Less Than Strong

“The loneliest people can be the kindest. The saddest people sometimes smile the brightest. The most damaged people are filled with wisdom. All because they do not wish the pain they’ve endured on another soul.” – Timothy Delvecc

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Hi everyone. I’m not promising that this post will make much sense but I need to write a few things down. Bear with me and perhaps some coherence will emerge….

So it’s been a tough few days.
Sometimes it’s not immediately apparent to me things aren’t quite right. I don’t always realise that I’m not feeling myself or acknowledge that the sinking feeling is back. That sadness seems to have become a default setting again.

I’d love to know whether feeling, well, less than strong causes me to feel more of the world’s pain than I should, or whether being susceptible or sensitive to the world’s cruelty makes me Less Than Strong. A chicken-and-egg situation perhaps?

I watch the news and read. I look and listen and I consume too much social media and sometimes it seems that everywhere I look there is pain. This week alone there are child killers being released from prison. The mentally ill are being stigmatised by the world’s most read newspaper. Children are suffering in Syria (and all over the word) and babies are fighting cancer. Friends of mine are suffering illness, depression, loss. It feels like life gets harder and crueller and it’s overwhelming.

Have you ever looked around at your messy house or another task which seems enormous? Thought about how there is so much work to be done that you may as well just do nothing? Maybe that’s just me. But that’s how I feel at the moment. Literally and metaphorically speaking. I’ll come home and plan to sort the laundry or wash the floors or whatever. Then it all seems too overwhelming so I’ll just sit instead. But I won’t be able to rest or relax and I’ll feel guilty. I feel that way about the world and life.

Like there is so much I could or should be doing to affect change. Help people. But it’s all too much. It hurts to think about it. So I do nothing. I sit and think about friends I should contact or charity work I should do. Then I distract myself with the Internet and more and more sadness seems to find me there. It’s endless, really.

I know that I should stay away from sad stories and not watch the news if it upsets me. My mum said so and I’m trying. But it just doesn’t seem right to walk around in a bubble of ignorance.

I tried strategically thinking happy thoughts and counting my blessings. But that just causes more panic:
“I’m so fortunate! Look at everything that could go wrong! Something bad will happen if I indulge in too much gratitude, surely?”.

What I’m trying to remember is that reality is only in the moment.
This moment. Thoughts pass and I must let them. The very fact that I’m able to rationalise this is a really good sign for me. I’m grateful for being able to write this down and for being capable of thinking this through. I know this is a temporary state of mind. Today I can sit and write whereas yesterday all I wanted to do was lay in bed. I didn’t, but only because my children need me.

The other day, in traffic it occurred to me that we can rush through life quickly when the lights are all green. We can reach our destination so much faster. But once the lights turn red we’re forced to slow down. We can take in surroundings that we’d otherwise rush past. Catching a chain of red lights can be inconvenient at best and can sometimes screw up your entire day. But sometimes being forced to slow down or stop gives us the chance to think and reflect and to collect our thoughts when we’ve got nowhere else to go.

So for now, I’ll wait here until the lights change again. Because change again they will.

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Strength in the Small Things

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“Everything has it’s beauty, but not everyone can see it” – Confucius.

Ideas for blog posts usually arrive in my head during the middle of the night. I sometimes have to actively ignore them as they’re prone to buzzing around like mosquitoes, robbing me of sleep. During the day they sap my concentration and I often glaze over, mid-conversation as words and phrases write themselves in my subconscious, waiting for that elusive quiet moment when they can spew forth on to my computer screen. I sit and I write and I cut and paste and edit. I reach the end of a post and I read it back, and usually I feel proud of it. Excited to share it. Surprised that the words on screen came from my addled brain.

Not this time, though. This time I’ve been staring at the screen with no big idea. I’m feeling decidedly ordinary.

I bumped in to an old friend recently in the supermarket. After our short conversation I came away lamenting the fact that I had very little to talk about that didn’t involve children and family life. I felt ordinary. Boring. Once we’d finished assessing who was still in touch with whom from our college days, our conversation quickly dried up. He had no children to discuss and I was all out of material. We carried on our shopping and I silently hoped we didn’t bump in to each other again at the checkout. Awkward.

Yes, there’s stuff I can write about today. Birthday parties and baking and mounds of washing and ironing. Cooking and cleaning and running perpetually late. A new gym membership and feeling like the fattest girl in the step-class and trying to remember my own advice on embracing who you are, in order to teach children positive body image. A car that look like a rolling rubbish bin, a child with an aversion to eating anything but crisps and playdoh. Did I mention the laundry? Endless, incessant laundry.

Do you ever feel like your main role in life is simply to move mounds of clothing from one place to the other? Or is that just me? From the floor, to the basket, to the machine. Where it remains for too long. Wash it again. Put it in the dryer. Forget about it. Still damp and smelly. Wash it again. Repeat. Dry it. Iron it (sometimes), put it in drawers and on hangers. Chase moving targets to wrap them in it. Find items on floor. Move them to basket. Repeat, repeat, repeat ad infinitum.

Believe it or not, there is a point behind today’s mundane ramblings about domestic chores;

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies”
Mother Theresa

Now, I am not suggesting that my (or your) only strength lies in laundry management. Neither am I implying that laundry is a small thing, for that matter. But what I am saying, is this;

It matters. It all matters.

The small things. The chores. The wiping and the chasing and the cajoling and the finding of things. The comforting and the playing and the rushing and the constant busy. It is all part of a very important picture. It may seem ordinary. Mundane even. Sometimes banal. But it is part of the tapestry of family life. The chaos and the odd socks and the furry apple cores in the footwell (just my car, then?!). We manage all of that, us mums. We are the captains of our (sometimes leaky) ships. We somehow keep the family afloat.

Sometimes it won’t feel like you’re doing a good job. Sometimes you might feel under-appreciated or overlooked. Often you might get the the end of a hectic day and berate yourself for everything you haven’t done.

But try, lovely friend, and I will too, to remember all that you have done today.

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The stay-at-home mums and the working mums alike. We are all doing our best, we really are. We show-up every day, we keep trying and trying when the odds seem stacked against us. When it feels like we’ll never be enough, we need to remember; Who else knows that the Hulk costume is in the green toy box under the table in the spare room? Who else knows that your son doesn’t like Calpol but will take the supermarket’s own brand equivalent? Who else knows that sometimes, breaking into a spontaneous moo is the only way to head-off a public meltdown from your two year old?

Yes, you might forget anniversaries and relatives’ birthdays. You may feel like you’ll never wear matching socks again (just me, again?!) Yes, you may threaten your offspring with staying home from the park, knowing full-well that if you don’t get out of the house within five minutes you’re going to combust. Often it will feel like one, enormous uphill struggle that no other mother is enduring, surely?

But it matters. You matter. No-one knows your child as well as you do. Strength in the small things.

When you look at Facebook and see only immaculate children and perfect homes, think on, and whatever you do, don’t compare. Behind the camera is a mama bribing her child with chocolate buttons to JUST SMILE FOR THE CAMERA.

One of my favourite writers, Timber Hawkeye says in Buddhist Boot Camp:
“A flower doesn’t stop being beautiful just because somebody walks by without noticing it, nor does it cease to be fragrant if its scent is taken for granted. The flower just continues to be its glorious self: elegant, graceful and magnificent”.

Now, there’s not much elegant or graceful about me, I can tell you. But I love this idea. Doing our best to keep going, no matter what. Whether our children (or anyone else) show gratitude or otherwise.

This post isn’t ground-breaking, revolutionary or even particularly note-worthy. It hasn’t sat in my head for days or probably even told you anything that you don’t already know. But let it be a reminder. Sometimes there is beauty to be found in the ordinary. Keep shining, beautiful mama. The world needs your light.

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Picture credit: Brave Girl’s Club