imperfections

Catastrophic Imperfections – Or So I Thought

imperfectionsI’m not one to make excuses for myself nor one to blow my own trumpet. This post could be seen as doing both those things. However my purpose for writing is to help me to be less judgemental of my imperfections. I’m hoping it will also help keep things in perspective for me.

In my previous post I was really upset with myself and worried about the repercussions of not being on top of things. After walking out of Jessie’s previous session I’d been asked to come back in to talk with her counsellor. I was convinced of a catastrophic outcome after previous experiences. Before Jessie was diagnosed I was told by a DoCs worker that her issues were due to my bad parenting. Despite that not being the case, that judgement has always stuck with me.

So after chatting about Jessie and things she had brought up, it turns out that ultimately she’s worried about me. I’ve been getting angry and my patience levels aren’t what they had been. The counsellor was concerned too, as I’ve never walked out of a session before, and we’ve dealt with some pretty full-on things over the 6 years we’ve known her. The expectation of hearing if I didn’t do xyz Jessie would be taken, was getting to me. I had to ask if there was any threat of me losing Jessie. The counsellors reaction was something I want to record as a reminder to my critical self.

She gently told me that if I was waiting to hear those words I would’ve been waiting forever as they were never going to be spoken. I was told the only time she’s ever rung DoCs was when I was sitting in her office many years ago, desperate for help. I burst into tears and she told me how sorry she was I’d had that fear hanging over me. She said she’s never had a concern for the safety or wellbeing of Jessie with me, ever. With Jessie having been sectioned so many times we became well known by the ER staff and the CYMHS team. I was reassured that there has never been a imperfectionsconcern by anyone, at any time.

We talked a little about me not coping. I told her I’m angry with myself because I know the parenting stuff yet I’m struggling to get it right lately. I was also upset because I’ve had so much counselling over my lifetime, yet I can still get to this low point. Counselling was supposed to ‘fix’ you I’d believed. So wtf was wrong with me? Again the counsellor’s reaction was not what I’d expected! I thought she’d remind of what I needed to work on. Instead she talked about the effects of trauma and why I’m feeling so overwhelmed. Instead of my imperfections being highlighted, I was heard and validated. What was highlighted were the positive changes in Jessie over the years which she put down to my parenting and love. Thankfully it’s allowed me to stop judging myself so harshly.

Apparently I’m doing really well, even when I feel I’m not. The counsellor told me that there are families there who aren’t coping with things quite small in regards to what I deal with and on my own. She reminded me that our lot is very far from the norm – we’re dealing with some very difficult and stressful realities. There are things about it which are triggering for me, bringing me to ‘why aren’t I fixed?’

The explanation was so rational it could’ve only been blocked out by my delusions of a tune up and off you go, good as new. All of our experiences stay with us. They go towards making up who we are. Counselling helps us process emotions and thoughts in the hope we can move on. But it doesn’t erase the experience, dammit, and the side effects can be triggered by any number of things, at any time.

imperfectionsJessie’s educated via distance ed and doesn’t have a social life unless friends come here. As the counsellor said, we live in a small space where there’s nowhere to get away, no yard to escape to. It’s not normal to live in such close confines with someone 24/7. Being mum, I’m on call 24/7 as well, no respite. What’s normal in that situation is to become frustrated and less tolerant with each other. I do have a tough egg here, and Jessie’s been home consistently for 2 years now. Having regained perspective, we’ve done pretty okay really! She drives me crazy but I love her to absolute bits! It’s gotta be that bond that gets us through, imperfections and all…

Solution?

A solution…that’s a bit like ‘being fixed’ isn’t it?! We’ll see.

I’d had an idea about creating a roster type thing that would give me uninterrupted time to study, write and do my volunteering stuff. The counsellor thought it was a fantastic idea so I’ve written up a trial timetable. The hours might change, it needs to be practical, but Jessie’s on board which is a positive start.

• We’re also going to see the counsellor each fortnight for a while, plus I can see her on my own whenever I need.

• I’ll also read this if ever I have any doubts about my parenting. I won’t doubt a counsellor who’s known us for 6 years. I also need to listen to those who love me instead of those who don’t.

 

imperfections

 

 

composed

Eventually The Composed Face Falters

Disclosure: Course language  

composureRemaining composed as a parent is like my Nirvana of parenting. It’s what we hear and preach – stay calm, don’t shout, listen, don’t argue, be strong, be patient, be kind. I’m exhausted just writing that!! I know I’m stressed and I’m forever tired, even when I’m not sleepy. So this perfect parenting thing isn’t going so well. Actually it’s going even worse than I’d thought.

Jessie had her appointment with her counsellor earlier in the week that had me unhappy before we even went in. I copped an attitude that’s not unfamiliar, but after a lot of seemingly little things put together, it got to me. Things only went downhill from there. The session launched with a vitriolic tirade about how I had forced Jessie to take her job back despite her having another job interview and despite her hating her current job. We’d had a conversation about her resigning months ago and weighed up the pros and cons. Then it was her choice. This was completely unexpected as she’d been complaining about not having enough shifts this week. And she was hating on me, no holes barred! Way too much, and I got up and walked out. The tears started flowing and didn’t stop for the next hour.

It’s the first time I’ve ever done that, in all these years of some pretty heavy times. Composed? Ha, fuck no! And even though I HATE crying in public I’m hopeless at holding back the tears. I didn’t want them interfering with Jessie’s time, and she should be able to have a place where she can unload about me. I just don’t feel I need to be there. However her counsellor says she can only go so far with Jessie without me there, which I find confusing. I know of other kids whose parents aren’t allowed in, let alone be privy to all that’s discussed.composed

The appointments are for Jessie to help her with her challenges. I’ve always gone in because of Jessie’s age, then more recently to bring up things she forgets to. Her counsellor said she had to stop Jessie talking because the time had run out which was a first. Jessie’s usually keen to get going! We both found that pleasingly amusing. So I actually think it might be good for Jessie to have her own space to talk. She’s told me that there are things she needs to talk about but doesn’t want to worry me. That kinda sux but if she’s happy to discuss stuff with her counsellor, that’s a positive.

So what now?

I have an appointment in the morning to discuss Jessie’s session and to make another appointment with her psychiatrist. No doubt we’ll also discuss my abrupt departure – brought on by not one thing in particular, but lots of little things tied together as I’ve said before. All these little things say mountains about me if you know what to listen for. But once it’s got to this point, it’s like opening up a can of worms. The worms all start piling out and you can’t deal with them all at once like this so you push them all back in and put the lid back composedon. You keep your hand pressed on the lid for a few seconds to make sure that fucker’s on tightly.

The next time, you suit up, ready for battle. You bravely open up that lid again, just enough to peek in and let one worm out. But voomp, there they all are – squished together in an unsightly mass trying to get out through that tiny space. Nup. Lid’s back on. Fuck it!! FUCK!!!!

All this makes life difficult because it’s little things now that are making me annoyed. Angry!! Which then makes me really upset and I bag myself for losing control and letting myself get angry. Swinging… Sounds fun. But it’s really not! I feel quite suffocated and the effort it’s taking to not shutdown into myself is not sustainable. The worst thing is having so much knowledge and knowing the tools to use, because it makes me acutely aware of when I’m fucking up. And when my tank is so low, fucking up is the best I can do. Thankfully I’m assured my level of ‘fuckinguptivity’ doesn’t rank too highly in eyes other than mine, but that’s for my next blog.

 

composed

 
 

challenges

My Challenges to Conquer as a Parent

challengesAs parents I guess many of us face challenges we want to conquer in order to be the best role models for our kids. Our job is to teach our kids so they grow to reach their full potential, whatever that may be. Rationale tells me that to achieve this, the parent must be adept at life skills themselves in order to be able to teach. Agreed? So what do we do when we question our own skills?

A recent situation with Jessie has really made me think about my boundaries and whether they’re right for Jessie. She had been really hurt and upset about a text message from a close friend. She didn’t know how to respond, and became really down on herself and her value to her friends. My suggestion was to let her friend know how the message made her feel. Jessie read her text to me before sending it and I thought it was great. It wasn’t accusatory or mean spirited, just explained how she felt and why. Whether Jessie reading it to me gave me the added benefit of her tone I don’t know, but it wasn’t received well.

The reply Jessie received in return had her in tears and feeling suicidal. This was not okay and I felt the need to intervene. Not a way any friendship should ever leave you feeling. I was told that Jessie was the cause of so much pain and pressure to others and caused other emotional scars. That statement really stood out to me and I wondered what the hell had been going on. My heart broke. What was it Jessie had done and how can I help her to have better friendships? And how awful to have friends who thought of me that way. So therein lie my challenges…

Firstly, at what age do parents stop getting involved? For what things do parents remain involved for kids with social issues like mine – if any? The goal posts keep moving and sometimes I’m not sure where they are! Maybe at 15 all I can do is support her from my end with whatever comes her way. I realise Jessie has to learn to work through friendship problems and create her own values. Which leads to my second challenge…

challengesIf you were to ask me, I’d tell you I’m happy with my set of values around friendships. However I do wonder if they’re too black and white for modelling to Jessie. I become very protective when she’s hurting and feeling so worthless to the world. She’s been through so much and I wish I could shield her from any further anguish. My ‘shark music’ takes over and emotion challenges my reasoning. But that is my baggage, and I need to remember that Jessie’s on the ball. She does have good boundaries around what she feels is and isn’t a good friend. I need to let her forge her own way, learn from life in her own way, and only share my thoughts when she asks for them. She’s got this. She needs me to love her and support her through her experiences.

I don’t ever remember evaluating friendships at Jessie’s age – not until I was much older. I was lucky with my group of friends – and I didn’t have social issues then which probably helped. We didn’t have mobile phones and internet like we do these days, which probably helped as well!

Maybe questioning the sincerity behind our fellow humans is something that can happen after our core feeling of trust and safety’s been damaged by another? Or is it that I’ve lost faith in my own ability to make good choices in who I allow to get close? Maybe it’s that I feel when anyone gets to know me and sees my flaws and weaknesses, they’ll not want to know me any longer? It could be my rates of forgiveness are no longer favourable? No doubt it’s a combination of all of the above that has contributed to independence in my own life. Where’s that line between being teaching awareness and teaching our own fears, if that makes sense?

I don’t like seeing Jessie so distraught, but maybe it’s not my job to fix it anymore? It can be difficult letting go…an only child is the first and the last out of the nest. I wonder if it’s going to get easier…

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had…

…and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.”

– Linda Wooten

challenges

 

pets

Pets Provide the Best Therapy

petsWe love our pets. We have two cats, Meisha and Ji. They’re members of our family – even though they can be naughty. Sometimes very naughty! But life wouldn’t be the same without them. It’s really lovely, Jessie and I each have our own special connections with them both. I feed them and clean the kitty litter, so they know who looks after them. However Jessie likes to play with them and pick them up for cuddles. Meisha usually likes to interact on her terms, but doesn’t mind a quick hug from Jessie.

Meisha is our tortioseshell, and she’ll be 6 next month. A long story short, Jessie refused to hand this little kitten back to the girl at the pet shop, and refused to leave the store without her. (Two weeks prior they’d sold the kitten we were supposed to be getting.) She ended up costing a fortune! It petswas just before Chirstmas and I had an expensive present stolen from my trolley in the commotion that I had to buy again as well. Anyway, Meisha believes she is queen of the house and claims everything as her own. I’m sure she believes we’re actually her pets, and not the other way around.

She’s a cat cat, who despite having lived indoors her whole life, prefers to dig in my pot plants rather than use the kitty litter, and shows all the typical hunting behaviours when birds sit on the balcony railing – or she sees an insect.

Ji is our tuxedo cat who looks very smart in his suit indeed. He’ll be 5 next month, and is finally starting to grow up…a little. He’s a wuss cat, and attempts to imitate Meisha’s hunting prowess which is incredibly funny. He studies her for ages. She has really taught him how to cat. He was only 5 weeks old when we took in these three little petsorphans. We chose to keep Ji because he started purring whenever you even looked at him. At 8 weeks of age his brother and sister were old enough and went off to their new homes. Meisha used to clean him all the time, but he’s pretty much on his own now. Which I think he prefers because she always ends up chastising him by biting his neck or ears! She has become a disgruntled mother, and her patience with him wears thin.

Meisha’s my hot water bottle at night, always snuggled up next to me, no matter which way I move. Quite often I’m woken by her wet nose touching mine, or her stare from up close and personal, willing me to wake up and pat her before she goes back to sleep again. There are times however when Jessie’s really upset that she’ll sleep on Jessie’s bed. Meisha’s very in tune with Jessie’s mood fluctuations and knows when to hide and when to keep her company.

petsPets seem to love unconditionally, and Meisha and Ji are no exception. And although cats are very independent and can seem quite aloof, I realise that ours more often than not follow me if I change rooms and settle down to sleep again, or just hang out with me.

Pets bring joy, purpose and love into our lives. They provide us with the best therapy, being company that is loyal, always happy to see us, and always happy to listen. The conservative notion that poor or homeless people shouldn’t have pets due to the expense is one I’m glad the RSPCA is providing a solution for with their Living Ruff Program. The RSPCA recognises the ‘mental, emotional and physical benefits’ of owning a pet, providing free food, worming and flea treaments, and access to vet services through this fantastic program. Being a not-for-profit, community based organisation they are always in need of donations which, if you like, can be generously made on their site here.

♥ Pets are family too ♥

pets

farewell

My Final Farewell

farewellThis will be my final farewell to you. In your voicemail you told me you wanted to reconnect again, but told me call back or not, either was okay. Jessie doesn’t want any contact, and I chose not to respond after the way you behaved last time. I then see a comment and a sad face on my facebook page. I blocked that account, so you use another account to leave yet another comment and another sad face – clearly for yourself. By disrespecting my silence once then leaving, what were they, desperate or demanding? messages with all those exclamation marks and question marks, shows this is all about you. In three messages you didn’t mention Jessie once! But you think I should give you the time of day??

I will reiterate what you were told in 2015. If Jessie does ever want to try getting to know you again, she will contact you. She won’t need me like she did last time, so there is no reason for us ever to be in contact again. I’m asking that you stay out of my life and my business. I want to be very clear here as to why I will not accept you in my life anymore. You don’t have to agree with it, because it’s not about you. It’s about me and written from my perspective and requires no response. Many of the facts however, are recorded and indisputable.

farewellTo start: If you’d read the blog you commented on, I stated one of the things really adding to my frustrations was the fact that you owed over $27,000 in child support. I can’t believe you actually had the nerve to contact me. It’s Jessie who’s missed out by you not paying, and ensuring your weekly amount due is as little as possible, but you don’t care. After you completely killed any chance of a relationship with Jessie you then resigned from your job. The only decent paying job you couldn’t hide from the ATO and CSA, so were forced to pay. 5 months out of 15 years. Pathetic. Child Support tells me you’re not even paying the paltry amount you are meant to pay each fortnight now – they’ve been collecting that from a third party.

I was so afraid of Jessie meeting you because I didn’t want her being hurt. She had enough going on. But I knew I had to let Jessie make a choice at her age, as you are her biological father. You took a week off, only booked accomodation for one night for some reason, so I opened my home to you for a night. You then decided you wanted to go home, so did. I lied to Jessie so she wouldn’t be hurt, told her you had to go back for work.

I took you to see her psychologist so you could hear from her Jessie’s likely reactions, and the best way for you to handle it. Jessie reacted as predicted. You didn’t even last a week before deciding it was all my fault and started with your charming abuse again. It just went on and on and on. Hateful, derogatory insults and blaming me for your life.

You hurt me, disrespected me and blamed me for your choices in your own life that I’ve had nothing to do with in 15 years. You’re a grown man for god’s sake. Take responsibility for yourself and the decisions you’ve made. How dare you blame me, and then Jessie because she doesn’t treat you like a dad who’s been around all her life.

farewellShe’s a smart cookie, and picks up on things. She asked to do something on my phone, but I caught her reading all your messages. How do you think that made her feel, seeing the things you said to me? And you put me down to her, what? try to turn her against me? I’m the one who has raised her, loved her, supported her, taken care of her, and been there for her every single day of her life. But you want to hurt her like that. You don’t even consider her, your priority is to abuse me as usual. She told you not to talk to me like that or she didn’t want to see you again. You told her goodbye, then became nasty with her.

You just cannot put her first. You’d rather sacrifice trying to build a relationship with her than sort your attitude out. You blew a perfect opportunity. She is so worthy of being made a priority, and you have never been able to put her first. Never.

We go away for a few days break, and I’ve Jessie’s psychologist calling me, letting me know you’d rung. Later that afternoon I have the police call me. Despite being given an update that day, you chose to call the police, saying you couldn’t get hold of me, didn’t know how Jessie was and you were worried about her safety with me because I’m such a bad mother.

As you knew, Jessie hates talking on the phone. They wouldn’t take my word that she was okay. I had to end up telling her that they need to speak her so they know she’s alive, they can’t just take my word for it, before she finally spoke to the officer. You rang them, knowing you were lying, and had her talk to the police, who you knew she’d had traumatic experiences with. But you were so wrapped up in yourself you didn’t care about that. What sort of person does that? What sort of father does that? It’s not okay. But you think I should give you the time of day??!

farewellWe had broken up way before Jessie was born. I regret so much asking you more than once to come down before she was due. I blame it on hormones and a false hope that you’d changed. It was insane of me. You spat on me and poured a bottle of cordial over me when I was pregnant. You used to put your arms around me and squeeze as hard as you could to squeeze the breath out of me. You’ve called me every low life name there is. You burned my first beautiful pregnancy journal. A journal I’d had for years, saving it for something special. Which my pregnancy was, and you couldn’t handle it. Jealous of your own unborn child who I loved more than anything.

Then when I asked you to leave you stole my Kaz Cooke pregnancy book that I’d written all the way through during my pregnancy. I used it as my diary and it was hidden away until you moved out of Stockton. I was going to give it to Jessie one day, but you stole it. To steal something purely because you know it’s so special to someone, is a trait of someone very unhinged. What makes it worse is knowing that if I hadn’t asked you to come down, you would’nt have. There would’ve been no contact anyway! You weren’t interested at all. And your actions over the last 15 years prove it.

The night Jessie was born you left me to walk her myself, an hour after giving birth, to the Maternity Ward, because you wanted to go home and play PlayStation. But as you told me, you were bored after I had the epidural. I should have kicked you out of my existence then and there. You had me stressed out during the happiest moments of my life because of your temper outbursts. So much so I came home less than 24 hours after giving birth, having to install the baby capsule in the back seat of my 2 door Cordia at the hospital first. Fucking ridiculous!! She was 3 days old the first time I needed to call the police.

Even when she was a little baby you still chose to call me a slut and to accuse me of sleeping with other men. On two occasions you squeezed me while I had Jessie in my arms. You squeezed until she was screaming her poor head off. One one occasion you punched me in the face while I was holding her. The police took out an AVO against you after you left two very graphic, gruesome voice messages telling me how you were going to kill me. And telling me about the 10-15 ‘uvver’ women you’d ‘fucked’, mistakenly thinking I’d give a shit after I’d calmly told you I didn’t love you. My focus was my newborn baby – you just never got it! But you think I should give you the time of day??

And I’ll never forget the afternoon you refused to get Jessie out of the car in 30+ degree heat. You had her locked in the hot car and she was bright red, screaming and dripping wet. We had to call police. I wanted her out but you just wanted to abuse me and call me names. Never again did I trust you with her, even to drop her home, and visit changeovers were moved to Ashfield Police Station, and you stopped coming to get her altogether. 10 out of 40 recorded visits you attended. Not a single one without incident.

As you said when you were here, no-one in your family was going to have contact with Jessie if you weren’t. I despise you for all you have robbed her of, and for hurting her the way you have. And I despise you for treating me the way you have, and for believing you have the right to do so. Again, I’m upholding my right to not accept your treatment.

 

I will NEVER again give you the time of day.

 

Please remember this is my final farewell.

farewell

I won’t ever get caught up in your cycle of abuse again.

 

bonds

What Bonds You With Your Teen?

bondsThere are so many things that can cause conflict between parents and teens.  Chuck in a mental health condition or two, and you’ve just raised the stakes.  Bonds between parents and teens can be pushed to their limits.  Therefore it’s not unheard of that a little arguing and shouting breaks out!

Nurturing those parental bonds keeps them strong enough to ride out tough times.  Ways to do that are as varied as our families are, however the common denominators are always communication and/or fun.  The more you have of both, the more resilient the connection is.

Jessie has a unique way of thinking that often leaves me in hysterics or shaking my head, speechless.  And sometimes a combination of the two.  Sometimes I have the same effect on her, although more of the head shaking from her end, “omg mum you’re so embarrassing.”  We don’t spend money on the things that bond us.  They’re free and effective.  I find it’s the conversations we have together about anything, or after an argument, that help.  Having conversations where we are each other’s focus, instead of a screen of some description, are awesome.  And the simple things like enjoying time together playing a game or watching a movie, sharing funny things we see online, and laughing together about silly things.

bondsWhen we started really working on our connection during our stay at Coral Tree we played charades on the iPad each night before Jessie went to bed.  There are a few free apps you can download.  We continued that at home, even on nights where we weren’t feeling so happy with each other.  Amazingly, every time we’d end up having fun together and letting go of the days upsets.  15 minutes each night is all it takes, no longer.  I wonder if it’s the same principle as reading stories before bed when they’re little? Quite possibly.

Jessie cracks me up. We were watching tv last night and an ad came on for a spray called V.I.Poo.  You spray it in the loo before you go and it claims to mask any odours.  (I love how politely I’ve written that.)  I told her I wanted to get some and she couldn’t understand why, so I was explaining the benefits to her i.e you bondscan have a crap while you’re at a party, or at your boyfriends house and you won’t leave a smell. We were already laughing because she thought it was such a waste of time and that I was weird. So after I tried convincing her of the benefits yet again, she just said to me, “nah, when you leave fast enough it doesn’t matter.”  It was a funny enough conversation, and this had me on the floor.  Who cares about washing hands, it just slows down the getaway!

Jessie was nine or ten when she started seeing a wonderful child psychologist at Westmead Children’s Hospital.  She was very volatile back then, and I remember him saying to me that having gone through these issues so young, and with all that I was learning and changing, he believed we’d find the teenage years much easier.  At the time I couldn’t see that being possible, but I think he was right.  We both know how to handle conflict a lot better, but even better, we know how to repair our bonds after any issues.

Stronger, wiser and kind

bonds

 

violent teens

Handling Aggressive or Violent Teens

violent teensParenting a teenager is a whole new life experience. Particularly for parents who face aggressive or violent teens when they are disappointed or challenged. If you are one of these parents, believe me, you are not alone. There are many mums and dads struggling, faced with the same behaviours in their teens. It’s an issue that affects families from all walks of life and economic backgrounds. Coming to know these truths prompted me to write this blog. The following paragraph from this article in the SMH explains so perfectly what often happens:

“The first act of violence, parents are so shocked and taken aback they don’t know how to respond,” Ms Howard said. “It escalates to the point where parents are too intimidated and scared to stop the behaviour.”

violent teensThe article says that psychologists and researchers have found this behaviour linked to a sense of entitlement and ‘cotton wool parenting’. While I don’t disagree with that, many other factors can play a role as well. For many, mental health issues and the inability to cope with thoughts and emotions are the cause. I’m writing from the latter angle.

In our case, my daughter, Jessie, went from being a confident, happy kid, to being volatile and unpredictable. Her friendships were becoming fractured. Her tolerance for disappointment or discipline was no longer existent. It was extremely shocking and confronting! I couldn’t understand why my violent teenparenting methods were no longer working. Neither did I understand why her reactions were so intense. I was living on eggshells, afraid to parent and at a loss. Jessie was ruling the roost with anger and violence. (No pun intended!) Things needed to change because it wasn’t any way to live for either of us. With support and learning though, homelife is way more peaceful and connected these days.

As a loving and responsible parent, safety for everyone must be paramount. Our boundaries around safety in the home need to be made clear to our teens. Consequences also need to be made clear, and we must be consistent in upholding them. Physical violence and destruction of property need a no tolerance attitude. Police should be called if your teen is acting out in a way that poses a serious risk to themselves or others. As harsh as that may sound, the fact is that violence and physical abuse isn’t acceptable behaviour, or appropriate coping mechanisms. Those are rules of life. Better our kids learn that before adult consequences come into play.

While we are standing firm on the no violence rule, we need to give another outlet. My daughter punched her pillows and screamed into them. If you’ve got violent teenspace, hang up a punching bag that your teen can take their rage out on.

As parents we can do a lot to help as well. By modelling the behaviour we want to see, we show them how it’s done, as well as demonstrating that we are strong and capable of dealing with whatever they bring our way. Teens feel safer knowing we are their rock.

Communication plays a huge role in dealing with aggressive and violent teens. Effective use of it can de-escalate the situation before things become out of control and police are required. Read my article here about communication holding the power for attaining peace. Like changing any habits, it takes practice before it comes second nature, but the pay-offs are well worth it.

What teens are throwing out to us, mirrors what is happening with them. If we can remember that they’re hurting and/or really not liking themselves, and try not to take things to heart, we can provide the best support. I think it’s important we tell them how their words or action affect us, so they learn about others emotions. However it’s most effective to stay calm and don’t react in the same ways they are.

Try and see humour whenever you can, to give you a giggle on the inside. A couple of weeks ago Jessie came home annoyed and yelling at me. When I told her it upset me when she spoke to me that way, and she replied “well I’m sorry you’re the only one here for me to take it out on!!” I burst out laughing (NOT in the good parenting book), so had to take myself off to the bathroom. I still find it amusing. The apitome of teenage thinking!

If you need help:

ReachOut.com Australia runs a FREE, flexible coaching course for parents to help us help our teens, with whatever the issues are. You need a computer and a phone, and 90 minutes for the first session. You can however make use of up to an additional three, one hour sessions. Click here for more info or to register.

ReachOut.com also runs a forum which is a supportive community of parents needing assistance or offering advice, learned from experience. If you’re feeling isolated, you will find others going through similar things, which can be therapeutic in itself. You can check out the forum here.

violent teens

Dealing With Death and Dying

dyingThey’re not topics I like to talk about. Even though death and dying are part of life, and an inevitability that has affected nearly all of us. Still, I find it so overwhelming. And it never gets easier. I’m unable to get a handle on it. Death is so final. It’s one thing you can’t change, no matter how deep the desire. It’s too late to say goodbye. Or make amends. Or offer love you wished you’d given. It’s a reminder of how precious my loved ones are, including the furry ones. That reminder gives me patience and acceptance.

Sadly today was the end of days for my parents’ cat, Suu Kyi. She was 14 and had been losing kidney function. She’d been happy enough, and was still mobile and doing her day to day things. That all changed this afternoon, and gratefully for Suu Kyi, she didn’t suffer. So we have a big gap in our family. Mum and Dad of course will miss her most. She was their baby, and a source of love and love bites she will be remembered for. Animals aren’t just animals with us, they are family members. We’ve lost some beautiful souls, but their memories live on.

The universe must currently have an opening for good souls. An old friend I read, had to have her family dog put down today as well. A loved relative of Mum’s died last Tuesday and on Thursday I’m attending the funeral of a neighbour and friend. I’m dreading it, I really hate funerals. Not that anyone enjoys them! But the sadness is overwhelming and I always cry. Sometimes too much, while others around me are more composed. Remaining dry eyed while people are hurting and crying around me, is an impossibility for me. I can’t help but put myself in people’s positions and imagine their loss. If it’s my own loss, hook me up to your water tanks, there’s a big rain coming!

dyingI can’t get my head around dying, and that fine line between life and death. That moment of death when the heart stops beating and life leaves the body. Where does life go? How can a body have personality one moment, then be completely void of it the next? What happens to “us”? Things don’t just disappear. Sorry, they don’t. Disappearing acts are illusions, tricks on the mind.

Our soul, our essence, leaves our body, I have no doubts about that. The first body I saw was my friend Steve. He was on life support for 5 days before his parents made the heartbreaking decision to turn it off. While I still visited each day and talked to him and held his hand, I believed he looked like his soul was gone then. Maybe it was the machine breathing for him, and his pale colour. He might’ve started packing, but he didn’t move out until half an hour after life support was turned off, and he was pronounced dead. There was no doubt he was gone then.

I remember after my cat Zeppelin died, sitting there for so long, just looking at this empty vessel that was not long ago him. I was so upset and I wondered if I was waiting for him to come back.

At my Gran’s funeral, I wanted to go in to the viewing room to say goodbye. I had to see her and hold her hand. Her soul had gone, but to comfort our human needs, she was made up to look like she was just taking a nap. As the tears flowed, the clash of images was confusing. I wanted to stay with her and talk to her. Maybe some clarity would come? But even your body is on a busy schedule after we die!

dyingWhen Gran was dying, we’d travelled to visit her. She was rather hazy but knew who we all were. It interested me incredibly to see Gran focusing on young Jessie in particular. She wanted to hold her hand all the time, and the way she looked at Jessie was really special and full of love. It seemed really pronounced, and I’ve always wondered if it was youth Gran was drawn to in her final stages? Could she see her younger self in Jessie? I’ll never know.

Losing people and animals we love, doesn’t get easier. It hurts. It hurts a lot. I still find it a shock when the grim reaper comes, whether he was expected or not. Dying scrambles my mind. In an instant, we, with all of what makes us us, leaves every cell of our bodies. We’re never to be seen again. Never to be hugged or cuddled again. Never to be conversed with again.

I used to feel comfortable with what I believed in regards to our souls after death, until I started thinking about them put together. Instead of creating a nice tidy connected line, my brain exploded with ‘need to knows’ and ‘but hows’.  I have so many questions. Questions there are no answers for. In reality we only have our beliefs, to help fill an otherwise void hole.

Death leaves a heartache no-one can heal. Love leaves a memory no-one can steal.

 dying

 

health

Health Over Habit Would Seem The Easy Choice

healthI was going to start by saying that none of us choose to be unhealthy. But I guess by the choices we make, some of us do. I don’t think I stopped for a second and thought ‘do I choose current and future health or to suffer from the current and long term effects of this?’ However, they were still  choices I made. Having known the risks for so long now, it can’t be anything else!

I had my first choke on a cigarette when I was 8. It wasn’t enjoyable. At that age I had the brains and the peer support to not do that again. But then came adolescence. The brains went, and I persisted with the choking and spluttering until I was smoking. There was no peer pressure – some of the boys smoked but none of the girls in my group did.

healthMy health wasn’t something I considered when I was younger. I guess I’ve always had it, so didn’t respect its value. I’ve had a head in the sand belief that I’ll always be okay. Despite signs showing the contrary. I advocate going to the doctor asap. Don’t let things get worse. Yet it took me four months to have a chest x-ray done. And this persistent cough was probably around for that long before I got the referral. But better late than never, x-ray – tick.

Results in, the medical centre called to make an appointment, nothing urgent. Nothing urgent. What a relief! So I decided my cough was nothing and I was healthy. It was two weeks before I went in.

Because of the frame of mind I had previously put myself in, the diagnosis really shocked me! My doctor read out the specialists letter and explained what it meant. Stage 1 COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emphysema. Emphysema is a frightening word – its meaning even more so. To further motivate me to quit smoking, he showed me the x-rays. My lungs were transparent which they shouldn’t be. That means the lung walls are damaged and very thin. The diaphragm is meant to be curved, which helps expel air from the lungs. Under my left lung it was flat. Under my right it was close to it.

The tears were rolling down my cheeks the whole time and I’d been given the healthbox of tissues. Granted I was running on 4 hours sleep and had been at the police station prior after a sickening event the night before. But still, I knew something wasn’t right, and I’ve had people telling me for ages to stop smoking. My pharmacist has even given me nicotine patches for free, but I’ve chosen to keep up the habit. So crying like a two year old who’s just realised they rooly trooly can’t have everything they want, just doesn’t fly. After 33 years of filling my lungs toxic chemicals, this news shouldn’t have been surprising. Time to put my big girl britches on, think about how much I actually like breathing, and stop fucking smoking!

Now that I have a health issue that affects a vital organ, it makes the decision to choose health over habit very easy. If only ceasing that habit was just as easy! The patches are in use and I have a script for Champix. It’s not just about the nicotine addiction – as I’m using patches, that’s the breezy part of it for me. All the other reasons I smoke is what I’m struggling with. But as long as I’m persistent in creating other “go to’s” I know I can kick it.

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself  – Abraham Maslow

health

 

communication

Communication Holds The Power For Peace

communicationWe use communication on a daily basis to interact with others and it comes in many forms. We couldn’t survive without it, but few of us really know how to use it effectively. Fewer of us are probably even aware of that fact. Communication is a learned skill.  Therefore until we become aware of the way we use our words and our motives for choosing those words, we go with what we know. Quite often we’re left wondering why the conversation didn’t go so well!

Emotions in general, ego and fear play a big role in our communication delivery. Being human, the influence of these three factors is difficult to overcome. This is especially true when we are hurt, angry or upset. Our faulty thinking becomes detrimental to ourselves and our conversations.

communicationHow many times have you said you’re ‘fine’, when you’re actually not? Someone told me long ago that ‘fine’ actually means ‘fucked up, insecure, neurotic and emotional’. Now think back again to the times you said you were fine. Does that meaning make you smile because that’s a bit of how you really felt? …why yes it does! And did that ever fulfill your need/s? …why no! And thank you for asking. Not surprisingly as none of us are mind readers. Being silent about our needs and verbal about our dissatisfaction can only cause discord in our relationships.

The definition of insanity is to repeatedly do the same thing expecting a different result. We’re all mad then – or at least have bouts of insanity along the way, until we change our unproductive ways of communicating.

We get better results if we can converse calmly and clearly, without blame, and while owning our own role. This holds true no matter who we are talking with. If we can teach our kids these skills they’ll have a head start in this big world from the get go.

I’ve learnt some invaluable skills over the last few years which I use with Jessie. They have helped reduce friction and misunderstanding, and have allowed for us both to be heard, which is what we are all wanting. I want to expand that and have those skills as part of my default method of interaction. Raw emotion and fear need to take a back seat to emotional intelligence for me to achieve this. Gulp.

As with learning any new skill, it takes practice and effort. I have a template on my computer that I use with Jessie. It’s helping me express myself positively, and hopefully teaching Jessie the same. The prompts are;

I feel/felt… e.g. embarrassed
when… e.g. you yelled and swore at me
because… e.g. my friend felt uncomfortable and left
and I would like… e.g. for you to have said ‘mum, I need you for a moment.’

It can be re-written until you are satisfied the wording is calm, non- confrontational, and clear.

communicationAnother one to remember, particularly useful when talking with our kids, is to use the word ‘and’, instead of ‘but’. For example, ‘I hear that you’re upset and you still need to get your jobs done.’ If ‘and’ is replaced with ‘but’, any recognition given is instantly taken back. Tying in, a saying I heard recently was “anything after but is bullshit.” Such a simple thing can be the difference between lighting the fuse or diffusing a potential bomb.

Listening without agenda is a learned skill as well. Also a vital part of peaceful communication. Repeating back what you have heard allows for clarification of any misunderstandings. Most importantly it shows you want to understand and you respect the other’s point of view, even if you don’t agree.

My goal is to achieve proficiency in these skills. It starts with thinking before I speak and listening with a quiet mind.

10% of conflict is due to difference of opinion and 90% is due to delivery and tone of voice.

 

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