The Neverending Suck of 2017

I had a nightmare last night about a broken friendship. Again. These dreams were the theme of my 2017, many of them culminating in panic attacks that happened in my sleep. There are few things that have made me feel quite so stupid as this. You can’t even reprimand yourself for panic attacks that happen while you are not conscious. At least when you are panicking while awake you can still sort of tell yourself “are you sure you’re not just being silly” and then breathe a bit or have some chocolate. I don’t know. Panic attacks while you sleep feel really bloody ridiculous.

Of course I’m kind of used to dreamy sleep. And even nightmare sleep is par-for-the-course when you’re me (another sports reference!) but over the last year it has been a bit extra intense. Too much dreaming can leave you exhausted and this lack of reprieve played a huge role in the downward spiral I experienced in both my mental as well as my physical health. For some reason, I had convinced myself that in 2018 these nightmares would stop being a problem. This year is supposed to be better. So far it’s not co-operating but I’m hopeful.

I haven’t watched the first season of Grey’s Anatomy in a really long time, but I think it was there that someone (possibly McDreamy) had a policy of allowing themselves to panic, for five seconds only. And then after the five seconds were up, they would get on with it. I always loved that. Yes, panic. But then stop.

2017 was supposed to be my five seconds. I panicked for 2017. And in 2018 it was supposed to stop.

Of course real life doesn’t work like that. Real life doesn’t observe the clock striking midnight and imbue magic to the act. Real life doesn’t care that you’re only allowed five seconds. It takes a whole bunch of bad-assery to force life to conform to our own timelines. I know there is nothing rational about giving healing a time limit. Still I feel a little betrayed by this silly body of mine. It needs to stop now. The heart palpitations that come out of nowhere need to stop. The seemingly insurmountable fear that likes to sneak up and try to drown me needs to stop.

I am done with all this suck. So I’m trying to put the five seconds behind me and just get on with it.

I Need You to Love Me when I Hate Myself

I’ve just spotted a Facebook ad for a meditation centre which I then clicked on out of curiosity. In my quest to alleviate some serious struggles with anxiety, which presently feel like the worst they’ve ever been (this may or may not be true – I admit to any bad patch feeling like “the worst it has ever been” – I’m just usually way less open about it) I have come to the conclusion that some or other meditation is necessary. This is because it is brought up quite a bit by folks who have shared similar struggles to mine. Which is obviously why targeted advertising is now showing me meditation adverts. That was a very arse-about-face way of explaining why I clicked on the link…

Anyway, meditation…

I’ve used some YouTube videos which have been helpful with the panic attacks that I have been failing to get under control over the last few months. In times of great heightened stress they have helped me. I have not implemented a general day-to-day mindfulness practice which is what I had in mind while perusing the page.

I scrolled down the page a bit and came to a part where it said “How can anyone love you if you don’t love yourself?”

Now of course I am intelligent enough to know that this is not the general attitude of meditation advocates. This is just something that someone using Facebook put on their business page because they thought it sounded cool.

But I have to ask: Why on earth is this a question that we are still posing to people? Is it because it kind of sounds good? Like it sounds like it’s some sort of profound wisdomous thing that someone ancient once said and now we must all adopt it as a core truth of human existence.

If loving myself is the currency with which I have to pay for the love I receive then you’re going to have to paint me fundamentally unlovable.

You don’t really get to love yourself when you pitch up on this planet and from the time you are capable of placing yourself within the context of others you feel like definitely you were put on the wrong planet by the n00b in the soul placement department. You don’t get to love yourself when the loudest and most repetitive question inside your head is what is wrong with me, a question which never gets answered no matter how many times you ask it of yourself. You don’t get to love yourself when almost every interaction with other people leaves you feeling humiliated and defeated, because even though you’re trying really hard you still keep getting this whole being a person thing wrong and you’re trying to concentrate really hard and remember all the things you’re supposed to do and not do but you just know that you missed the mark so many times and probably everyone is laughing at you. You don’t get to love yourself when it seems like every time you slip up and let your guard down, someone is right there to point fingers and call you on it. You’re too loud. Too enthusiastic. Too serious. Too this. Too that.

Too everything.

So please don’t tell me that my inability to love myself makes me unlovable. While I am quite aware that a certain affection for my own self is necessary to my wellbeing, I most certainly don’t need the pressure of feeling undeserving of love because of failure on my part to establish my own value.

Some of us wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those who loved us when we hated ourselves. Some of us would have our self-worth irreparably compromised were it not for souls kind enough to allow us to look at ourselves through their loving eyes for a moment. Some of us are kept alive by the love we know that people feel towards us even though we can’t feel it right now. 

So next time you decided to tell someone that they can’t expect anyone else to love them if they don’t love themselves, why don’t you rather shut up and love them just a little bit more? Because I don’t care how well-meaning your intentions are. That is violent language directed at floundering souls.

This ridiculous saying needs to die now.

How do you even decide on baby number two?

When Noah was about 3 months old we were driving to Sedgefield to visit his great-grandparents and I was happily chatting away to my sort-of mother-in-law about having a second baby. At the time I was convinced that the trauma of my pregnancy and prem birth would subside quickly (it didn’t) and that I’d be ready to produce a second child with a reasonable 2 year gap between them. Obviously, we needed to have two kids. Or four. As long as it wasn’t three! (I remained convinced at that time that an even number of family members was ideal)

“I hope we have another boy,” I said to my other mom. “We could call him Isaac. Don’t you think that’s a gorgeous name? Or Violet if it’s a girl.”

My (now) ex turned to me and with more scorn than I knew he was capable of and said “We’re not having another kid and anyway it would be my turn to choose a name.” (more…)

Dear Facebook Friend…

I met you years ago through your husband. I don’t know how I met him. It was because of The Poetry Project which I was playing with. Poetry meets photography. Two of my great loves. Two things I consistently feel are better served by other artists. Other writers. Others…

That doesn’t matter.

I don’t know how he found me. There are many Facebook Friends on my timeline who I cannot place. I don’t know how they got there. Some Facebook strangers inspire a shrug of indifference, perhaps a moment of confusion. Yourself and your husband inspire fondness though.

For years you have been a welcome presence on my timeline. Though I did not know you, I learned from you often. Your passions come through in the things you share. I believe that even as a stranger you made me a better person. You played that role. I’m sure you didn’t know that…

In the last month you switched over from stranger to saviour. A certainly more demanding role and one I doubt you asked for. In my darkest spaces you somehow managed to be a stable voice, a source of guidance that one that I might not have heeded had it come from anyone else. I cannot begin to express the magnitude of my relief. How do I say thank you for that?

I still marvel at how quickly and how efficiently you “fixed” me in my weakest moments. How you pulled me out of anxiety-fueled panic. You helped me! When I was desperate for it. And all I can give you in return is a bumbling blog post…

Thank you though. From the bottom of my heart. Because in moments when I was incapable of knowing how to be helped you showed me exactly what I needed. That alone fills me with a continuing calm. There is a small spark of hopefulness that wasn’t there before.

That is everything.

The Heartache of Friendship

I’m not a very good friend. It would be wrong to say that friendship baffles me, I suppose, but I certainly seem to get it wrong enough to lead me to wonder if I shouldn’t be questioning myself a little more often. I mentioned in my post about Odette Johaar’s photography that I had in the last year befriended a group of women whom I found quite good for my soul. They continue to be so daily. These lovely ladies tucked away in my phone, always ready to help at the touch of a whatsapp message, even though our real lives seldom collide. I adore them. They make me feel sane. Calm. And honestly? Loved. I am lucky to have them. It worries me, however, that I possibly feel safe in our friendship because our lives are not so intertwined. Perhaps it feels safe to me because we all live our separate lives, and then whatsapp wave to each other on occasion, tell each other how awesome we are, and then carry on with those lives. I can’t hurt you, and you can’t hurt me. Because there isn’t a secret rulebook of expectations that any of us are failing to abide by. The only rule is that we’re nice to each other. And being nice is easy because each member of the group is so easy to like.

My friendship track record in general, however, is something of a minefield of confusion and mistrust.  And then a couple of weeks ago something happened with a very good friend of mine that made me realise something about myself… (more…)

The Sweet Comfort of My Left Foot

It’s been a weird year. I suppose I’m not really ready to talk about it, which is why I’ve been kind of quiet around here. There’s so much to share, and yet there’s a little hesitation on my part. It’s not because I don’t want to share or that I feel it’s inappropriate. I don’t believe in inappropriate topics. It’s just been a weird year.

It’s already May and the only progress I’ve really made is in a direction that I was supposed to move away from. Basically: instead of sticking around South Africa this year and doing a bit of  local travelling, I’ve instead planned a trip to Turkey. None of the other stuff I had planned is getting anywhere. Like how I planned to read more. Or how I planned to blog more. Or actually learn how to use my camera better. Although to be fair I promised myself that from here on out I will not be doing “new year’s resolutions” so much as just all year resolutions. So I shall give myself a break on the things I haven’t gotten to yet.

I did discover something new about myself though. Apparently my left foot is a little kinder to me than I had noticed before. Yes. That’s right. I just said that crazy thing. But I discovered this year that in times of distress, quite out of nowhere, that my left foot likes to tenderly rub itself against my right foot in a sort of soothing manner. When my anxiety is flying high, my left foot likes to tap against my right ankle. My brain likes to abuse me with all sorts of dodgy little anecdotes, and my gut likes to churn for no reason. My heart likes to start racing as if I’m being chased. And then there’s that knot of fear that likes to churn my stomach when I am completely safe.

And so, my  left foot has taken it upon itself to offer up comfort. And, if I do admit myself, it kind of works. I cannot for the life of me figure out when it started. I don’t know why it started now. But as I lay here in my bed the other night, feeling a little wrecked and tender, knowing that no person was capable of offering me comfort in that moment, I couldn’t help but feel grateful to the little rhythmic tapping that once again proved to be both soothing and sedative.

So thank you, Left Foot, for knowing what I needed even though I didn’t. I am grateful to you.

The Potential for Extraordinary Never Dies: Not Really a Valentine’s Post

Every morning I check the “On This Day” feature on Facebook. Perhaps that’s a little narcissistic. I don’t know. What I do know is that it helps with my capacity for nostalgia.

You see, I sometimes worry that I am incapable of nostalgia. You know how most people say that childhood is the best time of your life? Or how people get really bittersweet when they hear a song from their past? Or when old friends get to chatting about “the good ol’ days” and then they get a bit morose about it?

That doesn’t happen to me.

Songs that I used to listen to in high school irritate me. They feel more like a jab of holy-crap-how-did-we-listen-to-this-rubbish. I don’t look back on too much of my life with longing. I don’t miss things very much. Sometimes I miss my grandfather, though even then I have to admit I am probably more “too much” for him these days than I was when he was alive. Would we even get along now?

Anyway, I check my On This Day feature every morning, and I delete all the things that have no nostalgic value. Sometimes I smile at what is left over.

This morning I flicked through my nostalgia timeline and it was filled with Instagram images from my trip to India (I’m sort of sorry about that by the way – in the moment I didn’t realise I was posting so many!) and I couldn’t help but smile at the memories, even though they barely feel like memories so much as just things that happened the other day. We spent Valentine’s Day at the Taj Mahal last year. It felt nice to be able to say that, I must admit. But I also admit it was quite nice to scroll down further and get to the year where the husband and I spent all day posting Doctor Who valentines on each other’s Facebook walls. That made me smile too. Maybe that means my nostalgia isn’t broken?

I sort of thought to myself: won’t it be nice in about ten years time when every day my On This Day timeline is filled with at least one magical thing that happened in the past? And wouldn’t that be such a lovely reminder that good things kind of do happen all the time?

Yes. Of course we fill our timelines with dreadful things too (they’re totally delete-able online though!) but those good things can be so powerful. From silly things like mentioning that you baked a great batch of cupcakes to that time your kids did something really sweet.

Social media is seen as such a skewed picture of life, and perhaps it is, but I cannot help but be grateful for the reminders of celebrated little things, because they remind me that little things are always around the corner. I tend to get so stuck in the now. Caught up in an extra bad instance of anxiety, or being overwhelmed by the trials of a loved one. Those sorts of things take dominance so often.

And yet my cat is cute as hell when she sleeps. And my husband sometimes brings me a choccie from the shops. And sometimes I take a hundred pictures during a walk in the park.

So today I am thinking about the potential for extraordinary. It is always there. Overshadowed sometimes by my own potential for dread. But it is there. And for that I choose to be grateful.

You Are Art

It’s mid-January already.You’ve probably been told that more than once in the last couple of days. Mid-January. Mid-January surely means that the scars of getting through the holidays should be fading by now. Are they?

When you’re The Mom Friend to a whole gaggle of people, this can be the time of year that you playing psychiatrist becomes quite the juggling act. Tensions don’t run quite as mildly as folks on Facebook would have us all believe. Super silly happy family! Look at us all. We love each other. We eat in peace once we have said our prayers. We look like an idealistic painting. Painted by fairies who bathe in the spittle of unicorns.

So it is at this time of year that I tend to contemplate what it means to be the outsider. What it means to be the black sheep of the family. What it means to be the misplaced loner who feels rather alien when it comes to family life. I consider them more at this time of year, not only because I feel them in a small way myself, but because I watch how this familial disconnect keeps happening to people I love. I see how the disapproval directed at them by close friends and family members – gathered together in the name of supposedly the most sacred of holidays for the Christian faith – breaks them into smaller pieces than they deserve to be broken into.

And all I can think is this: You are art.

Because maybe that is the answer. Maybe you are art. We have been told over and over that art seeks to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. And if we are to believe this statement – a statement that I personally hold to be an exceptional truth – then perhaps we are art. Perhaps we disturb the comfortable with our very beings. We may not be a provocative painting or a sculpture that begs questions, but I cannot help but believe that we are a disturbance in the very face of picturesque suburbia, or whatever your familial equivalent of that might be.

Our hair isn’t right.

We’ve dressed too shabbily.

We should really lose weight. Or gain weight.

That’s not polite conversation, we should stop bringing it up.

Have you tried a different shade of lipstick?

What are you doing with your life?

You’re not getting any younger, you know.

All the questions and the criticisms boil down to basically one thing: Why are you this way when you should be that way?

And maybe the answer is that you are art. You are a disturbance in the life of the comfortable. And you know what, my friend? That is such a beautiful thing. I am sorry that this is a hard time of year, one that brings judgements and accusations and  crippling self-doubt.

But you are art.

It hurts and it is a heavy burden.

But you are art.

You are a thorn in the side of those who are incapable of seeking to understand.

But you are art.

You are the most glorious of comforts.

You are the colour against a grey background.

You are dessert for breakfast.

You are art.

I’ve broken up with myself…

When the new year rolls around you inevitably find a slew of folks suggesting that you leave bad relationships in the past. This, of course, is sound advice, and I have followed it myself on quite a few occasions (it gets easier to do with practice). This year, however, the person I am parting ways with is myself.

Of course, the only reason I am putting it this way is because it sounds very dramatic and it will make you roll your eyes.

What I really mean though, is that my travel-loving adventurous self and my introverted curl-up-with-a-book-and-never-leave-home self are parting ways. But only in the blog sense. Unfortunately in the real world we share a body so we’re stuck with each other.

That’s right: I have finally listened to all the experts and I’m splitting my home-schooling blocked-author mom persona and my travel persona up, because honestly the combination doesn’t make sense even to me so I can only imagine how many raised eyebrows occur when folks land up here.

The travel self is being spoiled, because even though she is relatively new, she is still being allowed to keep the Passing the Open Windows url. The older self, that some of you might still know and love, will be adopting her namesake as a url and will be pondering life and sharing her facts and fictions over at Nadine Rose Larter. For now, you’ll have to forgive both sites for being stuck in a bit of a transition period. I like to think they’ll soon find stability.

Here’s wishing you all a great new year of positive changes and progressive happiness. I hope your 2017 is filled with the exact adventures that make your hearts sing!

 

Finally, Nadine!

Hello and welcome to Nadine Rose Larter – the url I should probably have been using this whole time. I do particularly love January and the hopefulness it incites (in me at least). This year I have made the decision to split my travel writings and my more personal writings (although let’s face it – probably those travel writings will still indulge in the personal from time to time) and I’ve moved all my non-travel-related musings over here. So welcome. Or something. This is already getting awkward…

The point is… I’m blogging under my own name now. So that one day if I actually ever finish writing the ten or so WIPs that I have going, I’ll totally have somewhere to share the news.

In the meantime I’ll just keep writing my nonsense!