Category Archives: To Feel

Connecting with feelings & emotions once again

The re-charge formula

For some people it’s the expanse of the ocean, for others it’s the grandeur of the mountains. I can imagine the romance of the red open plains or the enveloping of a familiar mallee scrub.

Some are lucky enough to find it in their everyday, but I still need to be “away” to find it.

I know you’ve felt it.

You capture a glimpse. In the distance. And it twinkles, just for you.

Your chest bellows, your smile erupts. Your body expands.

Bare Feet Freedom

I’ve arrived.

A place of solitude.

A place to refresh.

A place to re-ground.

Usually a place of unintended mindfulness.

A connection unexplained. A heart rate sustained.

For Mr Metamucil, it is the Snowy Mountains. The high country of the flattest, island and continent in the world.

A landscape of twisted gum trees, lazing kangaroos, curious wombats and in the summer, the most annoying bush flies you will ever encounter.

I can understand the allure. There is something untouched and untamed. Sepia-toned pictures show that not that much has changed, even in the most populated towns.

These sleepy little hamlets, crowded during a very short snow season, use the warmer months to defrost and recharge.

The picture perfect horizon, that big blue sky. Stars so bright, it looks like a blanket has been haphazardly picked at…someone has been busy.

The emerging song of the corroboree frog, the sunbaking of the alpine copperhead. The blanket of wildflowers that fill the mountaintop.

It appears that everyone, and everything, comes out to re-ground and re-fresh.

There’s an explosion of road cyclists tackling the climb out of Jindabyne on their way to Thredbo, willing their legs to make it just to the next corner, whilst mountain bikers fuel up at the breakfast buffet, before they’re off to explore the vast trails that criss-cross this untouched and vast domain.

Lake Jindabyne is a cacophony of colour. Kayakers in their brightly coloured craft, weekend sailors adjusting the sheet and wondering, “will she be kind, or will she turn?” Because in the mountains, you need to respect her, or she’ll whip your pants down, no questions asked.

The day hikers are prepped, insect repellent on hand. Backpack with the essentials. There are no selfie sticks here.

Whilst the fishermen sit patiently, listening to the wireless and wondering if Australia can really bowl India out in two sessions, and perhaps momentarily forget, why they’re out there.

And they’re not alone, because despite all the doing and the huffing and puffing, you can see it….the connection with a moment, a place.

The caravan park is full of campers and caravan-ers. We’ve arrived at our destination. Time to stretch the legs, breathe deeply and look up. What’s the frequency for the ABC here?

The shelves of the fruit and vege aisles are empty, they haven’t refilled since Christmas Eve and re-stocking only occurs weekly. The planned stir fry becomes more rice and less veges. I probably eat too many veges, anyway.

And it doesn’t seem to matter. The bushflies, the sunburn, the dirt encrusted crevices.

Because when we’re away from our comforts, our routines, our everyday… something happens.

Right there, before we know it.

That fleeting moment, whether we realise it or not.

The re-charge formula.

And even if only for a moment, we realise, life is good.

Know what I mean?

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In my Head

I spend a lot of time in my head.

Observing, synthesising, debating and concluding. All by myself. All in my head.

I’ve always done it. I don’t know how not to do it.

I put it down to being an only child, where there was no one else to share my thoughts, or the scenarios and debates I created in my head. My parents were hard working migrants, trying to put food on the table and provide their first and only born with the education and opportunity to achieve and succeed.

I’m sure as a creative child, those thoughts would have been fanciful and self-deluded. After all, there was no one to point out the flaw in my plan for schoolyard domination. I developed resilience via a steep learning curve.

Adolescence did not change my modus operandi, particularly as my parents went through an ugly divorce in my pre-teen years. The arguments, the late night whispering and the removal of my dad’s clothing into 40L plastic bags were all observed, recorded and filed away…for future reference.

My young brain recorded that trust and intimate relationships are fraught with danger.

Now as an adult, happily ensconced in an intimate relationship that looks nothing like my parents’ or anything else I had witnessed or imagined, I still find myself spending quite some time in my head.

Observing, synthesising, debating and concluding.

And in dealing with undefined auto-immune dis-eases, I find that I spend more time retreating, in my head, wondering how did it all go so wrong? What can I do to stop it, reverse it, halt its progress?

I’ve spent many hours googling down the rabbit warren, coming back more overwhelmed than clear. I’ve read books on neuro-plasticity finishing them with great hope that my brain can repair itself from the chronic fatigue short circuit and my short term memory will return.

I’ve scoured the latest journal articles on lupus research and the effectiveness of rituximab and the latest in immuno-suppressants. Hoping that pharmaceutical companies will add another drug option to the market, given that it’s been over 40 years since the last dedicated lupus drug.

I’ve struggled to find any information that could explain the importance of testosterone for females, and why my pituary gland is malfunctioning, without having to enrol in a degree in medicine. Although I suspect I have the first year of theory covered.

I even had my hopes raised when ABC’s Catalyst program, did a story on testosterone, but it was short lived as they chose to focus on middle aged men and menopausing woman. Because it appears that the sex lives of baby boomers, deserves more research and funding than those living with auto-immune disease.

I’ve fallen in and out of love with meditation, struggling to find a routine, a niche, a regular space in my day. Started drinking kefir daily, and once I got past the tangy and surprising effervescence of my coconut milk, my gut started to thank me immediately.

My yoga practice ebbed and flowed, largely due to the instability of my spine as the arthritis of my sacro-illiac joint decided to stand front and centre in 2014.

It started as a niggle, but ended with another red flag on my littered path.

The pain in the dimple of my left glute, my left knee giving way as I walk Franki to the café or try to manage the 45 stairs to freedom. The tingling in my left heel, the numbness in my hamstring.

Of the three episodes I’ve experienced in the second half of the year, I seem unable to acknowledge the symptoms until my back spasms, my hip locks and I can no longer turn my neck or lift my arm. Then the desperate call to the physio. As I’ve said before…I can be a slow learner.

And then the humility kicks in and I need to exit my head.

I ask my husband to wash my hair. I ask friends to walk a little slower. I ask Franki not to stop and sniff at every lamp post, perhaps every third one instead.

I tell my yoga teacher it’s a non-pretzel day, I can only do a 30 minute session and ask “can we do some breathing and meditation to complete the hour?”

And I ask strangers to help me untie Franki from the café chair leg as the Fisio-taped back and shoulders make my movements laboured as if my life has been catapulted into slow motion.

It’s those moments where I realise I can’t spend all that time in my head. That in fact, my life can be made easier by just opening the doors and sharing, asking and letting go.

Yes, 2014 has been a challenge. Not because my prognosis has become any worse, and not because the treatments have been wholly unsuccessful. Like everything in life, it has its success and its shortfalls.

I’ve experimented, struggled, rejigged and reworked.

Always in my head. But slowly, with others.

And with only hours left in 2014, I can only hope that I can approach the next 365 days with a little less “in my head” and a little more “in the marinating bowl” with others.

I’ll share my puzzle pieces, and ask for a different perspective. I’ll try them again, this time in a different place or space, sometimes by myself but also with others.

And I’ll remind myself that just as my parents tried valiantly, so will I.

Because life doesn’t always play out the way it does in your head.

My Confession…I’m a Crier

I make no apologies for the following confession – I am a crier.

Not a sniffler, or a quick tear up, run down and wipe away. But when I’m stressed, frustrated, elated or over joyed, my one and only emotional output is tears…and lots of them.

It makes absolutely no sense, but it appears to be the only arsenal I have in my emotional toolkit, whether I’m happy or sad… let me explain.

Depending on what article you read, or Google, as humans we experience 4 distinct emotions – happy, sad, afraid/surprised, angry/disgusted. That’s it.

Everything else we feel is biologically driven from these basic four. And depending on the list you consult, that can be up to 40+ different feelings.

Our brain is an amazing machine that filters all environmental cues and combines it with our conscious experience, influenced on any given moment by our mood, our hormones, our personality and motivation, to deliver the experience of emotion.

It’s a pretty complex range of inputs that are synthesised into a handful of outputs. Effortlessly and seamlessly.

We’ve all experienced it, the feeling, the inkling…the partner that doesn’t seem quite right today, the unusual quietness of the usually chatty barista, the smile from the parking ranger as s/he walks away from sliding another ticket under the windscreen.

And on the flip side, the palpable excitement as your birthday rolls around as you imagine you’ll awake to breakfast in bed, a stack of gifts and the incessant trill of your phone (proof that you are loved). Or the nervous tension as you lay in bed, waiting for daybreak, deciding whether to burn or bury the evidence of the latest purchase.

Within micro-moments, those environmental cues are rapidly identified, sifted and sorted and bang you experience the exploding joy in your chest (or your nether regions), or the increasing tightness in your throat as you feel you may want to puke or pass out, or in my case, complete confusion as the tightness, the joy, the exuberance spills out into… the wet stuff!

Banksy, copyright Getty
Banksy, copyright Getty

Growing up I often heard, “boys don’t cry,” “don’t be a sissy,” “what are you crying for?” So I figured tears were wrong. A sign of weakness. After all, Saint Francis of Assisi had gone blind due to all his crying!

So I inadvertently shut the tears down, or any emotion that provided an insight into how I was feeling, to the point that I often heard “I can never tell whether something is bothering you or not.” I took it as a badge of honour. And smugly assessed, “That’s right, I’m not so easy to work out, am I?”

But when life slaps you in the face, and as the stinging welt on your cheek rises, something shifts.

The shield of invincibility (read: denial) starts to crack. And it forces you to let go and lean in. And that’s where I discovered my tears.

The endless stream. The untapped reservoir. The plentiful bounty.

Psychologists believe that tears are a burst of intense emotional sensation, hence why I’ll get teary when a footballer drops to his knees as he misses the winning kick, or I’ll cry as I turn on the news and watch the cruelty of humanity in all its vivid colour and movement, or I’ll sob when I watch Mr Metamucil cross the line after a long distance triathlon – relieved, excited, overwhelmed.

But it appears that’s “normal.” I’m “normal” when I experience the emotional intensity regardless of the situation. So why do I feel there is a “right” time and a “wrong” time to cry?

Because somehow it makes sense to cry when you’ve broken your leg, but not two days later when the doctor confirms it.

Because somehow it’s okay to cry in the bathroom after the boss has called you in and closed the door behind you, but it’s not okay when he tells you you’re being made redundant.

And somehow it’s completely acceptable to cry before the cop even asks for your license, because you know there’s no way out of this one…except maybe showing remorse (insert: bawling), before you’re charged.

For most of my life, I figured I had missed the circulation guide on “when to cry.”

Because I can’t seem to control it, it just happens. And sometimes at the oddest times, like at a funeral for someone I have never met!

Or when I take Franki to the vet yet again, because her incessant scavenging has her puking at 25 minute intervals, and after each hurl she looks up, pleading with her big brown eyes, “when will this stop?”

And when I am simply overwhelmed by doctors who give me those same pleading eyes as they don’t have the heart to tell me, “I don’t know what more to do.”

And I cry… In the doctor’s office…I cry…In the public toilet…I cry…In my car…I cry.

But I’ve slowly come to realise that those tears don’t make me a sissy, and they don’t make me weak.

Those tears make me human.

And those tears won’t make me blind.

But those tears are witness to my pain and even my joy.

And that those tears are my only outlet…for now.

And the flood of tears, means I have connected. And I have found another scoop of fibre.

And that those other emotions and feelings, the ones I’ve been too afraid to let out, they’re just around the corner… waiting for their turn.

Ready, Set (Breathe) &…Go

When I first decided to publish this blog, I took a friend’s advice, “Just hit publish” she said, “ Who knows if anyone will read it anyway?”

I had purchased the domain name almost 12 months earlier. I had no doubt. Emotionally constipated. Who hoo that’s me…it’s in the stars!

The title was never in doubt, it was usually my opening line at a speed dating event and was often received with a chuckle, and I’m sure some scepticism. But I prided myself in being honest…you won’t get dolphin tattoos and hand holding from me. I’m just not built that way. That warm and fuzzy stuff makes me uncomfortable. And of course, there’s a story there to share…just not quite now.

I had written (posts), generally in fits of inspiration (and desperation). Several at one time, and then nothing for weeks. The writing came easily to me, I was 9 again, and loving it.

For 12 months it became my private place to share (with no one other than myself) my frustration and ramblings, the ridiculous and the comforting. And surprisingly it provided a place to find some peace and equilibrium;

because when it all stays in my head, the incessant chatter is overwhelming and nothing makes sense

Puddles & Play

I had no plan on my approach. Whether to be completely objective sharing the latest in scientific research into Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia or Lupus, or whether I would be uber-positive and annoyingly optimistic (unlike me) trying to convince myself or others that life with a chronic disease can be rich and fulfilling. I’m still struggling with that one.

I didn’t plan to share my deepest and darkest days, because I was (and still am) afraid if I actually admit to it, and feel the pain in its fullest and most terrifying grandeur, that it will envelop me and I’m afraid I won’t be able to find a way to get up and into enough air, let alone find the strength to get out of it.

I just planned on being…I don’t know…just plain old honest. And ultimately, much to my surprise and dismay, vulnerable.

An emotion I had been keeping well-guarded for most of my life.

And in the moments of doubt, sprinkled with troll-associated terror, I kept reminding myself “who knows if anyone will read it anyway?”

So I hit publish. Privately. Quietly. Sharing only with those closest to me. Scared to death that they would think it was boring, unengaging or even worse “I’ve heard this all before.”

And out they go. One at a time. As the tightness in my throat clenches hard and the pain in my chest rises until I feel like I’m going to choke or hurl; every time I hit publish.

And then it comes. Like clockwork.

Texts. Phone Calls. Tears.

Emails.  Likes. Joy.

Comments. Engagement. Relief.

From people I know and most surprisingly from those I don’t.

It’s a rollercoaster of feelings I don’t quite understand. A mix of terror and sublime bliss. Trepidation and exultation. And it all happens out there, within moments, completely out of my control.

My writing is a little more stable now. There are no fits of inspiration, I notice a story in almost every interaction I have. It’s just the courage to jump on that rollercoaster which still terrifies me.

And I realise that this funny little thing called life is rather persistent, forever trying to remind me to slow down, to observe, to share and to enjoy.

So as I take my morning walk with Franki, as I sit at yet another doctor’s office, and as I struggle with a downward dog, some days more than others, I remind myself to step back. Store the memory. Feel the anxiety and the fear.

Let it marinate, but don’t let it stew.

And when I’m ready, bring it back and toss it around like a good Greek salad and write. And in time, find the courage to publish.

So thank you for indulging me and sharing in my exploration.

Without your likes, your comments, your high-fives…my search for a daily scoop of fibre, comes much easier than I ever thought possible.