What I have been reading and creating …

Auckland returned to Alert Level 1 last Friday 12 March, which means we are almost back to normal life . Biggest difference at this level is the border closures and quarantines, which have less effect on my own day to day life, but a long term effect on New Zealand’s economy – especially for tourism. It is over a year now since we began this pattern of lockdowns, alert levels and the world wide pandemic status became a reality.

I have noticed that I am not alone in having difficulty to keep myself feeling positive. It is reality that we can’t be happy all of the time and that life is a series of ups and downs, but among my friends and family I perceive more discontent. It’s hard to remain upbeat when we are fearing the ‘germs’, we are advised not to hug and to keep our distance. I thrive on hugging those close to me (and still hug immediate family), but being unable to hug my mum, or hug or shake hands after golf, might be little things on the surface, but they all add up. Hugging and touch is known for releasing our feel good oxytocin, and it does make a difference. I would say hugs are part of my self care routine, and when I start to feel down I know that usually indicates that my own self care practices are lacking.

In the interests of self care and keeping depression at bay, one of the ways I have tried to lift my own spirits over the past couple of weeks was to give myself permission to read in the daytime. In those rare moments when the house is empty except me, I might race around to get a few chores done and then lie down with my current read OR, if I am feeling overwhelmed I leave the chores these days and read the book first. This brings me to what I have been reading over the last 5 – 6 weeks while we have bounced in and out of lockdowns.

Generally, my reading material alternates between reading novels for pleasure, and self help or creativity books in the non-fiction category. As I still aspire to write about our family and Mitchell’s journey I love to read memoirs and to dig deeper into the psychology of feelings that parenting a child with complex needs brings. It makes me feel less alone and sometimes it feels like research. I also read the first book in The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley, but have already passed this on to my Mum to read. Here are a few of my thoughts on a few recent reads.

Not what I expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children by Rita Eichenstein, PhD

This was written by pediatric neuropsychologist Rita Eichenstein who captures perfectly the emotional journey a parent faces raising a atypical child. The books structure for deailing with emotions is based around the ‘cycle of grief’ experienced when you let go of the IDEAL child. Not to be confused with grief from the loss of a loved one, she shares anecdotes from her patients parents and how they are experiencing denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I very much wish I had read this book years ago, before being 17 years into our own journey. It is helpful to look as an observer to your own emotions and realise why the anger, sadness and emotions are rising up. I found lots of practical tips in here. If I had one criticism it would be that it doesn’t cover and capture 100% advice for parents who are caring for high and complex needs from birth, but more when a child is diagnosed a little later.

Do Something – Activism for Everyone by Kajal Odedra

Do Something is a practical book on how to put into practice changes you want to see in the world. While the author is based in Britain, and some of the structural elements of how to engage to change policy may differ, it is a useful tool to discover how to make change happen. The book focuses on how to create a strategy by following these steps:

  • Define Victory
  • Understand your decision maker
  • Decide your theory of change
  • Develop and articulate your message to convince them
  • Identify key supporters you need on your side.

For anyone wondering how to start ‘something’ to make change. That first step of defining victory is so important, knowing exactly what it is you want to achieve by the change. Anyway, it is a short book, well worth the time.

Untamed: Stop pleasing, start living by Glennon Doyle

I have mixed feelings about this one. I was familiar with Glennon Doyle’s previous writing as a woman who got sober and recovered from bulimia. This book is about her journey since leaving her husband and starting a relationship with Abby Wambach – but it was the subtitle of stop pleasing, start living that drew me in. I was interested in the more feminist aspect of the book, about how she stopped conforming to societal norms and did what was best for her. Because I personally have had a non-religious upbringing I perhaps did not identify with what her norms were before, so parts of this just did not gel with me.

However, I generally always find a titbit that does gel and ironically her annoyance with her partner Abby when Abby lies down and reads in the middle of the day – this did make me think about my beliefs around this. I too would feel envious and p**sed off if my husband sat and watched TV while I did the chores. However, is that because I am doing the chores or is it because I can’t give myself permission to have down time? As a Gen X woman, are we just naturally martyrs about getting the work done or is it frustration that if we don’t do the chores then no-one will – imagine how we would live. This relates back to giving myself permission. Anyway, it’s another book closer to my reading goals for the year.

As far as creativity goes, I just haven’t managed to carve out much time for my creative journaling. I am excited to try out Mary Beth Shaw’s Wanderlust lesson, but getting the space to sit and begin is proving tricky. Since we went back to Alert Level 1, it feels like I am cramming appointments for Holly, Mitchell and myself into the gaps. We have had parent teacher interviews, Dr appointments and I have had a followup ultrasound and check up for my lichen schlerosus. I did make a little time to work on a couple of the wanderlust lessons.

Week 7 with Kate Crane was a fun page using Ephemera, and I decided to do this one in my gratitude journal. Week 8 was a page inspired by nature and using a collection of Ephemera with Renee Mueller. I struggled with this one and did not like the way my quote looks on the page as the writing feels too messy – but it is what it is – a learning experience and I tried out my sprays on the canvas page, and used up some bits and pieces that had been sititng around looking for a home.

Haven’t completed the last 3 serendipity classes, but very much hope to make the time this week. Might have to take a week off Netflix as I have been getting a bit addicted to watching the Bold Type and New Amsterdam.

Life is relatively normal as of now, and there is a small possibility the government will look at opening the borders to either Australia or the pacific islands soon. Vaccines are starting to be given and my sister in law who works at the airport has had both her doses. Really hoping that vaccinating is going to make some difference for general immunity and that the virus doesn’t keep evolving.

In the meantime, I can carry on writing, reading and creating.

Cherie 🙂

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