And when I get to the wizard, I’ll ask for courage

I think the Universe is trying to tell me something. A while ago I sorted through a collection of my mom’s books that my dad had put aside to be passed on. I simply kept one of the books with no hesitation because it contained an inscription in the front cover.
“ To Kay, August 1972 from Susan B” From this I inferred that the book had been given to my mom from her dear friend Sue  for her eighteenth birthday.

Today as I walking past the bookshelf I noticed that there were two pink flags sticking out of the book and so I was curious as to what my mom had flagged, and so I opened up the book and found myself reading a section entitled: “Courage & The Conquest of Fear”.

It’s interesting to note that over the past while I have been reading a great deal about courage and vulnerability. I just finished The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer where she shares her reflections and connections that she has made about relationships and connection. At one point in the book she says that Brene Brown in Daring Greatly basically wrote her book from an academic point of view, and so I have started re-reading it. (Not that I really need an excuse to re-read Brene Brown). But any way, at the moment I am battling to let go of control and just trust.

I have a dear sister in law who is quite similar to me (if you believe in astrology it might have something to do with the fact that our birthdays are 4 days apart) but any way, she so similar that if she does something that annoys or irritates me I need to think really hard about whether it something that she did or it is something of myself that I am seeing and not liking. (It is sometimes useful, sometimes a pain, but always what it is). But either way, I digress, she wrote a blog post about leaving things behind and in it she included the serenity prayer, which I find interesting because in my mother’s copy of light from many lamps she has a flag (one of only two in the book) on the page which includes the passage:

“Dear God, give us strength to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed. Give us courage to change the things that can and should be changed. And give us wisdom to distinguish one from the other.” – Admiral Thomas C. Hart

At the moment, I am struggling to find the courage to accept support and accept that my occupation being mom is enough and that I am not a drain or a burden. That there is value in what I do, that even though I am unsalaried, I am not unemployed.

I am not sure what the message is that the universe is sending me, perhaps it is a gentle reminder that not all acts of courage roar, that sometimes the act of showing up and doing the mundane over and over is actually an act of courage itself.

I paged back to the beginning of the section on courage. I guess in someways courage will always be hard. Courage is the antidote to anxiety. Courage is letting go of the need for control and just actually doing something.  The first story recounted in this section is titled “This, too, shall pass away”. It tells the tale of an ancient eastern monarch who called upon his wise men to invent a mantra that must be wise, true and endlessly enduring, words by which a man could be guided all his life, in every circumstance, no matter what happened, and the mantra needed to be concise enough to be engraved on a ring. Eventually, the wise men returned to the monach with the words:
“This, too, shall pass away.”

This story inspired Paul Hamilton Hayne to write the poem: This,Too, Shall Pass Away.

Art thou in misery, brother? Then I pray
Be comforted. Thy grief shall pass away.
Art thou elated? Ah, be not too gay;
Temper they joy: this, too shall pass away.
Art thou in danger? Still let reason sway,
And cling to hope: this too, shall pass away.
Tempted art thou? In all thine anguish lay
One truth to heart: this, too, shall pass away.
Do rays of loftier glory round thee play?
Kinglike art thou? This, too, shall pass away!
Whate’er thou art, where’er thy footsteps stray,
Heed these wise words: This, too, shall pass away.

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Meeting Amanda Palmer: Melktert and Unspoken words

So on Saturday I went to Amanda Palmer’s book signing at Exclusive Books in the Mall of Rosebank. (It has been beautifully revamped and is now an absolute delight of a shop). It was amazing despite the fact that I had one of the worst panic attacks that I have had in ages when I was trying to buy her book. (Long story short I had left my wallet in the car, had less time than I thought and I thought that I had lost my wallet and driven to Rosebank without a license.  Incidentally FNB wins over Standard Bank for allowing you to get money from an ATM without a card, and using Standard Bank’s website on a mobile phone is close to impossible…the Standard Bank has still not downloaded on my phone since I tried installing it before 12 o clock yesterday. But I digress.)

So after I finally managed to get money out of an ATM through Riaan’s help, I rushed back to Exclusive Books. The queue for the signing was insanely long. And the reading had already started. I bought my copy of the Art of Asking and reclaimed my platters of mini-milk tarts. I initially stood in the queue for the signing while Amanda was reading but then decided to rather go and sit on the carpet up close. It was amazingly reminiscent of childhood storytime. It was intimate and amazing to find out that I was not alone in my admiration and connection towards this woman. I am an insatiable crowd watcher and so I sneaked glances around me, and perhaps my favourite person to be sneaking peaks at was one of the kitchen staff who was shyly leaning out of the kitchen and listening to snippets of stories.

After finishing reading, Amanda got up onto the counter at the coffee shop and played ukulele for the first time in the mall (fittingly and by request she played ukulele anthem). On Facebook the other day Amanda had mentioned her new love affair with rusks and had invited people to bring rusks along to the signing and the gig the night before. I had responded that I would bring milk tart (when another fan had said we should turn it into a South African tea party).  I walked up towards where Amanda was and one of the event milktartco-ordinators asked if the milk tarts were for Amanda and I said yes and for her fans.  The co-ordinator had said to just put them down next to Amanda but kindly Amanda said that by the time people get to the front of the line they are pretty focused and so Amanda grabbed a milk tart and said into the mic that milk tart was coming down the line and so I got to connect with a whole collection of Amanda’s fans. It was interesting and intimate, and I did not feel rejected when anyone said no thank you. I got to share lots of little collections of South African happiness with my compatriots. And my milk tart has now been endorsed by a rock star :)

I then joined the queue and spent about 2 hours with my new friends, sharing stories and book recommendations. Finally we reached the front of the queue and then…

I managed to stammer out a Thank you to Amanda, but I did not manage to say all the words that I wanted to. I did not manage to tell her the stories that I would have liked to. In a way she is really intimidating…not in a bad way. But in a way where in that moment she is giving you all of her attention and it is intense. It is not bad attention, it is far from it, it is just really intense Jedi like focus, that in that moment where she is holding you in her gaze there is no doubt that she is truly seeing you, and when you have made it a practice to be introverted and blend in, and the art of avoiding being seen, it is  disconcerting to be looked at so intensely.

amanda_palmer

I did manage to stammer out about how when I am having a crisis of confidence I channel my inner version of rock star Amanda Palmer and that helps. She reminded me that it was bullshit and just as insecure as the rest of us. (I don’t think I managed to explain how that is why it helps, by seeing her be brave I am able to be brave too). I did not manage to tell her how by living and loving so openly she has given me the courage to be vulnerable and to become gentler with both myself and those around me. I did not manage to tell her that by living openly she gave me the courage to come out about my mental illness, about living with depression, and so have people share there times of darkness with me and know that they are not alone. I did not tell her about the fact that ukulele anthem and a bootlegged version of her Cat Steven’s cover of if you want to sing out, sing out were on my birth playlist (which I never used during Lucas’s birth, but that I have played countless times since) or that it was once part of my morning ritual to put on that same youtube video while we were living Costa Rica while waiting for the kettle to boil on the stage. (Incidentally she has a photo of that gig as the parting shot in her book). I did not manage to tell her about how by her living openly and making mistakes she has given me the courage to make my own. But you know what, the encounter was intense and amazing and in some ways, I think she saw at least some of the words that I did not manage to say.

Love and melk tert,
Trisha

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A suggested day trip on the West Rand, Johannesburg/ Krugersdorp, Gauteng, South Africa

If you are fortunate enough to come to my neck of the woods in beautiful Johannesburg (the largest man made forest in the world) and have only one day to spend touring this is what I would recommend you do:

Start your day out at Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind. It is a beautiful and world class exhibit.

Get your fix of wildlife at the Rhino and Lion park (You can have a meal at a restaurant that overlooks the giraffe enclosure.)

Meander through the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. (Take the forest path as you walk to the Witpoortjie falls). Walk back along the main path and have a look at the geological garden it is quite a display.

Heading back into Johannesburg stop in at the Constitutional Court – it has an amazing collection of art. (There is a free evening tour on the last Thursday evening of each month).

Go to the Carlton Centre and have a look at the amazing views. In fact just take advantage of the hop on hop off city of Johannesburg tour.

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Dear formula feeding mom:

An open letter from a mom whose kid has only ever had breastmilk.

I don’t know why you are giving your kid formula. I don’t know if you struggle with your supply. I don’t know if your little one battles to take milk from the breast. I don’t know if you had a traumatic birth that left your body riddled with infections and you are supplementing with formula. I don’t know if you are taking some medication that contra-indicates breastmilk. I don’t know if you just want to give your baby formula. Quite frankly, I don’t care either.

The reason why boy has only had breastmilk is because it has been the most convenient for us, he got the feeding thing down pat pretty immediately. (Having said that, Riaan and I did say we wanted to aim for six months of exclusive breastfeeding, which we managed). On the odd occasion that I have sorted out a bottle (of expressed milk) for him I have found it to be a schlepp.

So now I am going to slaughter some sacred cows and give my opinion on some of the most common arguments that I hear against formula feeding.

  • Formula feeding can help you bond with your baby just as well as breastfeeding (and in some cases better). I do know a couple of moms who struggled with breastfeeding and once they started giving their baby’s formula they were able to relax. This relaxation allowed them to connect with their babies and in my eyes, the less stressed version of themselves became better moms.
    What matters is that you are able to connect with your child not how you are giving them sustenance.
  • Formula feeding can be dangerous. Yes, this is true. If you do not have access to potable water giving your baby formula can be problematic. But a lack of access to clean consumable water is a problem for everyone not just little babies. (If you don’t have access to drinkable water chances are you will have problems with milk supply if you are breastfeeding in any case).
  • Breast is best. All things being equal, maybe this is true. But in my experience as a mom things are not equal. They are in a constant flux even while in routine. So while it is true formula does not replicate the exact composition of breastmilk, it is far from the dangerous substance it is made out to be.) Interestingly enough, formula fed babies are not at risk for a vitamin D deficiency due to the composition of formula unlike their breastfed compatriots.
  • Breastfed babies are smarter, healthier and more developmentally advanced. Once again based on personal observations (which is actually all that we have when it comes down to distinctions between children since there are too many uncontrollable variables) I am calling bullshit. From what I have seen the babies who are formula fed are just as healthy, intelligent and at the same developmental stages as their cohort.

So I guess the point of my rambling rant is this.  The only thing that matters is that you feed your kid with love, and you have at least one breast feeding mom in your corner.  (And I am sorry you have to put up with nonsense like this)

Love and venting,
Trisha

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What’s Happening

Hello,

Thank you all for your love and support and well wishes. I really appreciate it.

On Saturday morning I got hold of my regular therapist who thought that I might also need to get my meds adjusted in addition to increasing my therapy and just getting some sleep. So I moved my appointment with my psychiatrist forward and she ordered some blood tests since all of symptoms could be attributed to a thyroid malfunction or a Vitamin D deficiency.

The results are in and the biology causing these symptoms is a combination of a borderline vitamin D deficiency combined with an underactive thyroid. So part of the doctor’s orders is to get some daily sunlight.

So we’ll see how things go but things are getting better.

Love and updates,
Trisha

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Heavy

Shit, fuck and damn. I thought I had out run my monster this year. I thought that I had managed to escape the demon. I thought I had dodged the bullet of Post Natal Depression.

I don’t think I have. It crept up slowly. Sneakily, quietly piling things on top of me. Now I feel it’s weight. The heaviness of the inadequacy. I feel alone. I feel like I am a bad mother. Like I am going to fuck up my kid for the rest of my life because of having these feelings right now. Because I did not feel bad enough without reading that a mother’s post natal depression can have an impact on their kid into adolescence.

When I can check nearly all the boxes on a quick screening for PND. When my Edinburgh screening score has shot up to 26 out of a possible 30. (This is one test where I would be happy to not ace). When my reaction to my son screening is weariness and not compassion. I am scared. I am petrified that this time the dark will win.

I know that I can get through this. But right now, in the long dark sleepless night. I wonder. So for now, I will cling onto hope where I find it and remember that maybe it is not all hopeless bullshit. (Thanks Allie)

Love and not surrendering,
Trisha

Postscript: I am not okay right now. But I have the advantage of having been on this ride before. I have a great therapist and a pretty solid support structure who will help me work things out. But what I wrote here is also part of my truth, just like having a wonderful kid who I love greatly and a supportive group of family and friends are.

If you are a fellow warrior you might find these links useful:
Post Natal Depression Support South Africa
Postpartum Progress

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Just saying “no” should have been enough

Hello Blog,

Today I had an interesting and frustrating encounter. I was walking from the pharmacy to the butchery and a woman stepped into my path. She did so because she wanted to touch my son who I was holding.

When I asked her to not touch I was asked “Why not?”.  When I replied that because my child has the right to as much bodily integrity as anyone else.  This woman was quite indignant that I dared advocate for my child accusing me of being aggressive. (I disputed this, saying that I was being assertive).

Upon reflection I could have handled the situation better, rather than explaining my position that my child and myself are entitled to bodily integrity. I should have simply said because I said no and that is enough of a reason.

This was one of the first times that my parenting ideas has been challenged by a stranger. I know that it will happen again.  I also know that I will not hesitate to protect my child even if it is based on nothing more than an inexplicable split second decision not to let a stranger touch my kid.

Love and venting,
Trisha

 

 

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Just a post

Hello Blog,

It’s been a rough couple of days. I thought I was losing a fight with a depressive episode but it turns out that I wasn’t. The exhaustion I was feeling was glandular fever…So I have been woman down for the past couple of days. Today I spent most of the day sleeping, and Lucas spent the day with his Ouma, he also rolled over for the first time.

It’s interesting for me to notice that I am less concerned about seeing Lucas’s firsts and looking more forward to the seconds, but I am loving seeing him develop and growing, the daily bits of struggle and the growth. It is an absolute privilege to see the daily growth the way he is slowly growing into a person.

I am also making a point to be gentle with myself and pay attention to my thoughts. And catch myself when I am being judgemental, it’s difficult but I think I am winning.

Love and discoveries,
Trisha

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Showing Up

Just be you, as beautifully thin-skinned as you always were, because that’s what makes you you. Feel stuff. World needs more thin skin. Eden Riley

I’ll try. The thing is I have no idea who I am, and I have spent most of my life developing a habit of creating an armoury. An armoury shell which does not need to be in place. A shell which has become a cage, a shell that constantly tells me to pull back. But the thing is, I don’t believe that I want to pull back that I want to live in fear.

When I was in my final year of high school our film study was Strictly Ballroom, and it became a bit of a joke to constantly throw around some quotes from the film: “Show me your Paso Doble” was one which had any meaning from actually showing up and being vulnerable or more frequently as an expression used to distract the questioner from the original idea. The other one was “A life lived in fear is a life half lived”. My reality is I live with an anxiety disorder, which makes me generally anxious about fucking everything.

So here I am. Figuring out what this all means, right now I am feeling completely clueless about everything and going that this is okay. If I were to honestly answer you about what my definition of success is, I would say I don’t know. But I do know that at least part of my answer would include showing up and being seen (ala Brene Brown in Daring Greatly).

Right now, being seeing is just slowly opening up. I was privileged enough to be part of a mother’s birthing circle and we had the space to just be our imperfect selves, so right now I am accepting a challenge that was not thrown down so much as flippantly thrown out.

I have no idea where the ride is going to go, but I do know that it is going to be interesting, and it’s not going to be for everyone. And that’s okay. I will be doing my best to just be me…not perfect and polished but the true version of me. The one who is lying on an unmade bed with her baby on the play gym, grumpy because she has a friggen stomach ache again, exhausted from a rough week with a screaming baby last week, but who is still showing up in her life.

Love and being vulnerable,
Trisha

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Computer Science and Parenting

Hello computer,

I am a new mom and recently have started mucking about with some computer science concepts and I have come to the conclusion that there is a level of similarities between the two.

Firstly, both of them involve a great deal of repetitive tasks (loops).

Secondly, they both involve a level of debugging. (This is particularly urgent and important when my son is screaming is head off, or emitting mood error messages). The debugging process in both cases involves binary decision trees.

Perhaps the most important similarity is that both of them involve a great deal of not giving up.

Love and connections,
Trisha

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