so wild as to cause his or her parents to genuinely fear for everyone’s safety, what then? What if you were to look into your child’s eyes and realise that he or she “wasn’t home”? Some personal testimonials in this article give accounts of how their children suddenly changed when they turned 13.

“Oh the teenage years,” we snort. “That’s because the child hasn’t learnt respect for elders, others, and property.” “It’s all to do with the hard yards you put in when they’re young.” “You reap what you sow with permissive parenting!”

And don’t get me wrong – I believe all of that counts too. Tony and I are prayerful about our parenting, and honestly, we try. We don’t enjoy bratty children, and we really don’t want to inflict one on ourselves for a lifetime.

But what if Arddun turns out to be an exception? What then?

When I first came to Australia, I’ll admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about mental illness. Growing up in Singapore, we used to refer to the suburb “Woodbridge” with derision, because that’s where the mental institution was. (I have no idea if it’s still there.) We used to joke that MPH (a bookstore chain) stood for Mad-People Hospital. Primary school humour. Puerile. Uttered without malice. But not corrected.

When I first came to Australia, I think I believed at the back of my head that people claiming to suffer from anxiety or depression were just being precious and self-pitying. It wasn’t a belief that was articulated, more like something taken for granted as true and fact. And I’ve come a long way from that stance, because mental illness here is talked about and taught often. It doesn’t hold a stigma. I was so genuinely surprised and touched when someone at church mentioned his battle with depression in passing, and the path of understanding started from there. It was the single biggest epiphany for me on the topic, because it came from a Christian I respect. It came from someone who believes in hard work, self-sacrifice and other-centredness. And yet here he was, talking about how he used to struggle to get out of bed.

And then I scratched under the surface some more, and boom. It’s all around me.

I still don’t know enough about mental illness because I’m still new at this. I’m still unlearning prejudices, and I’m still working on my discernment. They can be such subtle conditions sometimes, that it can be hard to place what’s going on until it’s full blown.

As for the Connecticut shooting, I’m not trying to excuse Adam Lanza. But nor should I be castigating him. I have no right, because I don’t know enough, and because none of us – least of all me – was there. Most of all, I have no right because I am not his judge and maker.

But I’m bringing this up because Liza is right – it is time to talk about mental illness. If you’ve suffered from it, if you’re suffering still, I hope you find the courage to tell others how you struggle and what you do to cope. Because at the very least, you might be helping someone who needs to unlearn his or her prejudices. Just like how I needed to unlearn mine. And how I needed to grow in compassion.

And if you need more information and help, check out beyondblue today.

Sparkly nail polish

I’ve always found false optimism in the workplace grating. I consider myself a fairly upbeat, energetic person but there’s something about faking the rainbows that gets under my skin like nails on a chalkboard. I get highly suspicious when everyone rushes to embrace the upside of an idea, without taking the time to poke holes in the approach first and see if it still holds water after a few inevitable trials.

Yet, I’m not wholly convinced my attitude is a result of a whole-brained approach to problem solving. I think a part of me also wonders if I’ve grown more cynical over the years. And then I watch an episode of TED Conversations, and wonder if I’ve somehow lost my innocence.

My Thursday’s Three Thank-Yous have fallen by the wayside. Partly because I haven’t been blogging much at all… but mostly because I’m not feeling overly blessed or happy of late. Cerebrally, I know I have plenty to be thankful for. The fact I’m able to stay home with Arddun. The fact that I have most of my health, apart from this dastardly cough and cold that won’t go away. The fact that Arddun’s one year old and still alive. The fact that Tony has a job and is well-respected where he is.

The fact that we see double rainbows on Flemington Road when the rains hit the sun.  The fact that Canberra has real Winters and Summers and the most gorgeous Autumns. (I don’t really care much for its Springs. Too windy and ridden with hayfever hazards.) The fact that the sun, the moon, the stars, the planet are still working. The fact that we haven’t completely destroyed our eco-system. Yet. All that.

But I’m wondering if the cynic in me just cannot bring myself to be thankful for the seemingly mundane and natural. That summoning gratitude for ten fingers and ten toes is bordering on the desperate and false. And most of all, how CAN I profess to such gratitude when my own mother is suffering still from toxic, worrisome, potentially fatal cancer, and I cannot, CANNOT feel happy about that?

It feels like I’m pretending I’m happy for sparkly nail polish when I’ve lost my whole foot. Anything before the bit about the foot just seems ludicrous and hollow.

And yet, I know I must press on. And I know I still have things to be hugely grateful for. And I know I have a little girl in my life who makes me laugh every day. And a loving husband who rushes home at day’s end and makes sure I take my medicine. All that.

I just wish the attainment of happiness was as easy as Shawn Achor makes it out to be.

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