A new phase of Motherhood: What is real?

Being a mother was all I wanted to do. Babysitting younger cousins in a trail of piggy backs was enough to solidify my girlish hope. I am now a mother of two saplings, one a near teenager. I’ve learnt motherhood is a journey into bits of my own past, and a differentiation process between what is mine to impart, and what is my childrens to discover for themselves. The Covid-19 bubble saw family time redeemed as a fascinating, priceless gift of togetherness. But now we are back in the thick of high school socialisation and a new phase.

As much as I want to hold on to this day with them forever,  life is moving forward.

 

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Humans are crazy creatures how we can invent a vivid reality with textures and smells that feels like watching Netflix. But this superpower is not always welcomed. Fear based panic derivatives set off a cortisol chain reaction in a millisecond, and we find ourselves convinced that ‘worse case scenario’ is occurring right now. My anxiety rattles me awake to the present moment, to stop some projected version of future that recklessly thrusts itself centre stage.

I follow the work of Byron Katie who discusses a process of inquiry to investigate the truths and disconnects between what we see in our mind’s eye when in a panic storm, and what is actually happening in the very moment. So often we are dreaming, of why we think Trump is an idiot, of what the world will look like for our kids or of what we will make for dinner. This is what the sages have referred to as the dream, versus being present. I am finding being a mother of a preteen who is fast becoming his own person, eager to grow up, a dynamic lesson in being present. My own fears about raising two exploratory, social men in this world: What will become of them? Will they be safe? Will they thrive? Will they get into drugs? What about when they can drive?!

The mothering, nurturance and protecting of the ducklings who are now out influenced by unknown forces. It is meant to operate that way. They will suffer. They will experience pain. The gifts of insight that we go through to develop character and knowledge.

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In this new phase of independence, may I have the grace to stand back and yet always have their back. Allow them to fall, scrap skin and bleed at times, with my heart firmly in place.  And being present AF seems my own sanity saver to avoid veering off into some dank alley of anxiety.

On my knees in humble service of this journey.

The desire for meaning makers

There can be a need to make meaning out of these strange times.

But in clutching for footholds, to normalise and tidy up the experience, we may ultimately distract ourselves from the discomfort, the messiness and the vacuum of unknowing. I find myself reaching for stimulation, escape, solace in others’ words, too often technology.

Beingness is parried about as a lifestyle choice; as a way of seeing, viewing and living. I wholeheartedly prescribe to it although I acknowledge it is not easy, even with a few tools and the fact Nature is at my back door.

I want to ‘do’ something with a space or unknown, subvert it quickly before I actually feel and submerge into it. And this is possibly what may happen before any lasting knowing or decisive change comes from this pandemic. As Toko-pa Turner writes:

 Please, let us not turn this heartbreak into something useful just yet. If we do, we will be tempted to walk in old ways. We will rely on tired words. We will make memes of ourselves. Easy, digestible phrases that fill a short term longing for solutions.

The stark difference between weeding and allowing the humus to settle and decay into richness and the sprayed quick fix method.

Yesterday I had an almighty scare with my horse. During an eye check, he stepped backwards and his back locked up, as I squirted saline, he threw his head back and blacked out. 500kg of horse swaying suspended on the slope, then toppled over somersaulting sidewards down the incline. Luckily I was placed up hill, still holding his lead, it happened so fast. He couldn’t get up and fell back still dazed. When he did get up, he shook himself off with blood dripping from his bitten tongue. My body took over, shaking to release the trapped fear of the surprise event.

This is a horse with a trauma story from neglect until animal welfare intervened. He has scars (chronic back pain from overwork) and emotional trauma (he dissociates literally leaving his body).

Trauma can be a ghost we live with, precarious and silent, dormant until it is triggered. And this pandemic has all the conditions to be followed by a wave of PTSD, especially for our northern hemisphere cousins on the frontline. It is frightening thought.

 

Later I notice my heart and back, energy is moving up and down. An emotional hangover from seeing the reality of death sudden and alive in the fall, my body shakes in processing. I lay down quietly feeling the rivers and streams.

I realise that this is all I have to do in this action, achievement focused world. 

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Sunny day, Spirit and I

Memories of beacons who’ve buoyed me along the way, how to tune into the body and its messages. I’m reminded of how far we travel across seas to avoid our own dark depths out of fears we may never resurface to only later embrace what we once vehemently rejected. I am grateful to them and loving towards myself, holding gently. Maybe this is the way out of our collective trauma, each of us slowing down to feel our dissatisfaction and lingering long enough to grieve our loss. Once the debris has decomposed, nutrients are revealed and a path cleared for us to travel.

If I can tune into my body and its messages, I will be guided to my own meaning making.

Grief and Love

A longtime fan of Liz Gilbert and how she speaks about grief:

‘Rip your heart out and eat it lovingly for dinner

Caress it and dance a waltz…slow.

Savour the flavour of ‘willing’  and

Drop to your knees as a humble servant when it comes’

This got me inspired about love……life partnerships….marriage.

As we are all in this together, this iso thing, holed up together on this super pink moon. That in relationships you will have your heart humbled many times…that grief like falling in love… is a full body experience.

The times when you look at your lover and see rubbing points and irritations. My partner has supersonic hearing, I’m oblivious to anything but bird calls and the nattering in my head. His direct, get with the program approach whilst I have this roundabout magic with no apparent method…as we both jumble towards the same goal.

Each day brings new opportunities to drop deeper, past the inane, superfluous crap and niggles. To swing bravely into territory of joy seekers. Of loving ourselves and our created reality wholly.

His rogue grey ear hairs, my flappy neck, both of us with extra eyebrow furrows. Reminders that we still have this view, even if it’s not as shiny. This quest is not about cosmetics…. it is about time passing with your beloved. That the time is f%^kin precious, a one way street towards death.

That we don’t get out of grief, to love is to grieve. Liz after a hallowing time losing her true love to big C, sees how beautifully exquisite life is. Fark, to be half as gracious when death grief claims me…may it be possible.

As we sit with this unknown pandemic, family time stretching out in front may we embrace the moments, as anyone who has felt deep loss would give anything to experience the mundane bits once more.

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Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

My full moon prayer in ‘self-other-community’ layout is:

May I be well. May I feel held.
May you be well. May you feel held.
May we be well. May we feel held.

Big love to all people especially those experiencing deep hardship and grief.

 

As Australia burns, we need to change and wake up to our Mother

In times of crisis, what happens when thoughts we tell ourselves about our lives, beliefs and who we are no longer work? Do we fight, rally and get angry? Yes especially as communities defend their homes and stand together in disbelief and terror. Do we freeze, deny and hold on tighter? Or do we surrender to a new way, a sweet word often underestimated, much like vulnerability is misunderstood for weakness.

When we soften and allow our bodies to process pain, much like a dog will vigorously shake after trauma or shock, it is felt and dealt with on the spot. Hopefully we won’t have to carry it around forever more.

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A month into relocating to Cambodia, I cried for three weeks non stop. I cried rivers as my chest released white knuckled tension. That place cracked me open and I wasn’t going back into place. I’d expanded beyond the form and didn’t want to glue the pieces back again. I regularly had a dream of growing large black wings with red tips, large enough to fly.

Losing your mind can be scary but it can also be a good thing.

It doesn’t take much to see the ego driven state of the world. Governments making decisions from the head leaving the more compassionate, universal heartfelt angles behind. Pure rationality ain’t gonna work no more. The intellect is the servant not the master, contrary to what we are conditioned to believe. Our innate collective body wisdom and connection to Mother Earth: her animals, plants, rocks, rivers, oceans and all elements are the masters. 

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I recently got back from a festival where I shared healing circles with indigenous women from NE Arnhem Land. Specially sourced leaves from up north were smoked and steeped into an oily tea that we rubbed on our skin, heads and bodies. They willingly shared their knowledge as it is time for us to be together to heal. Pictured at Woodford folk festival

Maori women shared their sacred women’s haka. We vowed to respect its sanctity and not recreate it in front of others even our families, but instead use it as a way to empower ourselves into action. They told us Western women hold much power to heal Mother Earth by reconnecting with her and raising their children to do the same. In Maori, the word for womb is the same as the word for Earth. Mama Mihirangi spoke about how indigenous nature based cultures haven’t lost this, she spoke of knowing her ancestry 42 generations back. She is connected to the same mountain and rivers her grandmothers have honoured for thousands of years. I felt a pang at my lack of ancestral place, a disconnection that migration brings coupled with a loss of cultural, land based traditions. She spoke of witch hunts and I spontaneously bursted into tears, emotions choked at the injustice and the fear to be seen or different.

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Later after deep breath work and dance, I lay down in meditation when my body constricted with a tightness at my throat. I felt a noose. I dry reeched multiple times, vomiting out the emotions trapped in my cellular memory. I allowed it to run, witnessed and released. My voice left clear to chant out sounds as I remembered how. My mind watched on as a tool not the driver, whilst my body held the wisdom.

Although my exact origins may be blurry, my ancestors speak of early shamanic traditions in Northern Europe, similar in ways to what I hear when I listen to indigenous stories, rituals and connection. We are being asked to wake up to her. To sing, pray, dance and respect our Mother just as our ancestors did. It is time to heal these fears, our Mother needs us to be strong, vocal, connected and receptive. Our indigenous sisters can help us remember.

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Where to focus our energy in trying times

 

Right and wrong, contract and expand, live and die, humans tend to have a binary perspective. However, does matter exist between two points or is it in constant motion within infinite possibilities?

It’s hard to live without getting fixed beliefs. Having an opinion on anything can easily lead to being fixed and less able to see others’ point of view. Even lying, for example, is known as bad or wrong and being honest a core value of most. But lying does seem to be embedded in everything we do. We lie to ourselves, our governments keep some rat infested diatribe going on, businesses sell products based on a reality they create, parents lie to their children to encourage them to be socially acceptable…Where is the truth and where do the lies begin and end? When is lying acceptable if it helps to protect or prevent pain?

I was lucky enough to work with Bernie Shakeshaft last year who runs a popular youth work organisation, BackTrack. He’s sat in piles of meetings with eager change makers who want to support youth in their communities.  After letting everyone introduce themselves, a theme surfaced of people reiterating all the problems with the system. Bernie with eagle focus called it, ‘If we keep focusing on the problems, how are we going to find a solution?’ 

This was powerful as negative contagions could have dominated all the precious time we had together. If we get stuck in story, we can’t feel, taste, smell, see, hear new paths through.

With bushfire mayhem and impending doom on social media and news feeds, I’ve been feeling fearful, helpless and angry. I’m wanting to understand the lack of action or constructive conversation from government. I regularly pound my fist. I can feel and identify with undercurrents of outrage. But the only thing happening is debates within the story…right/wrong; climate change real/not real; coal is great/not great….

Recently on a friend’s couch sharing our feelings of hopelessness, a beautiful woman said, ‘Instead of  focusing all the time on what we don’t want; we need to focus on what we do want’.

It’s a different space- creation. It is a different energy- creating. It allows the intellect to step back and allow new ideas, heartfelt solutions, innovations and visualisations to bubble into conscious thought. Less rhetoric, less draining fear; more community, more action. It’s like we wake up and go holy my, we gotta do something with the inertia, move it. This weekend, a community group is building homes for flying foxes orphaned early in this heat, and women getting together to express themselves for a public art piece for climate change. Gratitude for the people making some music.

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How to let love go?

FullSizeRender (5)How to let love go?

That heart stretch for love to grow, change, die and rebirth as we are not in control or in charge of this game of life nor the contents of another’s heart. It can be painful, it can be downright scary but it also comes with life’s richest rewards of joy, integrity, giving and acceptance. A necessary part of being alive, we must die.

Watching my darling sis go through a breakup at 30 believing she’s wasted time and a fear that she may not find another: a reminder how heartbreak can make us believe love is fragile and impermanent. We want to hold on, clam up or shut down in the face of pain. What a confusing notion as love is actually the opposite- expansive and open.

I had to stay in my heart and consciously let go. Its waves healing my holey heart. Our herd recently got smaller. Suki, a stunning bay mare with a Gaian energy came to live here two years ago. She strides out with her charismatic style, winning her quiet way into all our hearts. She is not demanding, rather strong and self sufficient. Gifted to me with a tiny unconvincing caveat (that’s how I wanted it) that her previous owner, Anna may want her back to put her in foal one day. Suki, a mother twice already, has a radar for the foals in the valley. She kept watch at calving time over the fence checking on a baby calf that mother walked away, calling out for me to come and check.

Anna facing her own heart passage as she looks upon an empty nest with her teenagers grown, asked for Suki back to have another foal. To say this was easy, it is not to let go of a family member. I could have inched my heels in and held on,  but when I tune into what Suki wants…she wants to be a mother again. She loves it, she’s born for it. I appreciate Anna for her generous spirit and kind soul. So with a stretching heart, she was collected and took her time getting on the float. Unsure exactly who was her owner and was it ok for her to go? There was this moment when she put her head on my chest and sent me so much love, it broke me right open.

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When she got off the float at her new/old home, she was beside herself with excitement. Both her foals, now 7 year and 3 year olds were running up the fence line to see her. In the horse world, it is rare that families stay together or get to reconnect. Horses get ferried around the country and sold for sport. To be able to give this to Suki was a blessing, even if it hurt to say goodbye. I keep finding myself calling out her name and her bestie Sav has a long face.

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Suki grazing with her daughter at her new digs

When I went to see her, she was clearly very happy and hardly paid me any attention. I could feel myself contract ouch, but I sat with it and realised it is not about me. Love is patient and kind, putting aside our own desires and insecurities.

It may not be for forever, hopefully dear Suke will be back walking these hills again, mothering all in her wake. Spreading her love to both Anna and me, teaching about sovereignty and respect, that we don’t own these beautiful creatures, we are their custodians and that when we see them that way, love and depth reigns.

Poem: ‘Water Bairn’

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Stand on watch
Over babies
Long limbs wild hair
Grown

Feet plant ground
Broken toenail
Shown mum
Pain held on your
Own

Tides sown
No trade worth
Honours of havin you
Bairn

Soft hand in mine
Stories told
Fears shared, adventures
Born

Watchful awake
Quiet noise
Before they are
Gone

Listening to our child within

Why is it hard to hear what’s inside of us?

We are busy, we are distracted, we are scared.

My inner child has been screaming at me to listen more, play more, dance more.

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It started after taking a new job in complex mental health. Ten people (clients) live in their own units with the office next door. Upgraded to a more managerial role at the job interview, my ego puffed up whilst my gut rang out ‘Do they appear slightly desperate to you?’. Oh no, it’s just the gig or the industry I told myself shaking off unease.

Fast forward, first week involves normalised targeted abuse from my direct client. Management doing a hot potato dance as to who will take turns to sort out the latest ‘incident’ (minor assault). I’m left with grave doubts as my inner girl starts to whisper..’I don’t feel safe…’ as I act out professional.

Second week, the daily routine firms up, I sit with a client who chooses not to eat but grog and his hallucinations get worse progressively over the day. Go figure. But we follow his ISP (strategies on how to assist him with his voices and prevent self harming) sit with him and breathing deeply. I start to feel the spirits swirling around in the air. Maybe they don’t call alcohol ‘spirits’ for nothing. Trying to anchor someone in this reality when they are elsewhere feels pretty stupid and futile.  Again the little girl inside is calling out, ‘I don’t feel safe. This feels familiar- the drinking, the demons but I don’t like it. I want to feel safe’.

Third week, I trigger my client sufficiently to become the focus of her aggression as she runs headlong at me with her fist in my face. Planted to the spot I growl at her to not touch me. Friendly staff support me and shovel a EAP card (free counselling) in my hand. Adrenaline is high as I try to regain composure. But the signs are getting louder. I find myself a shell when I get home. My boys reach out to comfort me and I can hardly talk. I go to bed and have disturbing dreams.

I start to wake up. What do I want? Which side of history do I want to be on?  I want to be cultivating health and growth, and I must feel safe. At work, the word trauma is used as a knowledgable slogan..but it’s skin deep. Any real change in these people’s lives is slim. It’s a holding pattern for enabling behaviour without the framework to address underlying issues.

Next weekend, I go to a dance class. For two hours, I feel into every part of my body and move to the music. I drop sweat and stress on to the floor and feel alive again. When I close my eyes, my little girl is with me with the largest grin on her face. I hold her hands and we dance, I tell her that I am going to listen. That when she sits up and says, ‘I don’t feel safe’, I’m going to be there: boldly, lovingly, firmly making adjustments so she can breathe easy and be able to play and love.

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The next day, my managers deliver the news that I will be taken off the team as they are concerned for my safety. I receive full pay for the next two weeks. A quiet comes over me, my little girl breathes out and stretches her arms into the air. Ahh, the universe works in miraculous ways, I can feel it is an act of Grace.

Trauma is a funny beast. It kind of gets into our cells unless we consciously take time to shake, release and reform new ways and choices of being in this world. Often we get attracted to relationships that live out past hurts; or we surround ourselves with energies that feel familiar in their dysfunction but are not life giving. This is what the context of this job felt like for me. There is no failure, only learning in this process and since progress isn’t always linear, we can go over ‘familiar’ territory a few times, and sometimes a bit more, until we get the clarity or insights to change our course.

Today I am creating new opportunities for work, and I’ll walk in the forest. I’ll blast up the music and have a dance with my little girl giving full expression for this luscious life. If we choose joy, it’s not selfish, it’s not childish, it’s a necessary guide to living.

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Working in mental health

Have you ever had your ankles licked at work?

That’s an experience I had at a new job this week.

At the job interview, there was a mild air of desperation as the managers upsold the more ‘senior‘ role that I was ‘much more suited‘ to than more general, part time role I was applying for. My reaction was shock and amazement as my ego sat up and stroked her hair.

Now I know why.

From the first morning of induction, we were locked in the conference room because my client was thumping the windows and swearing loudly about how much she hates me.  The next day I hear coming in at number #1 on her ‘future goals list’ is ‘Get Amy fired‘ as she eyeballs me whilst draped over reception articulating the words ‘power’ and her ‘challenge’.

This is from someone who had rapport with her previous case manager and faced with a conveyor belt of changing staff and caregivers, she is fighting hard in a pretty powerless situation.

It’s pretty intense working on the coal face of mental health. Ten clients with heavy stories and mental health diagnoses live onsite in adjoining one bedroom units. It is my job to oversee the day and troubleshoot any disagreements, disputes or episodes that may occur. Learnt at uni that emotions are contagions, now seeing it in practice, it can only be described as mercurial. Watching how the shifting sands change rapidly is a lesson for me to not get too attached to how I think things may go, and to live wholly in the every changing moment!

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At handover, we sit with diagrams of coloured zones and conversations about clients ideally being in the green ‘wise mind’ zone where things are flowing and avoiding escalation to the red ‘risky’ mind where adrenalin and cortisol take over. But this same learning tool is used to educate staff on their own wiring as we aren’t immune to the waves. Every time, I cope it from my client, a staff member has been there with a knowing smile offering support, the oxytocin hit may be enough to keep me coming back tomorrow.

I did expected a challenge, but I didn’t expect to be the target of such intense behaviour. Of course, it is possible to rationalise it in terms of amygdalas; inability to emotionally regulate and don’t take anything personally but honestly, I feel like I’ve been thrown into a war zone. By lunch time on the second day, I notice I have become more desensitised.

Self care has zoomed up the list. I drive to a nearby forest on the way home forcing myself into a jog-walk spontaneously stopping to hug a wise tree elder to clear the stress and mild panic experienced that day. I can feel the cortisol spikes hoping to release them. Some of my predecessors fell to the scary burnout.

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Social norms exist in another stratosphere and I’m jumpy as I’m escorted to my car in the hope that my client won’t find which one it is as property damage has happened before. I get inside and exhale. Putting all the skills to work: some laughter, some philosophy, some getting physically fit.

When we work with the horses, we demonstrate firm boundaries. Otherwise, the large animal may either mindlessly walk on top of you and/or be in a place of unease and fear at who is in fact the leader which makes them feel unsafe. It is these skills that work best with my client. With a horrific history of insecure attachment and distrust, she requires clear boundaries and crystal clear communication to build trust and feel safe. The ‘no hands on’ rule is constantly tested when she latched onto my ankle in reception refusing to let go. My horse mentor talks a lot about ‘fight, flight or freeze’ and how we have a predisposition to one of these. My client is a fighter- fierce, vocal and lightning sharp. I am a recovering fleer who now holds my ground and I’m learning to dial up when necessary. This job is going to call on me to embody these on a daily basis.

Sometimes we don’t get what we expected, but it may be just what we need. Here’s the philosophy part: walking it out to see how far I can go with it. At the moment, I’m not seeing a huge silver lining but I know there is one. I know I have choices available and that I create my own path. For now, being in the fire with a fighter is challenging, beyond my map to date. It is questioning the beliefs I hold about my self, the helping profession and wider system at play, what is enabling and empowering behaviour. Everything will be turned over and hopefully deeper truths accessed along the way.

Send me your love, I will gratefully receive it.

 

Healing Power of Horses

FullSizeRender (12)On a clear winter’s day, sun streaming down, I walk into the horse paddock, tired I lay down, covering my face with my hat. Spirit, a buckskin horse looks on wary at first, then comes to sniff and nudge me, ‘Are you alright?‘, assured that I am, he turns and parks his rear end to me 10 metres away.

I lay on the Earth and my tiredness falls away. I begin to rest.

Awhile later, I look around and Spirit has turned his body towards me. He is resting, his back leg chocked. I sit up and gently start to meditate. I feel Spirit walk and stand over me with his head above my head. Meanwhile, my dog comes and stretches out on my other side. I can feel layers rippling inside and around us.

Spirit’s nose began to tremble lightly as his whiskers move in all directions. A local vet/energy healer once told me this is releasing tension/energy. He is very relaxed which is unusual for him as he is often in chronic pain from a degenerative back injury. All the tension leaves my body- tight jaw and stiff shoulder evaporate as Spirit stands over me, cleaning it away.

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I feel this deep peace around us. We have no physical borders. Is Spirit healing me or am I healing him? There isn’t any separation of ‘I’ or ‘Him’. It feels like an exchange. Our minds clear and non thinking.

We stay like this for half an hour or so until a truck comes bumbling down the neighbour’s drive. Spirit looks up alert, yet totally relaxed. I slowly start to come back into my body. Pat the dog leaves as the sun has heated his black coat up.

I gingerly stand up, free of tension. Spirit is in his energy ‘bubble’ connected to my own. I don’t need to touch him, I can feel him. We share thoughts telepathically. Animal communication is about sending pictures, thoughts and intentions to animals and seeing what they send back. We are doing it all the time without realising it. Indigenous trackers use these skills in hunting and tracking, calling the animals to them. We all have this ability, once we quieten the noise of internal self talk.

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I walk back up the hill, Spirit wants to follow me but I turn and say no with a thought. He turns calmly and lightly canters down to his friends. He looks brighter and more energised. He is less defensive with the mares at feed time. A more calm leader rather than leading with dominant control.

I am in awe of the power of it all. What exactly? The energy within us all and all around us. So often I feeI the need to outsource these gifts, but they are within me, within all of us. It’s not the ‘thinking’ brain but the 90% subconscious part we often don’t use. Animals access it easily, waiting for us to sit still and get quiet, so they can teach us. It’s available to us any time.