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confessions of a running addict

I see a running path
I see a running path

Last week I wrote a post about simple life. About how all of the things I do to simplify and slow my life are essentially with the goal of wellness in mind. When I was writing that piece, there was a slight niggle in the back of my mind. I was questioning whether all of my choices are actually good for my health. You see, I love to move and exercise, and I don’t go crazy with it, but I am a bit of a running junkie. In my head, the world just isn’t quite right if I haven’t run free at least once every second day. It used to be most days, but as my body ages, I’m discovering it doesn’t really like to run every day.

I love the intensity of running, and the way it makes me feel. It’s like meditation in motion for me. And I know that I’m not alone. There are millions of me out there, but this is where my questioning comes in. You see, about two months ago I felt a bit of a twinge in the back of my right knee. If I squatted, I could feel something was wrong behind my knee, and it took a few steps after each squat to go back to normal, or close to normal. I knew pretty much straight up that there was something going on with my posterior cruciate ligament, but I chose to ignore it. A few weeks later, on a Saturday afternoon in May, I did some very impressive kicks of a football with my eldest son. He thought I was the coolest Mum ever…but that night, I could barely walk. Internally I was panicking that my running days were over (either temporarily or forever), but after a few days it felt OK, so I ran, albeit in a fair amount of pain.

So here’s the issue. I am focussed on wellness, and I love to exercise, and I know my body inside out, but am I really listening to my body? I would say yes, generally, but not when it comes between me and my running. So there’s this disconnect when it comes to addiction, which got me thinking about pretty much every other human I know, and the disconnect we all have when it comes to things we love, and knowing when that thing is no longer serving us. People do it with work and stress, with food, with inactivity, with drugs, with relationships…with lots of things…it’s crazy.

I did exactly the same thing when I had plantar fasciitis a few years back now, so I’m definitely seeing a pattern emerge here. I ran, I ran, I ran. I could barely walk when I stopped running, but it felt fine when I ran, and I couldn’t visualise my life without running. When I finally acknowledged the problem, and I stopped running, it took over two years to recover. I would internally curse other runners in the street for being able to run. It was awful.

With my knee, by running on it, I have more than doubled my recovery time. All because I was scared that a) I would have to stop running short term, or b) I may never run again. Both of which are completely irrational thoughts which make no sense when you say them out loud. Which is exactly what I did last Friday when I was trying to rationalise what I was doing with my knee to a very practical ex-physio friend. I kept on running on my injury, because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to run again?? Saying it out loud was like slapping myself across the face, and saying “wake up you crazy lady. Are you trying to destroy any chance you have of still being able to run at 80?” Which probably makes me sound like an even crazier lady…and then I woke up. And I’m now listening to my body. And I’m promising my body that I’ll keep on listening, particularly as I get older, and parts of me start to wear out and need more love. I’ll listen, I’ll adapt, and I won’t just run myself to destruction, which is definitely not on my path to wellness.

Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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what is a simple life?

Our morning walk
Our morning walk

A simple life is a completely subjective concept. For some people it means having free ranging children and chickens, producing all of your own food, and going off-grid with water and power, or being somewhere along that path. For others, it means reading or sitting peacefully for a small part of each day. Or it could mean finding peace within yourself by just ‘being’ more, and doing less. Every person interested in a simpler life, has their own unique interpretation of what that actually means.

For me, simplicity means being as well as I can be. It’s a reciprocal arrangement. I live simply to stay happy and healthy, and I’m happier and healthier because I choose to live simply. Pretty much everything I do, has become a part of my life with wellness either directly or indirectly in mind.

A small window into my simple life, is not me saying that my life is great, and yours is crap. It’s me saying that my life before slowing down wasn’t working very well. Only certain aspects of my needs were being met. I was always very fit, but not always really well, and not always doing all of the things which ultimately I’ve discovered make me feel more me.

When I wake early to meditate, it’s a conscious decision I’ve made to be a calmer person. To step away from a life where stress and raised cortisol affected every part of me. Meditating every day has been the best decision of my slow living life. I’m not simply hoping for peace in my day, although sometimes it does just happen by chance…I’m doing something which literally calms my nervous system, and sets me up, generally, for a peaceful start to the day. My morning mantra for the entire family is ‘Start each day, in a happy way’. Hollie Hobbie. A corny flashback to my seventies childhood.

When I’m writing, I’m happy. I am expressing myself creatively in a way which has satisfied me deeply since I was a kid. I love words. I love playing with them to create meaning and truth. Writing is such a powerful art, and for me it feels as though I’m touching on my ultimate purpose every time I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. My Mum was the first to instill the thought that I should become a writer, and it has been dancing around in my head ever since. It’s a very happy place for me.

When I crochet a tiny granny square of a greater rug, there is joy not only in the making, but also in the visual art of the project, and in the connection to my creative past. To my mother who taught me, and to all of the women who preserve the gentle arts as a part of their daily existence and tradition.

The same joy drives me in food production. There is happiness and health at the bottom of every jar of sauerkraut. I love picking cabbages, and feeling that connection with the earth (especially when I have to hunt through the layers of leaves for slugs and snails!). The whole process allows me to become entwined in the mystical elements of fermentation. There’s an enormous sense of accomplishment which comes from producing complex food. A cupboard full of ferments, learning to make sourdough bread, waiting for a batch of Kombucha to finish brewing. It’s not necessarily easier or a more efficient way to live, not at all, but it brings such positive energy into my life. It’s useful, and I have the knowledge that my food is living, simple and as unprocessed as it can be.

When I grow my own food, I know exactly where it has come from. I’ve had the chest swelling pleasure of watching it grow, and the enjoyment of seeing it become part of a meal. I love to pick and collect vegetables and herbs to make juice. It’s deeply satisfying, and it feels very right to me.

These are some of the elements which make up my simple life. It’s nothing dramatic, it’s just me being, and enjoying the very basics of life. It’s not about money, or having or doing. It’s about peace and happiness and wellness. I enjoy every small part of the life I’ve created, rather than feeling stressed or overwhelmed by a life that’s just whizzing by.

That’s what a simple life means to me.

Shared with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

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happy in love

imageTwo little lovebirds sitting in a tree, well on a cake actually, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

We’ve had an interesting few weeks. We got married the Friday before last…which was very lovely. A few days later my ‘husband’ had a significant birthday, which we barely celebrated, and as the sun was setting on his day, our 7 year old fell from a tree and broke two bones in his arm.

Watching your child go under an anaesthetic would have to be right up there on the list of incredibly stressful life events. I think my background as an ICU nurse actually makes things worse. We coped…just. It was only a broken arm after all, and there are so many things to help you re-focus your perspective when you’re sitting in a childrens hospital. Our 7 year old shone with his courage and amazingly positive attitude. He actually enjoyed being in hospital. He was given cordial in the middle of the night, which was the absolute highlight of the experience for him.

It has been a stressful time. Organising a wedding predominantly over the school holidays. Managing to keep kids entertained as well, and doing it mostly solo. Getting married, and then the broken arm. My son has only just restarted school a day ago, as the break was very unstable and it wasn’t worth risking a bump.

I feel as though our post wedding high never happened, and emotionally I’ve been sitting in the paradoxical state of ‘happy in love’ and slightly lost, ever since our big day. But over the past few days, I’ve been grounding myself in what I love to do. I’ve been practicing my yoga, meditating, living slow with my bambinos, running, cooking, writing, digging in the earth, walking in nature, and making new plans for our home and garden (spending a bit too much time on Pinterest). As well as playing about a hundred games of Uno per day with a one-armed card ace.

My brother in law married us on the Friday before last, on a grassy lookout above the most amazing panoramic view of Perth’s Swan River that there is. He spoke beautifully and inspirationally. He spoke of our love having already survived what most newly weds can’t even begin to imagine, which is the challenges of life PC (post conception). We definitely have, and the challenges keep coming, but somehow I feel as though getting married has generated a late honeymoon phase. Mixed in amongst the formalities of marriage has come change. I feel more in love, strangely, considering we’ve been together for a decade. There is this strong sense that we’ve created something even more than we already had.

So here I sit, married, very happy in love, and gradually reconnecting with my centre as each day passes.

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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my not so slow living man

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It’s the last day of winter today, a momentous day before the spark of spring. It always feels like a very significant day to me, marking the end of a glorious hibernation, before the blissful slide towards summertime. Today also marks the very final, absolutely final, did I say final day of my partners third, and hopefully FINAL university degree. I’ve only been on the scene for one and a half of his sojourns into academia, but the half a one was a PhD, which also marked my first serious attempt at editing. Note to self, never volunteer to edit a 50,000 word paper on mine seismicity (if you can possibly help it), even if you are trying to woo the author…

Well when I say he’s finished, he has an exam on Saturday, but today was his actual last full contact day. I feel really, really proud of him for finishing, and for doing it well. He isn’t an average achiever, despite my encouragement for him to be so! It was never simply a matter of ‘just getting through’, it’s been high distinctions every step of the way, nothing less. As if working away wasn’t enough, spending all of his spare time studying has stretched the friendship quite a lot. I have parented solo so much over the past two and a half years, that I am sure there are people in my world who think we are a fatherless family…but now it is done, and my heart is bursting with pride for my not so slow living man, who does exist.

When I think about his choices, our choices, I can see now that if he hadn’t chosen this life of working away and studying like a trojan, that my path would not have evolved as it has. I wouldn’t have stopped work because it was too difficult to actually get there! I wouldn’t have realised how stressed I was, I wouldn’t have had the time or the energy to change how I was thinking, what we were eating, how we were living…I wouldn’t have started writing. Everything would have been so different. I would most likely have been on the same trajectory I was on over a year ago, stressed and grumpy, and I think that my life, my health and the lives of everyone in my family would have somehow been less.

Life is very complex. My not so slow living man drives me mad in so many ways, and his life completely counters a lot of the principles I follow for myself and the boys. But he loves what we do, and somehow does his best to slip in and out of his hectic world and into ours, sometimes appreciating the differences, sometimes not. Being the yin to my yang. Being the best he can be, and role modelling that to our beautiful boys.

Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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with love from Bali

The villa in Sanur
The villa in Sanur

For me, and for most people I suspect, a holiday equals slow living at its glorious best. Days filled with oodles of space and nothingness. Swimming, sunshine, eating, reading and plenty of time for contemplation. For the past week, I’ve been doing just that with my family in Bali. I always find that when I stop completely, that contemplation leads me to ponder some of the tweaks I want to make to my regular life. Some of the tweaks are deeply personal, some are not. Some are just habits I’ve let drift away without thought.

In Bali, which has been our holiday place since we had our first son nearly 7 years ago, the aesthetics of the gardens, and the interior design of the buildings is so tranquil and enticing, that my thoughts inevitably drift towards how I can make our home and garden even more peaceful and beautiful. Our first 3 nights were spent in a villa in Sanur, which had a relatively compact garden surrounding a stunning blue tiled pool. Within that garden, there were 6 separate sitting areas, all different, all secluded, all draped in lush tropical greenness. Of course being able to grow tropical plants in a water rich region makes a huge difference to the feel of a space. I just happen to live in a desert, but none the less, I feel very inspired!

Amazing yoga space
Amazing yoga space

On our 4th day of holiday peacefulness, we moved to a resort in Seminyak, and each morning since, I have woken and done a yoga class. On the second morning as every muscle in my shoulders and arms screamed with pain, I realised that it’s been over 4 months since I stopped my regular yoga practice. I’ve been running a lot over the winter, and feeling good that two birds are being killed with one stone every time I hit the road with Bob, the ultimate slow living dog. His fitness is just as important to me as mine, especially as he ages, so I feel good when we run together. It’s also been a habit of 9 years which I cherish. We ‘talk’ a lot during each run. He barks madly at certain points of the route, and he smiles up at me happily as we run along. But my lower back is very tight from just running, and even some of the most simple yoga postures were hard to stretch into, after no practice for that long. I also feel that yoga helps to inject an extra session of meditation energy into my life. There’s no down side to doing it really, just time constraints. It’s something my ageing body needs me to factor in more regularly. So I will.

Slow living dog
Slow living dog

My last point of inspiration is about having fun. After an hour long game of ‘it’ in the pool today, I was reminded yet again that I need to get deeply involved with the kids and their play. The excitement they get from having us be a part of their games is so evident, and it isn’t going to be there forever.

The other person I need to make more time for fun with, is my man. We don’t go out very much together, often opting for date nights at home with a special dinner and a movie. I think that needs to change, with us exploring more of the cool and interesting stuff happening around Perth after dark. We are still stuck in the pattern of life we had when the boys were little babies, and the truth is that now we have a pair of young boys, who need to have interesting parents just as much as we need to BE interesting.

So after much contemplation, I have something to create, a habit to re-instate and a reminder to be playful with all of those around me. I love holidays.

Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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getting organised to live slow

Not just for lists, inspiring messages too.
Not just for lists, inspiring messages too.

Once upon a time I was a list person. I loved having lists. They always made me feel organised, like I was getting stuff done. But somewhere in the midst of early motherhood, I must have forgotten what sort of person I was. I stopped writing lists, and one of the busiest times of my life almost buried me. From the outside I’m sure things didn’t look all that bad, but the internal chaos of being disorganised really took its toll.

Not that long ago I painted a blackboard on one of our kitchen walls. I’d always wanted one, but didn’t realise until I’d done it that it would help me reconnect with my list loving past. My partner was absolutely horrified when I started the blackboard project, because I literally just drew it on the wall with a lead pencil and a 30cm ruler, then painted it free hand. It’s tall, but not very wide, I was a bit limited with the choice of walls, but it’s fantastic. It has completely changed my life.

It’s not my only place for lists now, but it was the starting point for me to launch into my current phase of trying to map out and organise every part of my life as a homesteader, housekeeper, mother and writer. It’s a work in progress, as there are so many aspects of all these ‘bits’ of my life which can become overwhelming if there’s no structure or plan. Even though I was a list maker, I was never a planner, not on the home front anyway.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the systems my Mum had in place when we were growing up, which to be perfectly honest I’d looked at with disdain in the past. Shopping on a set day, meal planning, bulk buying, a cleaning schedule, a washing schedule, an ironing schedule. Well the ironing schedule is never going to happen, but the rest of it is starting to make perfect sense to me. Mum worked full-time, had 4 kids and ran a very tight ship. She didn’t have a whole lot of down time, or ‘her’ time, but she did have some really strong slow living values. These elements were really apparent in the way she ran our family, and that’s obviously influenced me. She made a really big deal about simple family activities, she connected deeply with each of us, she created family rituals and traditions and she helped create beautiful memories for all of us.

I look at how organised she was, and I think about how much simpler my life would be if I followed in her footsteps. The disorganised route intrinsically carries with it the side effects of chaos and stress. The simple, organised path offers everything which slow living stands for. It creates the mental space for slowness. That’s the whole point. Any resistance I may have had to domestic organisation in the past is slipping from me. I’m pursuing my planning path, and drawing up vision boards for every aspect of my life…one element at a time. It’s an instantly calming process.

Shared with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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the slow food paradox

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Food is a huge part of life, and when you enjoy the process of making your own food it completely enhances the whole eating experience. For me, food is at the core of slow living. You are not only nourishing your body, but also your mind and your soul. However, the reality of cooking from scratch day in and day out, can be really hard work and the enjoyment can occasionally become buried under a mountain of pressure.

Last year as I slowly changed all of our pantry and fridge items from conventional to organic and from processed to raw, I realised that one of my biggest challenges was going to be breakfast. As I dropped an enormous box of  weetbix into the bin, it began to sink in. I had 2 weetbix kids. They loved the stuff. So I set to work researching, and I came up with what I thought were some amazing breakfast ideas. Over the following weeks I made loads of different types of granola. There was the sprouted buckwheat and pecan granola which took days to produce, a nut and dried fruit one which again took ages to make and cost a fortune, an almond meal version, a coconut based cereal substitute you bake in the oven… Then there were the nut based pancakes (which I thought were amazing – Apple Latkes), the coconut flour pancakes (awful), the egg and banana pancakes (not too bad) and so the list went on. I made cooked breakfasts with eggs done every which way, bacon, sausages etc…until the day my eldest son announced that he no longer liked eggs…I nearly cried.

With every breakfast offering I created, there was either immediate rejection, or complaints after a few meals. It was exhausting. Eventually I came up with a version of bircher muesli  (which they love – now) where the wheat free oats (specially sourced) are soaked overnight in raw milk (specially sourced) and kefir (which I make), nuts and seeds are added the next morning (all of which have been activated and dried), a biodynamic cultured yogurt is added with organic strawberries and blueberries (again specially sourced) stirred through. It sounds complicated, and it was – which is my point –  but it’s now become easy, and part of our normal.

The slow path is not necessarily an easy path, and this is where the paradox of slow living becomes evident. The choice to feed yourself well, means that much more effort is required to produce food, and this can become an enormous burden. For me the concept of slow living means stripping back the unnecessary pressures of life, drawing on my past and present life to understand what simplicity looks like, and then using that knowledge to create a joyful and peaceful way of being for me and for those close to me.

I love to cook, and the satisfaction of creating good food far outweighs the occasional  feeling that I have made a rod for my own back by choosing this food path. On the whole I am just genuinely thankful that food IS often a dilemma in my day – in a good way! Not everyone’s lives are this simple.

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finding balance

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One of the greatest motivations for slow living is the dream of having a less stressful life. Many people associate stress with being busy, and that can be true, but isn’t always the case. More often stress reflects the chaos within us which needs attention. If your mind is calm then a busy day is less likely to cause panic or anxiety. A stressful experience at work is less likely to impact upon you, and screaming children or an encounter with an angry person is less likely to tip you over the edge. Unfortunately when you are immersed in stress, it’s very difficult to see the woods for the trees.

In mid 2013 I decided to take extended leave from my job. I had been working one 12 hour night shift a week, packing kids off to family or friends so that I could go to work, and then cramming in a few hours sleep the next morning before leaping back into the chaos of my life. I was often grumpy and short tempered, and the cumulative effects of the night shifts were taking their toll. I realised that my stress levels were raised almost all the time, and that I needed to do something to restore my inner peace.

I bought a book called The Hormone Cure by Dr Sara Gottfried. I’d heard Sara speak online and her methods really resonated with me. I immediately started using them to reduce my cortisol levels (which were confirmed as super high by the quiz at the start of the book – like I didn’t already know!). Cortisol is the hormone we need to get us out of trouble when we are in stressful or dangerous situations. It’s very useful, and at normal levels in the body it does have some positive effects, particularly on your immune system. However when your cortisol levels remain consistently elevated, it means that the chemical feedback loop which moves you between a stressed state, and a relaxed state no longer works very effectively. It’s like someone has hit the fast forward button and you can’t find the pause. Your stress levels become chronic. I would get angry about something the kids did or didn’t do, and I couldn’t come back down again for ages. I felt terrible. Chronic stress also impacts on your  immune system, by seriously depleting it. It also affects the stability of all your other hormones. Before you know it, it’s more than your stress levels which are out of whack.

So I wrote a huge list of cortisol reducing strategies on a blackboard in my kitchen. Then I worked really hard to do as many of them as possible, as often as I could. It became my absolute priority. I meditated almost every morning for 15 minutes before the kids woke up. I started doing online yoga classes in my lounge room, often involving the kids, which was very sweet. I had weekly acupuncture (at Endeavour College in East Perth, which gives huge discounts on natural therapies done by final year students), I stood on my head a lot, hugged a lot, I walked with girlfriends, did alternate nasal breathing, laughed a lot, just stopped a lot, stopped drinking coffee and alcohol, breathed…and after about 3 months I noticed a dramatic change within. And the best part of all, is that all of these stress reducing habits have become permanent habits and it feels great.

Shared at With Some Grace, 18th July 2014 for FYBF

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living the slow life

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I can’t remember exactly when it really clicked for me that slowing down and really ‘taking in life’ would be the key to pretty much everything, in particular happiness, HELLO, but it did, and it has.  It seems that these major life epiphanies happen fairly organically through acceptance and learning, and for me it’s been no different.

My journey started 2 years ago, when a free DVD dropped out of a Woman’s Weekly magazine onto my lap in my mother-in-law’s lounge room –  the DVD was “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” by Joe Cross.  An unlikely trigger and a unusual scenario. I don’t think I’ve  picked up a Woman’s Weekly before or since. But the next morning I went out and bought a juicer, not a great one, but a juicer all the same, and the transition to a new way of life began.