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Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

I live with a constant and crippling fear of failure. I live with it every day. It tells me things, creeps up on me in the night and curls around me like a sleeping cat. Not good enough, it says. Never good enough. Might as well stop trying.

It is for this reason that I often don’t write when the mood strikes, or inspiration hits. It’s the reason I don’t send my short stories off to competitions, why I don’t pitch to magazines, send my plays for assessment or ask other writers to look at my work. It cuts me off, shuts me down and silence. My fear. My self-sabotage.

Better not to try than try and fail. Better never to submit my work than submit it and face rejection. Hurts less. Costs me less. This way I still keep my pride and dignity.

All of these thoughts, that have wound up around me and strangled my ambition for a lifetime, they are tangled up with depression and anxiety and low self-esteem. The steel blade piercing my resolve.

I have worked and studied almost half my life to be a writer, and yet I hold the inherent belief that I am not good enough. Not compared to other writers whose work I read and admire. I am not eloquent enough to be printable, and not determined enough to be successful.

Better not to try than try and fail.

Better not to try.

The horrible little voice in my head that talks in the background, that provides a constant litany of reasons why am no good, it uses my voice. It sounds like me, works from my vocabulary and with my turn of phrase. Trust your inner voice, right? My inner voice tells me, often, that I am worthless as a writer. That I have wasted my life doing this. That I will never amount to anything, be a success, be noticed or published or respected or heard; that to keep going is pointless, to procrastinate is best. Better not to try, not ever, better to save face rather than deal with assured dismissal and be shattered.

I see other people who are productive and determined, inspired and adaptable, who work on and on while overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and that little voice simply says, you could never do that. You are not that person. You are not that motivated. You are not capable or competent.

Better not to try.

I’m not writing this as a cry for help, or to be told what I am or am not. I’m writing it to exorcise a demon. To expose this terrible doubt that lives inside of me, masquerades as the best advice I could give myself. Because I don’t want to live like this, crippled by an inferiority complex that targets my dreams.

I’ve decided. This is worse, living like this. Worse than rejection, worse than the possibility of failure, worse than loss of pride and dignity.

Better now, I think, to try.

 

writingonthewall

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I’ve learned, after 10+ years of dealing with depression, that preventative measures can make a huge difference when it comes to mental health. This is generally called self-care, and I have certain self-care measures I start pulling out whenever I feel my mood is fragile, like now. Self-care can sometimes mean maintaining rather than declining, I’ve found. I want to go into detail on more of these in future posts, but here’s just one or two to start with.

Maintaining a routine. This one is so important for me, or I drift. I am more than capable of doing nothing for days on end while the chores pile up around me and I get nothing done. My mood can spiral because of the sheer nothingness of my days. With kids, maintaining a routine happens without a lot of effort from me – my days are defined by meals and naps anyway, so I put the effort in to keeping up regular activities like play dates, grocery shopping and outings. I try to keep active when the kids are sleeping and I’m not having a sleep myself.

Keep order in my environment. For me, this involves running the dishwasher once a day, trying to vacuum at least once a week, staying on top of the laundry. A cluttered environment clouds my mind, and it’s hard to stay positive and active when I’m feeling overwhelmed by mess. I’ve taken this a step further, and recently cleared the clutter out of our bedroom and set up a little dressing area for myself, with my jewellery and hair stuff organised next to the mirror. It’s a small space of calm that I focus on keeping tidy, so my bedroom feels like a positive space rather than just one more room that’s stressful for me to be in. No kids’ stuff allowed. 

My little corner of neatness.


Create small goals. Making small, attainable goals can be incredibly helpful for me. Rather than a big, looming five-year-plan type deal that seems both far away and unreachable, I like to create small tasks for myself, or break bigger projects down into smaller tasks. For example, I’ve been sewing a lined swaddling pouch for the baby – this is a project that doesn’t take forever, I enjoy and can work on in small bursts. Tidying all the clutter out of the bedroom was a goal I banged out in an evening, and part of our larger project of getting the house organised. I century organised all my sewing and craft gear, which I’ve been meaning to do forever. Small goals don’t overwhelm, and yet give a sense of pride and satisfaction when they’re completed, which is helpful to my mental health.

 

This isn’t prescriptive by any means, just some things I’ve found have worked to keep my mental health on an even keel. Sometimes depression happens no matter what, but sometimes I can hold it off by being careful, sticking to habits that I know keep me focused and calm. It’s when I start to drift into overwhelming stress and anxiety that my mood spirals very fast. Right now, because I’m aware that I’ve been feeling down and that can easily lead to depression, I’m pulling out all the self-care stops. 

What are your techniques for self-care?

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I have been finding it very hard to write as I am feeling very dark. I would not call it Post Natal Depression as yet… More that I have felt the edges of things I cannot control crowding into me. Maybe I can control them, and simply feel I cannot.

I feel immense responsibility towards my family – the end of my paid maternity leave looms and that means finding a replacement income. I don’t want to go into part time work just yet, it would mean childcare for two children, which is hardly feasible, and most likely the end of breastfeeding Morgan. I hate expressing milk, it’s time consuming and painful and anyway, what job would be flexible enough to allow me an hour or so each day to pump? I want to be home, with the kids. I need to consider my skills, the possibility of selling my writing and the likelihood I would regularly have the time to write.

I feel angry at a society that sets mothers up to fail – for some like me it is needing income yet finding returning to would come with too many financial penalties. For others it is the necessity of returning to work when they would rather stay home. There has been a lot of rhetoric lately about careers and choice, and I think choice in the workforce is a luxury. I am angry that I spent so many years sick, and thus my capacity to earn is greatly reduced because of interrupted employment and education. I am frustrated that the things I truly want to do don’t result in a paying career.

I am angry that society doesn’t value what I do as a mother, staying home with my two boys. Angry that I sit here, feeling both trapped and worried, doing mental sums in my head but mostly thinking about how I would love to work a day for two, probably, but realistically it needs to be all or nothing, full time work or staying home. For years, possibly.

I love em, but years? Years as a stay at home mother? Alex and I talk about our goal, which is f or both of us to work part time. But I don’t know how to make that happen. Isn’t that the dream, though? To do something you love, just enough so that it doesn’t bore you to tears?

Sometimes I feel like family is pressure, to do better, be better, succeed more, and I must have spent all that time leading up to children just faffing around and time wasting (which isn’t true), and not nearly enough time focusing on my writing (probably true), and now I feel a suffocating need to succeed at something, anything, to earn something for my words (or what else have I spent all these years working towards?) and then of course comes the crippling anxiety…

I look into my boys’ faces and feel I am failing them as a mother.

Which is normal, I guess. 

 

 

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Balancing act

Family


Of course, because I blogged last week about getting the hang of things, life had to tear me down. Last Wednesday I got very, very ill, and by Thursday I felt incapable of doing anything other than lying in bed and yearning for death. Conveniently it was a public holiday, so Alex was home and able to look after me/the kids. On Friday I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with tonsillitis and laryngitis and given some rather impressive antibiotics.

I was feeling better over the weekend when Morgan came down with a head cold. Sick newborn babies are the worst – you can’t explain anything, or give them pain relief, or tell them they’ll feel better soon if only they can deal with you spraying saline solution up their nose at uncomfortably regular intervals.

Sebastian went with his dad to see family on Sunday and got worn out, probably quite over-tired, and so for the last few days has been very cranky – not sick, although his nose has been runny, but just run-down and irritable, as though he was fighting off the sickness that Morgan and I had come down with. And today, while I am mostly better, Morgan remains sniffly and Alex came down with a head cold. Sebastian was cheerful all day, thankfully. 

I had energy for once, and so I cleaned – tidying away toys, doing mountains of laundry and putting even more away, vacuuming, doing dishes, cooking a casserole for dinner, sweeping the kitchen and doing groceries. I so rarely feel rested and energised to really get to much housework, so it was wonderful to get a lot done one hit. Of course, it was followed by the guilt for all the other things I wasn’t doing – not blogging, not crafting, not writing or researching. Not doing a hundred things in the limited timeframe on one day where I happen to have some energy.

I keep thinking about motherhood as a balancing act, but really it’s not me that’s balancing – it’s all the things in my life that I need to do or achieve to keep me, my little family and my aspirations running. It’s spinning plates – frantically running from one to another to give it another whirl, to keep it spinning in the air; all the while conscious that while I spin one, another is slowing down and starting to wobble. At any moment it feels like all my plates could crash to the ground.

Today I kept a few plates going a little longer by doing enough chores to keep me sane and to keep the house running smoothly. Right now I’m spinning another plate by writing this blog entry. But while I do this, I’m aware of others starting to slow down – plates about craft projects and gardening, researching and writing articles, photography or writing fiction. They’re starting to wobble because I only have so much time, energy and opportunity and I have to choose where I invest it.

The trick is not to let those plates fall completely. Keep spinning. Keep running from one to the other and hope for the best.

 

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It’s almost Christmas and I’m fighting the urge to yell with excitement in people’s faces about baking and decorating. I am one of THOSE people at Christmas. I have only resisted the urge to deck my house in tinsel and glitter this long because all our decorations are in storage at my parents’ farm and we haven’t actually bought a tree yet.

Christmas is a problem for me because I want to do Projects. I want to bake all the things, craft ridiculous Marth Stewart-esque decorations and produce elegant and unique handmade presents for family and friends with kitsch wrapping paper I upcycled from butcher’s paper and ribbon or something. The reality is that no matter how much time I seem to have on my hands, there is never enough time for this kind of crap. Plus I have other non-Christmas Projects on the go that I should probably not drop over the holiday season in case they never get picked up again.

Christmas is different now that I have a child – it’s exciting again, full of magic and hiding presents and hanging strings of gold beads on my defenseless son the tree. My first Christmas with Sebastian was one of the best of my life – Alex and I went to my parents’ farm on Christmas eve, and after 5-month-old Sebastian went to sleep we built a terrible gingerbread house, and Alex and I slow-danced to the soundtrack to The Singing Detective – Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singing ‘Accentuate the Positive’ and ‘Don’t Fence Me In’.

Sebastian was too small to understand Christmas or Santa or presents that year, but we dressed him up in a silly Santa’s Helper outfit and took him for pictures with Santa. On Christmas day he just wanted to eat the wrapping paper. Ultimately it didn’t matter that he didn’t understand Christmas because we did, and it was special for us just because of all the Christmas’s to come.

Christmas 2010Sebastian 2010, ready for photos with Santa

Now Sebastian is starting to get to the age where he understands Christmas, he understands decorating the tree and presents and yummy food, and I want to make it SO. DAMN. SPECIAL. Thus, the Projects. I’m really having to limit myself to ideas I think can be done quickly and are feasible.

I would like to make gingerbread people with him, because gingerbread is like crack to him. I would like to bake reindeer cookies with him, the recipe for which I found in a Christmas baking magazine. I would like to make a felt Christmas tree that he can play at decorating:

Felt Christmas Tree for toddlers to decorate, click the pic to get to the original blog entry!

Felt Christmas Tree for toddlers to decorate, click the pic to get to the original blog entry!

And of course I would like to decorate a tree, and hang a wreath on the door, and cook a pudding for Christmas day, and possibly a thousand other things that are not terribly realistic. Not when I have other Projects on the go currently – curtains for the whole damn house, sewing maternity tops for myself and toys for the new baby, completing the decorations for Sebastian’s room (including folding 100 paper cranes). Not to mention there are presents to buy and wrap, cards to write, parties to go to and all the other things you commit to at this time of year that aren’t actually Projects but still take up huge chunks of time.

This year is about prioritizing – lovely, small Projects that I can complete in a day, take happy snaps of Sebastian with, and not leave lying around the house half-finished until next Christmas. I’ll keep you updated on how I actually go with this, keeping in mind how much time I can waste on Pinterest finding adorable crafty stuff I vow I’ll do.

What are your Christmas Projects and how do you keep from getting distracted? What gets priority?

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On Saturday I attended the book launch for Karen Adrews’ (of Miscellaneous Mum) book Crying in the Car: Reflections on Life and Motherhood. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have my copy and even just the title resonates with me.

It was a fantastic afternoon for me, and eye-opening in a lot of ways. I was invited by, and attended with, Lily Mae Martin, who is not only a brilliant artist but a raw and honest writer too. Lily and I met briefly two years ago at a Swimwear Galore, of all places. I had no Mama friends, and Sebastian was flirting madly with her, so I asked if she would like to catch up sometime (her daughter Anja is only a few weeks younger than Sebastian). That catch up never happened, because a few weeks later she left for Berlin, and has only returned a couple of months ago after around two years there. But during that time we corresponded by email and Facebook, and I religiously followed her blog Berlin Domestic, where Lily writes about the joys and hardships and mundanities of creating and parenting in Berlin, and her subsequent return to Melbourne. Go look. Now. I’ll wait.

Here is why the day was eye- opening for me – I met lots of writers and mothers and bloggers who are going through the same shit of balancing parenthood and having a brain as I am, and they are out there working, creating, insisting on time for themselves and finding opportunities, while I have been sitting on my arse for 2.5 years feeling empty and tired. And you know what? Fuck that noise.

I haven’t updated my blog in weeks, and a big part of that was moving house and work and study and shitty internet and pregnancy, but an even bigger part of that was laziness. I have written a couple of dozen blog posts in my head and made notes on none. I have thought, Oh I must make time for this because I find it rewarding, and instead faffed around looking at pictures of cats. I have felt tired and resentful that I am not writing, and then continued not fucking writing.

I have felt sorry for myself because I do not go out to things, because I do not meet new people or see old friends, but I moved back to the suburbs two months ago and can no longer excuse this with the thought of a long commute for events/social activities. At a certain point, the problem stopped being lack of time and a 1.5 hour drive to anything good… the problem became me. I have fallen into old habits, habits that I learned as a sick teenager and continued as a sick adult – habits of isolation. I know isolation. I do fine with isolation. Sure I feel lonely, but loneliness is itself an old friend. I read my books and make elaborate redecorating plans and procrastinate about writing anything, because producing work would imply some kind of obligation to do something with it.

So here is my new plan: blog regularly, and not just incredibly long and verbose pieces on A Topic. I want to share the feminist articles I’m reading, the opinion pieces on parenting, the cool tips and tricks on making family life (cooking/cleaning/parenting/crafts/whatever) that I come across. I want to write my thoughts on this pregnancy – can you believe I’ve only got three months to go? And most of all, I want to make contact with other writers and bloggers and produce some damn work and put myself out there a bit.

There it is. I’ve written it in a public venue and it will just be awkward for everyone if I don’t follow through.

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