Category: #ThisIsReal (page 1 of 4)

Sit With The Shit.

Something that keeps popping up lately in my journey as a mother to four daughters is discomfort, and how to best manage it. You know, the yucky stuff that life throws us at from time to time that is often inevitable and most of the time just something we have to “get through”. I think as instinct, we humans tend to push away the shitty stuff because it sucks. We don’t want to experience it, so we put it off and shove it away for as long as we can manage. It might be stuff we are afraid of, maybe we are ashamed of it, perhaps we just don’t feel we have the energy to deal with it.

The thing is though, pushing away this stuff is exhausting. The constant energy that we put out there as a means to avoid dealing with this stuff, whatever it may be – is taxing. The energy we expel trying to numb it or make it hurt less is tiresome.

So something I am trying to teach my girls is the following, simply: sit with the shit. Whatever crap stuff comes your way, the stuff you can’t really do anything about – just sit with it. Don’t try and find solutions, because sometimes there just aren’t any. Try not to run away from it or procrastinate against dealing with it, because it won’t go away and instead it’ll just pop up again when you may have convinced yourself that it’s gone.

Sit with the shit. Be with the discomfort.

Why? Because here’s the thing. Once we have stopped pushing away the shit that hurts or the shit we don’t want to deal with, once we are just present with it, giving ourselves permission to feel it and have it go through us – then it’s done. Once we have sat with our shit, it can move on and so can we. It no longer has the power over us, making us run a mile or problem-solve endlessly, wracking our brains in an attempt to discover the reason.

And what comes next is liberation. Freedom.

Sit with your shit. Be with it. Feel it. So then you can move on.

This body; these breasts.

 

I’ve been on adventures with this body and these breasts that have seen me overcome insurmountable challenges, doubts and climb mountains both physical and emotional. I have ridden through waves of doubt that turned into storms of peril, and I’ve come out to see the other side.  I know what I am capable of as a woman, and it isn’t half of what it was until I became a mother.

I don’t think I ever really had a relationship with my own body until I became a mother. I was 19, and until then my body had served as more of a canvas for clothing and make up which I experimented with. It was a body for sex and pleasure, but it wasn’t a body that I really ever felt connected to or even respect for, really. It just was.

But that was ten years ago. It’s different now.

Ten years ago when I first became a mother for the first time. Ten years ago my body first served a purpose to grow, nurture and provide for my belly-dweller when she was thrust earth side. It wasn’t smooth-sailing at first. I remember feeling a lot of regret and resentment towards my body. It didn’t do what it was supposed to, or maybe was it that I just hadn’t been patient enough to allow it to?

I guess it doesn’t really matter. I learned. I learned to trust, to surrender and to let go. My body grew within it life another three times after that first time. It grew expanded and tightened, expanded and tightened and expanded and tightened once more.

I’ve had pregnancies all beyond forty weeks and one that extended into it’s forty-fourth week.

It took me until my third daughter to work out how to breastfeed, for multiple reasons including a traumatic birth and overcoming the residual trauma left behind from sexual assault. Being a woman with itty bitty titties I thoroughly enjoyed the ample bosom that formed while I nourished Wilding and Beans. Looking at my breasts now, one month after my final baby has weaned one month before she turned 3 – and they tell a different story.  They’re probably smaller now than my soft belly is, which by the way is no where near a six pack but that’s okay . My life-sustaining breasts are now a mere blip, where wearing a bra is totally unnecessary but handy in terms of retrieving them from hiding under my armpits.

The top of my hips are now covered with beautiful silvery lines, where my pelvis stretched with the weight of accommodating my babies as they grew.

After ten years of growing and nurturing my offspring, my body is now purely my own.

My body is soft.
My body is strong.
My body is supple, and flexible.
My breasts are small but mighty.

And my lines tell a story all over my body of the journey it has been on.

Oh, the stories I could tell you.

I’m so grateful.

 

 

Dear Daughter as you near your 10th birthday,

I see you growing up right before my very eyes. Your body is changing and you’re noticing every single occurrence, both welcoming it with excitement and feeling overwhelmed from it, because, really, you’re still so very young.

I watch as you come and wrap your arms around me awkwardly, all legs and arms.. and then no sooner, you’re running off to your room, slamming the door behind you because you want to be left alone.

I know you’re in this place of in-between. I can’t imagine how frustrated and confused you feel. But I want you to know you’re not alone.

We argued this morning, we both said words we didn’t mean and although we have both since apologised and made up, it’s still lingering with me. I don’t want to be someone you can’t talk to, but also, if you don’t want to talk – that’s okay. You don’t have to talk. Silence is good with me, if it’s with you.

I’m in a place of watching you go through changes hormonally that seem totally out of your grasp, and I just want to hold you. I want to tell you it’s okay. I want to tell you that it gets easier.. but I don’t know if it does. Maybe it’s not that being a woman gets easier or if it’s just that we become stronger. Because we learn to embrace our innate feminine power and all that comes with it. Slowly we learn to surrender to the ebb and flow rather than fight against it.

But daughter, I can see why you’re fighting against it. It’s new and relatively unknown, and being a woman isn’t easy. Becoming one is even harder. I can understand why you’re fiercely trying to hold onto your childlike innocence, I can see that you don’t want to grow up.

Here’s the thing, though. No matter how old you are, no matter how many moody outbursts you have or how much you try to push me away – I will always be here. My love for you is not conditional – you may outgrow your clothes but you’ll never ever outgrow me. I will always have time for you, I will always make time for you and I will always be in your corner.

I know this shit is tough. And I’m more than willing to let you live your life, your way, as you learn to navigate it independently. But nothing you can ever do will make me not love you, and there will never be a time I won’t be your constant.

Always,

Mama.

My word for 2017 is “release”.

As this time of year comes around everyone seems to get contemplative; gathering up their memories of the year and taking stock. And yeah it’s cliched because we can do this anytime we like but there’s something about a new year and a fresh slate that is sort of irresistibly appealing.

I know I write a lot about my daughters and my husband but not often about me, I guess because my needs often get shelved as I take on the role of advocate, wife and mother in the foreground most often. Raising four children is often times like trying to shove an octopus into a netted bag – shit is just going everywhere! The process of stripping bare the layers that make me who I am and the fact that those layers consist of my four incredible daughters mean that as they each go off to school, I’m forming who I am again. It’s quietly exhilarating and liberating.

This year is going to be the first time in my entire 10 year marriage where I am not pregnant and wrangling a toddler. For real. Soon I’ll be finished breastfeeding, soon our final baby (who is over 2.5 years of age) will move out of our bedroom and into sharing with her sister.

 

So what about me? I’m 29, and I’ll be 30 in 2017. I had my first baby when I was 19, and that baby will be 10 this year. I’m not autistic but yet I am surrounded by marvellously complicated and layered autistic peeps who I adore and who push me to see the world from new angles. And let’s not forget my second daughter, who is my neurotypical ally.

But anyway. I am studying, and this semester I’ll be taking on 3 subjects and it is my hope that this time next year I’ll be a graduate of Journalism which I am really excited about, because I hope to write part-time for my living after that. Writing has always been a passion and outlet of mine and it just so happens I write about autism a lot because I guess, how the saying goes – write about what you know, hey? I think writing about autism serves as a catharsis for me, and if it’s helping others on similar journeys – then that’s even better. But I know about a lot of other stuff too. I am a passionate hairy-pitted feminist who actively campaigns for better maternal health access, I have birthed 3 out of my 4 girls at home and I could talk about birth all day long. I am passionate about respectful parenting without rewards, shame or punishment and body autonomy and consent. I want my girls to be strong little women, even if it’s painfully full-on now as they’re learning how to master their wiles.

I love art. Our house is covered in artwork; a lot of which is mine but lots of the girls too, and lots from friends and I actually want to buy more but I think my husband’s eyes might actually pop out of his head if I did. I love to eat. Lots. I love to move, I love being out in nature. I hate hate hate coriander, avocado and I think most wine tastes foul… but I won’t say no to a cider. I was abused for many many years as a child. I lost my Grandma this year who was a real matriarch to my family and I miss her dearly. I haven’t really had a present mother for many years as she’s been unwell with either Alzheimers or Dementia (currently undiagnosed), and I struggle with the loss of a role she’s had in my life for a number of reasons –  and I can only hope the way I am parenting my girls is carving strong pathways for my maternal connection to them, despite my own relationship with my mother being unhealthy and absent.

At the end of each year I like to set a new word to act as a touchstone which can help anchor me back to major goals I have for myself. This year’s word was “breathe” which was amusing, considering how often I felt like I was either suffocating or exhausted from treading water.

So next year. Next year my word is going to be “release“.

I’m going to release myself from the hold of toxic relationships.
I’m going to release myself from the curse that is expectation.
I’m going to release myself from the expectation that I have to do it all and be everyones everything.
I am going to release myself from the guilt I experience when I do nothing at all.
I’m going to release myself from the demands others make of me and remember to prioritise my own needs a little bit, every day.
I’m going to release myself from the grasp that four children bring and make dates with my incredible, sexy, intelligent, amazing husband regular and nurture our marriage.

The only other thing I can commit to is regular Sunday Family Adventures where we go someplace new in our amazing part of the country as a family and eat and explore. The rest.. well, I’ll leave that up to the universe. Unlike the majority of the people living in my house, I for one love surprises…. so, bring it.

And would you believe it, my period arrived today – which is normally bang on time, a few days after it was due. So my body is physically releasing now, too.

Synchronicity, yo.

I hope that this year you’re able to let go of what isn’t serving you, find your happy regularly and take time out for yourself too. I am so very grateful for all the support my writing has garnered, and I feel privileged to have made so many new connections this year as a result of it and look forward to a new year making new grounds.

Blessings and all that other clichéd shit,

 

Jessica.

 

 

Don’t Wait; Make It Happen.

It’s really fucking hard to find time to connect as a family. Finding the perfect moment amidst the constant normal family happenings and also the laundry and the food preparation.. yeah, it can seem all too difficult. It takes conscious effort to spend quality time together and when you’re a big family and dealing with the extra challenges of autism it can often get shelved in the too hard basket.

So we’ve stopped waiting for the perfect moments to connect and have time together and instead we have just started creating it.

Once a week, usually on a Sunday morning we all head out for what we call our “Sunday family breakfast adventure”.

Working to our individual strengths, Papagirltribe plans buys the breakfast food and I pick the location. We go somewhere that we haven’t been before or haven’t been to in a while, usually within maximum 30 minutes from home. And it’s working really well… most of the time.

Granted, today wasn’t one of those days. It wasn’t perfect at all, actually. Beans talked, whined or cried the entire journey there and then on the way back she verbally stimmed really loudly which set off Wilding in the backseat who responded by screaming the entire way home. Oh and Beans also got her feet sandy and wet  which she’s often fine with but today this caused a meltdown, Sno got overstimulated by the sandy playground, Rara pushed boundaries hard and Papagirltribe was fairly sensitive sensory-wise too. And I’m pretty sure I bitched and whined a bit myself purely out of frustration.

 

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But hey. That’s life isn’t it? Can’t always or actually ever plan for perfect so we just gotta take what we can and try and have a laugh when we can and keep loving each other through it all.

I hope that our girls will look back on their childhood and see the effort their parents made to connect with them in a real way, amidst all the other stuff.  And know that despite it never being perfect and even sometimes when it was a complete and utter shitstorm – that we still tried.

Feel free to steal my idea, and let me know where your adventures take you and tag me on Instagram when you go (I’m girl.tribe).

 

 

 

One Big Family, One Tiny House.

About a year ago we moved into a tiny cottage in the bush on a mountain. At the time it was a little daunting – we were moving from a large, lush house with more rooms than people in our family and here we were having to squeeze into this tiny house.

I’m sure my husband thought I was crazy for accepting the offer from the real estate we were to rent through. But then again that isn’t a novel occurrence – I’m often causing my beloved to roll his eyes, but it’s been ten years now so he’s pretty un-shockable after all my antics over the years.

Anyway.

our teeny tiny cupboard

teeny tiny

Six people. Tiny three bedroom house.

He thought it would be daunting – I thought it would be a fun challenge.

And you know what we discovered? We actually prefer to live in a small space.

The key to success has really been to cull, cull, cull. We have probably donated, sold or thrown out about 50% of our belongings since moving here. We have had to get super creative with the placement and arrangement of our belongings. It’s amazing how little stuff kids need, too. They each have a set space to store their toys, we have two box-shelves in our tiny living area and if the toys don’t fit then they don’t get to stay.

At the end of the day the main things our girls play with are: Lego, magna-tiles, Schleich animals, books, craft stuff & colouring in (limited to one box) and their outdoor stuff like their scooters, trampoline & trolley boards. That’s it.

We don’t even have a TV anymore. We had no where to fit the one we had so we donated it and we have not missed it.

We don’t even own a couch – we gave it away on Gumtree and have put in in its place a few foam mattresses covered in a tapestry to sit on, instead. After reading about Katy Bowman‘s “furniture free living” concept we figured we’d give it a go, but that’s a different post for another time.

It’s taught me to be really ruthless with the stuff we have. Do we really need it? How often have we used it? Can we do without it?

We don’t own a dishwasher in this house either. So this has meant the older girls do the dishes on a regular basis as part of their daily chores and we also reuse stuff whenever we can, and put dishes away as soon as they’re cleaned because otherwise they clutter space.

So what are the benefits to living in a small space?

Less time of our lives spent cleaning. It takes me about 15 minutes to vacuum and mop the entire house. Housework is so totally boring so I am grateful for this major factor alone.
More space for creativity. Less room for”stuff” means more room to play open-endedly, cook and spend time outside.
Learning how to “make do”. Our girls have learned to appreciate their belongings and enjoy the items they have because they don’t have many and they don’t get overwhelmed with choice.
Less mental clutter. When my house is messy, so is my head. Living in a messy cluttered space stresses me out. Living in a smaller space allows for more mental clarity.
Learning how to get along and accommodate each other in space. We have two decks, two hammock chairs, a dining table and the girls all have their own bed. Sure, on rainy days it can get pretty hard especially if we are all home but that time isn’t prolonged. Generally though, it’s taught us all how to be more considerate of each other’s personal space as well as enabled us to enjoy time together too. We can’t just escape from each other and avoid each other which, isn’t really a healthy regular habit anyway.
More time spent outdoors. Living in a small space has encouraged us to get outdoors more when we are feeling a little claustrophobic. We live in an incredible part of the world, brimming with natural beauty and living in a small space has given us the extra push to get outdoors more and explore and get active.

After having a childhood myself that was rich in “stuff” and not so rich in healthy functional relationships, being a large family living by choice in a small house has concreted to me just where our priorities lie in terms of important things in life.

Stuff is fun, but it isn’t the key to happiness. Stuff and space may be luxurious but if you aren’t all getting along, achieving goals, learning and growing as invididuals and a family in a safe space then it’s not the ultimate.

There is a lot to be gained from less. A whole lot more than we have had before.

If you want to read more about minimalism, check out these links.

 

 

My children don’t always have to like me.

Ah man, four kids and two adults. My husband and I are totally outnumbered now and funnily enough it’s taken me this long to realise that it’s unrealistic for me to expect that all four girls of ours will be happy all the time. It’s an insane juggling act at times, semblance akin to stuffing an octopus inside a netted bag – a lot of the times: completely pointless.

 

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Don’t get me wrong, we’ll do our best to provide them with positive experiences, opportunities to learn and grow. They have clothes they need, enough toys to amuse them (but not a lot, either) and they’re safe, in a house that keeps them sheltered and warm. They attend fantastic kindergarten and schools and they have some great friends.

But sometimes life is gonna be hard. Some days are gonna be shit, and they’re not gonna be happy – but that’s OK. Sometimes they’re really not going to like what I have to say. But you know.. That’s life. It isn’t my job to make my girls happy all the time. They need to learn how to form resilience and how to bounce. They need to be okay with feeling sad, frustrated and even mad sometimes – because that’s how they learn.

They need to know that even though they don’t like what I have to say, that I’ll keep loving them through it all.

If I’m pre-empting every single encounter in their lives, buffering every single fall and handing out solutions for every single problem they come across in their lives – they aren’t learning. They aren’t growing, they aren’t developing and maturing. It’s draining and exhausting for me and it’s unhealthy for them.

Because my children are smart. They’re capable, they’re able. They can work some stuff out on their own, through trial and error and they can learn that failing sometimes is just the way it goes. The awesome, important stuff is about picking yourself up, dusting off and giving it another go. It’s about using this experience as a framework of how to do things differently next time.

I’ll be there to guide them and nurture them through it – but I can’t prevent every upset, and I shouldn’t either. Because that’s childhood: growing, learning. And I’m not their friend, I’m their parent.

 

 

 

Ahhh, holidays. Except not.

School holidays may count as a “holiday” from a few things:
A holiday from school & kindy drop off & pick ups
A holiday from washing uniforms
A holiday from… errr…

 

Nope. That’s all they’re a holiday from.

There’s still lunches to be made otherwise the girls think that being at home gives them free access to the fridge and pantry and they eat us out of house and home in record time. There’s still laundry (oh, the laundry). There’s still dishes to be done and food to be prepped and cooked.

There’s maybe more time spent at the beach. More picnic lunches of takeaway chips at the park. I wish there was more sleep but I’d have to be dreaming.

There’s usually a lot of meltdowns as Sno and Wilding “come down” from a ten-week long intense term of navigating friendships, commitments, learning and managing ongoing sensory challenges. Then there’s other contributing factors to take into account which can be triggering: like sharing space with siblings for extended periods of time, disjointed routines and also the noise that comes from loud little (and big) sisters.

So as a result the first week is usually pretty hard. We’ll hold their space and love them through it because we know it isn’t a choice.  It’s still fucking hard though.

We try and alternate “home days” with “going out days” to provide a little rhythm to the weeks. But it’s no guarantee for anything much.

Then there’s sibling bickering from hyper stimulated or controlling behaviour which is relentless and I’ll try as patiently as I possibly can to help my girls negotiate their (endless) quandaries within their sibling relationships.

I’ll no doubt hide away at times, burying my head into my hands with silent tears streaming because I’ll be wishing I could make things easier for them, for us. My husband will come home, and swoop in and take over from wherever I’m at so that I can breathe a little lighter for a few moments. He gets how hard it is, and I love him so much for that.

Holidays would probably be easier if my girls didn’t have their siblings to take into account. Or, autism. But then again, maybe there’d just be other challenges. So who knows. It’s hard not to wonder though..

So, whatever. We’ll muddle through. At the very least we will enjoy not rushing out the door with everything needing to be done by 8am. And thankfully we have awesome family willing and offering to help, which will gratefully take them up on.

We’ll be thankful for likeminded friends and folk  who get it. And living in a beautiful place to keep us grounded.

We Don’t Need a “Cure” – But Compassion & Tolerance Would Be Great Thanks.

This week I got a text message from someone I know alerting me to watch the news because apparently, they’ve found a cure for autism.

This really pissed me off. And here’s why:

Firstly; it’s really fucking insulting to tell someone who is living with autistic family members who they love and adore and who are made who they are in their essence by being autistic that they need curing. And secondly: well duh – there is no proven cure for autism, it is a permanent neurological condition.

I’m not saying that autism isn’t hard to live with. It can be hard on everyone. And it is, regularly. Every single day. But being autistic also gives each individual a unique ability to see the world in a way that no one else does.

And that makes it incredibly beautiful.

If my husband wasn’t autistic, he wouldn’t be the man I fell in love with. If my four year old wasn’t autistic she wouldn’t ask me, full of awe and wonder to “look at the magical way the leaves float off the tree” on windy days. If my eldest daughter wasn’t autistic she wouldn’t be the incredibly intuitive person I know and love her to be and she wouldn’t be twice exceptional.

So no, my family doesn’t need “curing” thanks. 

Perhaps it’s others who need a cure, but then is there even a cure for ignorance? I’m not sure there is.

Autistic people don’t need to be “managed”. Autistic people need the society they live in to be compassionate, understanding and willing to work at things from a different angle. Society needs to be more embracing of neuro-diversity and learn to see autistic people as strengths, not flaws.

They aren’t broken. But your perception totally is.

 

 

This Time It’s Me Who Is Attending Therapy.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to post about my journey to better mental and emotional health on here but I decided tonight I am going to, because I want to push against those taboos surrounding this sort of stuff.

I’m sure to the unaware eye it appeared that I had a wonderful childhood. I was an only-child and I was pretty consistently showered with whatever things I desired. My childhood was far from wonderful however. It was fraught with abuse – emotional, physical, sexual and verbal. I was robbed of a lot of my childhood innocence that should have come automatically. I had to grow up way too quickly and coincidently I had to come up with many coping strategies that no child should ever have to learn to develop that young.

I’ve been in therapy on and off for oh.. probably about 20 years now. As a child I was shuffled back and forth to psychologists because instead of dealing with the issues at the core, I was managed around them. At  a guess I’d say I’ve seen over 30 different practitioners and specialists. It’s only been in the last six weeks though that I feel like I’ve finally made head way. Finally peeled back enough layers to discover and confront stuff that has been at the root of many recurrent issues that I’ve experienced as a young adult right into my journey as a mother and as a wife.

Six weeks ago I gave in to the nagging demands of my annoying beautiful wonderful most amazing friend and I found a therapist nearby and I committed to 6 recurrent sessions. Six sessions to face up to some shit that I really need help with, six sessions to commit to wading through it all in an attempt to heal somehow.

I’m only up to my third session of which was today and I’m just completely in awe.

It’s amazing really.

In the first session, I told my therapist that I did not want to be encouraged to do Mindfulness or anything like that. With all due respect to those who this works for, this stuff just isn’t my bag.

Don’t tell me to breathe and notice the colours around me, pick up on sounds and other shit like that when I’m barely managing to keep myself together. Don’t tell me to focus on everyday actions mindfully and integrate meditation into movement every day. Don’t. It’s trite and it isn’t realistic and it’s a joke.

 

 

So anyway. My therapist suggested we try Schema Therapy. And what is Schema Therapy? Well, it’s a form of cognitive psychotherapy based on the assumption that current negative methods of coping are rooted in past experiences. It is particularly useful when early childhood experiences have caused trauma to a person and it  addresses needs that have not been met in the foundation years.

A big part of schema therapy involves nurturing the inner child in the present. This means for me as an adult, seeking and finding the joy in childlike things as a way of healing. I find doing craft and art with my girls really fulfils this purpose.

So why is it amazing? Because it blows my mind just how much stuff that adults struggle with in their personal everyday life is connected to shit that they experienced in their childhood. Stuff that goes unresolved, stuff that hasn’t been dealt with and the impact of this on behaviour and habits as adults.

I guess this is what makes me a fierce Mama Lion when it comes to my girls. I guess this is why I talk about what it’s like to live with people who I love who are autistic. Because my girls lives and their experiences of their childhood rest solely on the way me and my husband parent them and bring them up. And I’m not going to ignore struggles and hope it goes away because that doesn’t help anyone long term. At all.

Going to therapy is hard. Fitting it in is hard. Talking about it is hard. Sorting through it all is hard. Adulting is hard.

But the thing is..

Childhood is a gift. It’s not a given.

Not everyone gets to experience a care-free childhood and I’ll be damned if even with the challenges that some of my daughters have, that they don’t. I want fun and frivolity to be a big feature in their lives while they’re young and it’s possible. I want them to grow up with a healthy in-tune mother who prioritises self-care so she can be a better parent to them.

I want to preserve their innocence as best as I can and I want them to actively search for joy – especially because I never got to.

 

 

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