Happiness Curtailed

The other day I read that parents are less happy than the childless. After my automatic snort of derision, I was forced to agree.

Before having a child my husband and I used to go out for dinner to gorgeous restaurants at least once a week, we binge watched shows, played music loudly and stayed up late. We had conversations that didn’t revolve around the intake and output of our offspring, hangovers were a minor inconvenience and our clothes were clean. We spent our nights in the same bed and woke up together when we decided to. We went on holiday on a whim and worked late and went out for drinks with nary a second thought.

We did what we wanted, when we wanted.

We are living under a dictatorship ruled by a nonsensical tyrant who has just turned two. Our freedom has been curtailed by a human being we really, really wanted in our lives. A human being that we fought for.

I am not unhappy being a mother but it is a lie to say that I don’t resent the chains that have been placed around me. The small person taking over our lives brings immeasurable amounts of joy every day but there is a constant soundtrack of nursery rhymes, food smeared on every surface and my car looks like crack addled teenagers have been living in it. I don’t know what the inside of a restaurant looks like but I can accurately remember every item on our doctor’s desk. I am bitten, scratched and kicked daily and the last time my husband and I went anywhere together was when we organised a day off and the child was at school. Sometimes I arrange a babysitter and work late just to have some time off. I would give my kidney to sleep late and have a lazy weekend with my man. Sometimes I feel like there is a noose around my neck and my child is playing with the trapdoor.

History has buried freedom fighters in the hundreds, people who died for causes that I have never had to experience. It is ironic to know that I would readily die for the creature who has taken my freedom away.

For the next decade or so I am responsible for my child’s happiness and I worry that his happiness is at the cost of my own. What does that leave me with when he spreads his little wings to wreak happy havoc on the world?

ForĀ their tomorrow, we gave our today – John Maxwell Edmonds

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Heavy is the Head that wears the Crown

She is alone.

Waiting in the Winter darkness for a bus or taxi, rustlings in the shadows dry out her mouth.

She is alone.

Spoken over in an office filled with brash suits, the glass ceiling smeared with sweaty hands and secret tears.

She is alone.

Making a school costume for her sleeping child, the result of an unwilling encounter with a trusted, family friend. Silently shunned, ostracised.

She is alone.

Doing the grocery run head down and eyes lowered. Painted by leering eyes and wet tongues while reaching for a loaf of bread.

She is alone.

Driving down the highway in her car. Not his. Dismissed and labelled without any consideration.

She is alone.

Listening to the decisions made about her, for her. Her education, her career, her freedom, her life. Her worth.

She is alone.

Stepping out into the cold, darkened parking lot, eyes sweeping the depths watching for threats. Keys clutched in sweaty palms. She is tired of always being on alert, exhausted from conforming to others’ expectations. She is everything to so many but still nothing when it matters. Angry at the betrayals from her own.

A flame sparks. Flickers. Warms.

A hand closes around her fingers, strength flows. 80 000 footsteps march together echoing in the darkness, more footsteps, more warmth. Women before, women now, women since.

She is not alone.

My head is bloody, but unbowed – William Ernest Henley

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Hygge + Hair

I never have my hair done. It’s an indulgence that makes me uncomfortable and I also avoid staring at myself in a mirror for an extended period of time. As my journey of hygge and happiness has evolved, I have realised that it is important to look after oneself.

But it doesn’t come naturally.

My hair is a sore spot for me. It is suffering from an identity crisis. I have noticed that the condition of my hair is the most obvious sign of how I am feeling about myself at a given point in time. Right now it is stressed, unloved and falling out.

Add to the fact that I am intimidated by traditional salons with their harsh lighting, loud noises and impersonal service I avoid having my hair done professionally as much as I can.

And then, my brothers came to the rescue and are helping me help my hair.

Forbici Salon [owned by said brother and brother from another mother] is designed to make people feel good. The lighting is easy on the eye, the decor is welcoming and chic without being pretentious and most of all everyone who comes through the door is happy to be there in that hygge space. You can’t force that feeling, that is real. Living plants and artwork pop up in unlikely places, feathers lift in the breeze and faux animal heads watch over you. My cappuccino came in a burgundy and gold cup and saucer. Massive couches and modern chairs, faux fur blankets and sliding doors to the garden lift my spirits and I am content. I am cosy. I am safe.

My heart is full.

Forbici is a thirty minute drive from my house but I will return because my two brothers are helping me heal my hair and in turn, myself.

It is not indulgent to make yourself feel good, it is traitorous to put yourself on the back burner. When you are on the back burner you simmer, then you boil over and then the flame goes out.

All the stars are closer – Kendrick Lamar

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A Diversion into Courage

This month I have come across a lot of courageous people.

Most of the time we associate courage with enormous acts of bravery involving life and death situations but I have seen courage in ordinary life. There can be no courage without fear and fear is paralysing. Anyone who has been afraid knows that it is a strait jacket around your body and a shadow at your back.

I have seen a man dedicate his life to starving children, he fears that he will not get enough donations in to feed 850 desperate children who rely on him for one meal a week. But every week he goes out and finds a way to feed them.

I have seen a woman face each day with a bright smile while she fights anxiety every minute of it.

I know a woman whose heart is broken after the loss of her husband but makes every day special for her daughters.

I see courage in a teacher who never knows which of her students will fall to depression, suicide, drugs and abusive homes but catches them all as fast as she can.

Courage is the young man who faces homophobia every day but opens his own business and beams at the world.

Fear grips the couple who have opened their home to a baby and a toddler in need but courage is keeping the door open as they lose their hearts to children that can be taken from them in a heartbeat.

Courage is everywhere, we are all heroes in our own right.

I salute the brave people out in this big world who put their shoulders back, lift their chins and keep moving forward while the shadows play with their hair and the strait jacket tightens.

Even heroes know when to be scared – Fort Minor

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Healthy = Happy

We all know that no one is more miserable than when they are sick. Take the common cold for example: aching joints, watering eyes, blocked nostrils, fever and a crushing weight in your head. You groan and sigh whilst you shuffle around the house trailing used tissues and the smell of Vicks. Sometimes you feel so sorry for yourself that you cry a little, nothing is any comfort and the people around you find you annoying. It’s no surprise then that when you experience ill health, you experience unhappiness. But did you know that when you have a positive outlook on life and are generally happy you will recover from these setbacks much faster?

As someone who has sky rocketing stress levels, I know that exercise will help me handle stress better and create a healthier body and mind. But I am also aware of my limitations and have come to the conclusion that I am not designed for exercise. Hibernation, yes. Exercise, not so much. A brief foray into my attempts at fitness:

I tried yoga. I fell asleep in the classes and developed migraines after each session. I can stand on my head though [if there’s a handy wall to lean against].

I joined a gym and got myself a trainer. He fleeced me of a lot of money and the gym smelled of sweaty socks. Also, I fell off the treadmill and pulled my quads so badly I couldn’t walk up the stairs without assistance.

I [very briefly] tried hip hop dancing. They called me J-No.

I tried kickboxing and rediscovered that I have no coordination. I got tangled up in the skipping rope and grazed my chin. Also, the instructor said I talked too much. And I don’t know my left jab from a right uppercut.

I tried running, on my first ‘fun run’ I got lapped by a lovely woman in a wheelchair. She laughed, I laughed, then I gasped at the intensity of the stitch that made me go blind in one eye for several minutes.

So exercise is not for me. Instead I chase a toddler around the house during the day and carry his not insubstantial weight around all night. I have done over 7 000 steps in one day at a shopping mall whilst carrying several heavy bags. I run up and down the 17 stairs in my house a lot because I have the memory of a goldfish. If you have long hair and a hair dryer then you will get a bicep work out at least twice a week.

It’s important to be active but find the way that works for you. Health isn’t only physical, its mental and social too. Do things in moderation. Enjoy and appreciate the life that you have, the body that enables you to live and love and the mind that is your biggest asset to a fulfilled existence.

You do your body good, your body will do you good – Floyd Mayweather, Jnr

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Who is your tribe?

The journey continues, the chapters unfold. The second chapter in The Happy Course looks at how relationships contribute to happiness. Good relationships lead to healthier, happier lives. In essence, relationships matter to the hygge of your heart. So why is it then that this crucial facet of our lives is so often overlooked? Why do humans settle for less?

Relationships are broad. Automatically, I always think of my love relationships and assume that those with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours are less important. This is such a narrow minded approach but I do feel that many of us slip into a similar frame of mind. We put a lot more effort into the relationship with our partner than with anyone else.

One of the questions that the course asks is “who is your tribe?” and this is a question I found so difficult to answer. Apart from my husband, son and best friend I can’t think of anyone else that falls into my tribe. Distance plays a large role in this, it’s obviously easier to form a tribe with people you come into contact with regularly, I don’t believe that is is easy to find your tribe based on superficial interactions with people. To this end I have decided to make a concerted effort to build my tribe with family members and friends who live far away from me, to be more open minded in my judgements of new people that I meet and to give people the chance to get to know me.

No one can survive in isolation.

When examining your relationships with people, you should ask yourself three questions: Who do I feel I am? Who do I want to be? How do others see me?

I can’t answer any of these satisfactorily. I have defined myself by labels: wife, mother, friend.

Relationships take effort and time but are so worth the reward that I encourage everyone to pay special attention to them. Healthy relationships help you cope with upheaval, they promote health and they keep our memories sharp. Do you have someone who you can rely on in times of need? I can answer that with a vehement yes!

My hygge moments always come back to time spent with people I love and people who love me. Ask anyone what their favourite memories are and ninety percent of them will involve another person.

Find your person. Find your tribe. What could be easier than that?

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart) – e.e.cummings

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The Milk [and hygge] of Kindness

It’s one thing saying you’re going to be kind and quite another putting it into practice. This whole week I’ve been feeling that my kindness towards others has just resulted in people taking advantage of me. So, I re-evaluated things. Firstly, I had to come to terms with the idea that those who seem like they don’t deserve kindness perhaps need it the most and secondly, I am a finite resource that relies on the principle of give and take [like most living things].

Perhaps it is not the true gist of kindness but I have decided to be more selective with who I hand it out to. No one needs to be a martyr.

Kindness is defined as friendliness, generosity and consideration toward others. I do believe that I am a kind person generally but I have ramped it up somewhat in my day to day life. I am also making more of an effort to show kindness and appreciation toward the people I hold close to my heart.

It is tiring.

Before I say anything I think about the impact that it will have on the person hearing it. Every action of mine is taken to autopsy and cross examined for motive. I’m worried that I will overthink myself to death and in essence, be killed by kindness.

People say that it is easy to be kind, but it isn’t. When you are faced with a daily onslaught of bad news, gloomy outlooks and generally bad tempered people it is too easy to fall into that same trap. Kindness is like a tree, it needs to be fed and nurtured over a long period of time but it can be destroyed in seconds. Don’t be the woodcutter, no matter how temptingly sharp your axe may be.

True kindness is very much like warm milk, seasoned with vanilla and cinnamon, sipped whilst you are wrapped in a blanket. True kindness, given without motive and received with gratitude is hygge for your heart.

Be kind. Be happy. Always keep the faith that people are better than you think they are. And so are you.

Guard well within yourself, that hidden treasure kindness – George Sand

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