Christmas Resolutions

Image credit: By Kelvinsong, via Wikimedia Commons

Twas the night two days (in NZ) before Christmas… and all through the house world, not a creature was stirring (well, that’s just wrong!) and every Kiwi (and probably Australian too) was hard at work baking a pavlova (staple Christmas food Downunder).  Me?  I have no pav to bake, and my contribution to Christmas dinner can’t be made until the day.  So I’ve been writing and here’s my Christmas post…

You maybe thinking that I’m a week early on setting New Year Resolutions, as is the usual practise for many people.  I’m not though.  I don’t do New Year Resolutions because they never seem to last, and I never seem to be enthusiastic enough.  But as Christmas has approached I’ve realised that I’ve quietly been setting Christmas Resolutions instead.  The great thing about Christmas Resolutions, in case you didn’t know, is that they come bearing a little Christmas magic with them.  A perfect way to make sure they come true.

So here they are.  Completely unrelated, but of importance to me…

Image credit: Connie Bowen (used with permission)
Facebook: I Create My World: a Children’s Book of Affirmations

Christmas Resolution #1
I believe (again) in the magic of Christmas!

I admit that I gave up on the magic of Christmas a while back.  Actually, I had almost given up on any Christmas.  I didn’t enjoy it, couldn’t really see the point, and just hoped it would be over sooner rather than later… with as little pain as possible.  But actually, Christmas is kind of cool.  There’s the Christian Christmas Nativity story, which I’ll get to in a minute, but there is also Santa Claus and reindeers…

I’ve been watching a few Christmas movies lately, my favourite being the one my friend Kathy very kindly sent to me.  That is ‘Miracle on 34th Street‘.  It makes me sad when children, through the ideals of their parents usually, are taught to believe that Santa Claus is not real.  I think those children miss out, on a lot.  I think it’s good for children to use their imagination and experience such tales.

I can remember when local television stations used to track the progress of Santa around the globe.  What amazed me was just how Santa made it around the whole globe in just one night.  Well I understand that better now and it helps that some places don’t celebrate Christmas, so he can zip past those places.  But again, it is sad that those children (and adults) miss out on the magic of Christmas.

So what is this magic of Christmas.  I think we need to get away from it being about gifts and start to see it as being about spreading peace, joy and love around our whole globe.  If each person, adult and child, could have a piece of that this Christmas, then I think we’d be going a long way.  And if it could apply to the whole world, and not just those of certain religions, then that too would be a great move to seeing the world be kinder to each other.  Now I believe that is something Santa Claus would support.  Throw in a few reindeers, and a bit of mistletoe, and we’d be getting somewhere.

One more point on the magic of Christmas.  For a few years now I have been aware of a debate within the Christian church of whether the virgin birth (at Christmas) was really a virgin birth.  I was raised in a Christian home and spent a good chunk of my life as a practising Christian (although I’m not now).  The Christian story of Jesus’ birth was what I was raised with.  Santa Claus took a very definite second place, and I know that many people reading may also see it this way.

So what of this virgin birth?  Was Jesus’ mother really a virgin?  This is far from a theological stance(my argument would probably not hold up anywhere) but I’ve come to my own conclusion that if I can believe in the magic of Christmas, then I can believe in the virgin birth. Maybe it takes a little imagination, but imagination is a very good thing.  And why should we confine it to children believing in Santa? In my mind, it is sad when we limit our experiences to what we see as literal.

So yes, I believe in the magic of Christmas, including the virgin birth.

Christmas Resolution #2
I support the survival of the rhinoceros  (and I did tell you these were unrelated!!)

Image credit: Andrew McMillan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It broke my heart a few weeks ago when I read that the black rhino as a species is now extinct.  Rhinos are wonderful animals.  In my mind they are part hippo, part dinosaur and part unicorn (yes, I did say unicorn).  That spells a wonderful mix.  The thought that we as human beings have killed off a species because ‘we’ wanted the ivory from their tusks, is a tragedy.  It’s happening to elephants too, another animal I like, but I won’t get side tracked.  Why can’t we salute the rhino?  Why can’t we put an end to the hunting, and celebrate the unicorn in the rhino.  That little bit of magic.  If you look closely you’ll probably see a rainbow too.

One species are extinct but we can’t afford to lose more.  As for me, I will do what I can to support their survival.  What about you?

Christmas Resolution #3
I must stop crossing oceans! 

This third resolution comes on the basis of the quote I read some months back and knew instantly that it was ‘my‘ quote for 2013.  Anyone else might read this quote and think “oh, that’s nice advice” but after this year, it is imperative that I get on board with it… and not on board a plane either.  I did something like 75 hours (there and back) of that before I learnt my lesson).

The quote is:

“There comes a point when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.”

I have no idea who uttered these wise words, but I’m sure they were speaking metaphorically, and not literally.  Only I could do this literally, crossing many, many oceans (and lands) before I read this quote. Sure, you can say I was in love and had my head in the clouds.  It’s true.  But from now on I check first on the ability of the person in question to ‘jump puddles‘.  I checked many things, but alas, I forgot to check whether he would jump a puddle for me.  Even if he’d lay down his coat in a puddle so I could walk over it (as I remember my Dad telling me that a gentleman would).

If they won’t jump puddles for me, my feet are staying firmly on kiwi ground.  And I expect them to jump big puddles too.

That’s the end of my resolutions.  There’s no point making so many that you can’t keep up.  New Year Resolutions are made to be broken, but these Christmas ones are firmly embedded in my mental ‘it’s happening‘ list.

So sit back, look out for Santa Claus and his reindeers flying past. Oh, and keep a very big eye out for any flying rhinoceros.  I think that would be a sight to see, but also one to perhaps avoid if you can.  Have a lovely Christmas.  Forget the stress of families and money and food (especially for those of us who battle eating disorders and know this time of the year is the absolute worst).  Have a little magic instead.  Have a little peace.

And while you’re about it, check out the wonderful Facebook page where I got the image from.  It is I Create My World: a Children’s Book of Affirmations  A big thank you to Connie for her permission to use her work.

“Christmas magic is silent. You don’t hear it—you feel it, you know it, you believe it.”

― Kevin Alan Milne, The Paper Bag Christmas

Honouring The Silly In Other People

When someone takes the chance, and shows us their silly side, we are indeed honoured.  We all have silly in us, but it’s not that easy to let it out, especially when we’ve been hurt badly in the past.  When we feel vulnerable in other aspects of our lives we become even more vulnerable to let someone in and see silly.

Silly is not about immaturity.  Actually I think the people who ‘do’ silly the best are usually very mature people who see the value in letting go of those inhibitions once in a while and being silly.  That said, I know very mature people who would never be seen dead doing silly, but I am sure that they would be better off if they tried it once in a while.

Dictionaries tend to define silly as foolish, lacking common sense, frivolous, stupid or childish… but that’s not what I am talking about.  Silly is not a negative thing in my mind, but rather something that is very good for our mental health.  It’s about letting out that child inside of us to have fun.  Silly is a little bit crazy, but in a good way.

The Urban Dictionary provides a multitude of definitions but I like this one:

“The most awesome compliment you can give a person! It is cooler than cool or even ice-cold. Silly is the epitome of greatness, and a term used only to describe the greatest human beings on the planet”

I can be silly with two (almost three) year old L.  It’s easy to be silly with a two-year old.  To let go of adult inhibitions and answer her toy mobile phone as I would my own real phone, drink pretend cups of tea, not to mention lots of other interactions which I probably wouldn’t have with most adults.

But it’s good to know who you can be silly with as an adult.  Those people really matter, because they are the people with whom you can be yourself.  If you can be yourself in silly moments with them, you also know you can be yourself in the moments when you are struggling.  And for those of us with mental illnesses, it’s good to know who those people are in advance.

I really value the people around me who I know I can be silly with, mostly because I know they accept me for exactly who I am.  I also feel extremely honoured when others feel they can be silly with me, because it tells me they trust me.

Recently someone in my life stomped fiercely on my silliness.  Actually it wasn’t the only thing they stomped on, but the silly Cate is the matter for today.  It’s interesting because the stomping on the silly me is perhaps the most hurtful of all, and I keep surprising myself with that one.  I literally cringe when I stop to think about it, because I know how vulnerable I was in letting that person see that side of me.  I’m not talking about the fun, silly but the most sensitive two-year old who dares to let you into their world.  Who dares to let you into their imagination and fantasy.  Who trusts you to show you the real them.

Having that stomped on hurt like hell, but it reminds me to value moments of silliness with people in my life.  It reminds me to honour that part of them, by not only enjoying it, but by treasuring it.  I can tell you, and you probably can too, once silliness is stomped on it’s almost impossible to win that trust back.

If nothing else makes sense in what I have said today, remember that.  And honour silly.  Value the trust being placed in your heart.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

Remembering Who I Am

It is difficult, to almost impossible, to remember who I am when struck with depression, or indeed, anything that takes my mental health off an even keel.  Any number of the issues caused by the mental illnesses which plague me at times, make me forget just who Cate Reddell is.  That in itself is sad, although usually, at the time I admit I am not aware of it happening.

I become a shadow of me.  Maybe the clothes are left on the body, but the body is gone.  The face might be there but the happiness in the smile and the life in the eyes are nowhere to be seen.  If you only know the ‘surface’ me, you could get away with thinking I am still completely there.  But those few who love me and really know me, know that this is simply a shell of who I am.  Mental Illness has stolen from them, who I am.

The recent weeks have been difficult for me, as I have told you previously.  I have felt sad, lonely, depressed, jealous, angry and even at times, bitter.  Those feelings have been what have made who I have been in that time.  They have crowded out any feeling of being loved, happy, grateful…  and maybe a little bit silly.  Today I am reminded that these later feelings symbolise who I am when my mental illness gives me the chance.

I still feel sad, but not plagued by it.  I have seen a glimpse of the real me again, and I welcome her back.  It doesn’t mean the hard days are over.  They’re not.  I have more to work through.  I’m quite clear on that, but they don’t have to rule my life.  I can let ‘me’ shine again.

It has been said before that I can be a little bit ridiculous.  It’s true.  Actually when either alone, or in the company of people I know truly love and accept me, I can be totally ridiculous.  But let me be clear. I don’t see myself as ridiculous, or even just silly.  I’m just being me.  But I acknowledge that I can be seen this way, and that in the past I have lost some important relationships, because those people were unable to understand this side of me.

I so wish those people had celebrated the ridiculous in me, because it is worth celebrating.  It’s not only who I am but it’s who I once was, perhaps even as a little girl (when it was allowed).  But adults (particularly) have (in my opinion) a bad habit of knocking the ridiculous out of the child, let alone the adult who tries to display that trait.  In an extreme attempt, doctors tried to knock it out of me with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) (see On Being A Little ‘Weird’).  Shame on them.

To give you an example of the ridiculous I am referring to, in the past few days I have changed my personal Facebook profile picture to that of an Okapi.

Image credit: Wikipedia.com

An Okapi, so I have learnt, was initially thought to be a magical, mythical creature assembled from the best parts of the other animals around it.  I like that.  I could also see immediately, that by its physical resemblance, I could liken it (a small way, at least) to having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  My thinking comes from our susceptibility to take on the personality traits of the people we are with.  We do that because of our unstable sense of self.

But in my ridiculous thinking I became concerned for this particular Okapi, and this is what I wrote on Facebook a few nights ago:

“Don’t you feel a little sorry for him?”

(Reply by a friend) “I do. I think he must have some kind of identity crisis going on looking like that. What he needs to do is embrace the fact that he is different and be proud of it.”

“I totally agree. I was thinking he might need some therapeutic help to embrace his individuality. Either that or perhaps positive affirmations. My real worry is whether he might be victim to bullying for being a little different from the crowd. That’s why I have adopted him as my FB profile friend. Anything to support him.”

I recognised immediately just who of my friends could recognise, and appreciate, the ridiculous Cate.  That made the post infinitely worthwhile in itself.  Friends like that will always be treasured.

Why am I telling you this? Because for some weeks I had forgotten how to be the ridiculous Cate, and I realised that this was almost more sad than the depression itself.  That person is who I am.  When I’m depressed it is impossible to remember how to be me.

Does anyone else notice that I can’t be me?  I’m not sure.  I suspect that the few who know me really well, and love me in spite of my silliness, can see if I am just trying to mimic her, but I also suspect that to most of the world, they think they are just seeing me.  That too, is sad.

I read a this statement today:

Image credit: Facebook  – Bliss Sisters

I love that, and it’s what I’m going to try to do.  Maybe if I work hard enough on it, I can drive away the depression.  I am still me, mental illnesses and all, but it doesn’t have to be all of me.  There is much more to me than mental illness… thankfully.

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”

~Elizabeth Gilbert

I Don’t Do The New Year Thing

I know I’m boring.  I know it would be much more exciting if I was actually excited about the New Year, but really what’s the big deal?  It’s just another day.  You have your parties and have a great time.  Enjoy the fireworks, if that is what happens in your part of the world, but me?  I’ll hopefully sleep through it.

So with that bah humbug attitude I won’t give you another ’2012 highlights’ post.  I’m sure there will be lots of those, and good on the bloggers who take the time to look back.  Actually this will probably be my shortest blog ever.

As for New Year’s Resolutions, I don’t do that either.  Maybe I’d be more focussed and maybe I’d achieve more but hey, I’m happy (and that’s an achievement).  I’m just going to keep taking one day at a time.

Some of the content in this link I’m about to give might be a bit corny but basically it just demonstrates that there are still good people in this world.  Many of them.  What’s more there are good people doing great things.  Some of them get noticed and recognised, but many more just go on being great human beings, behind the scenes.  In a year there is so much heartache and tragedy, far too much to mention, but no matter how awful it is there are still good people doing great things.  That’s what I’m celebrating (while I sleep through the New Year).

26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year

Thanks to BuzzFeed for the reminder.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” 

―    Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

All I Want For Christmas

There’s a few things I’d like for Christmas.  If that’s too much to ask for, there’s a few things I need to buy.  While I’ve been either lying in bed, or lying on the couch over the past few days experiencing the full on fibromyalgia attack (note, not a flare!  See Namby-Pamby Flares) I have realised there are a few things I need.

Firstly I need a laptop.  Please Santa.  I’ve been ‘writing’ posts in my mind as I’ve lain there unable to sleep.  They probably didn’t make much sense, but if I had a laptop I wouldn’t have to transcribe onto paper for later when I could sit at my desktop computer.

Even my two year old niece was watching Dora The Explorer on her mother’s laptop the other day.  If L can use a laptop then surely I should be allowed to write my posts from bed, or the couch.  Shouldn’t I?  My bank account says otherwise so I’m really pinning my hopes on Santa.  Really Santa, I do believe!  Everything you say is true!  Absolutely!

Next…

I Want To Float

Image credit: flickr.com/photo/40571874@N00/1101392997

Why do I want to float?  Because with fibro, pressure from anything hurts.  Whether I am sitting on a chair, lying on the bed, anything.  Even standing makes my feet hurt.  So I don’t want to be on anything.  I want to float.

What are my options?  Well, we’re short of swimming pools in my part of Christchurch thanks to the earthquakes of 2010/11.  The two public pools that were on my side of the town have been destroyed.  We’re waiting on the replacements, like many other things.  No doubt we’ll be waiting a while and I don’t mind.  Personally I think fixing homes is more important, but the Government didn’t ask me and I see they’re fixing children’s paddling pools at parks.  So swimming pools can be too far off.

I live only 10 minutes drive from the sea so I could take to the beach.  The only thing is that if I’m going to float in the sea I really have to have my eyes open to watch for stray waves, and perhaps sharks.  Somehow I just don’t see that as practical.  It wouldn’t be very relaxing.

One of my favourite television programmes is the English Absolutely Fabulous.  I love it, and actually when required, I can do a pretty good Eddy impersonation.  Eddy had a floatation tank in her house.  While the idea of getting in a tank and closing the lid leaves me a little claustrophobic, the length of the tank she had seems like just what I need.

I have a bathtub in my house but I’m tall, and I can’t stretch out totally and float.  What I need is an extra long bath.  Maybe seven and a half feet long.  I’m thinking that when the earthquake repairs are finally done to my home ( before, or after the swimming pools) I can have the bathroom extended to include my extra long bath.  It would be bliss.  If yoiu can’t find me, that’s where I’ll be.

Whether or not the insurance company and government combination responsible for the repairs would be willing to help is questionable.  But I might just remind them that my fibro was apparently caused by earthquake trauma.  How can they say no to that?

One more thing I want while we’re at it…

I want to float

Yes, again I want to float.  But this time, not on water.

Image credit: Kropsoq / Wikipedia.com

As I’ve said before (see Serious Attitude Problem), Christmas is not my favourite my of year.  I might not have been doing anything practical this week in terms of getting ready for Christmas, but I have been thinking.  Unfortunately I haven’t been doing the thinking I needed to like ‘how am I going to get my shopping done and not stress out with all the crowds now that school is out?‘  Instead I’ve been thinking ‘how can I get out of this?

Much as I have no desire to repeat those years, the years I spent Christmas in hospital or respite care had their very definite advantages – the ability to ignore reality.  In hindsight I admit that it was very convenient to have to miss everything about Christmas just because I was entombed in a psychiatric hospital.  You have to admit, it’s a pretty plausible excuse.  I’m not going back there and I know now that I’m a ‘big girl’ and I have to face reality, but don’t we all need our own escape plans?

Mine?  Well New Zealand is said to be the adventure tourism capital of the world, so the last thing I want is a hot hair balloon.  That way I can just float away when it all gets too much.  That wil be me running from the family Christmas barbeque (remember it’s summer here), jumping in the basket… and away I float.  Bliss  And by the way,in true introvert style, it will just me… and someone who can drive/fly this thing.  Wish me luck.

“You never really know what’s coming. A small wave, or maybe a big one. All you can really do is hope that when it comes, you can surf over it, instead of drown in its monstrosity.” 

―    Alysha Speer

“I Am Worth Loving Too” Challenge

My friend Kevin from Voices of Glass has inspired his fellow bloggers with another Challenge, and while I usually choose to avoid the Challenge suggestions that float around the blogosphere, this one appealed to me.

Remember cassette tapes, and recording your own mix of favourites?  True love was about making a tape for your beloved.  Ahhhh!

But back to reality, Kevin suggests that it time to look at how we see and treat ourselves?  How do we treat ourselves  especially in our times of need?   Actually I completely agree with him.  After years of ignoring the whole idea of looking after myself, because I thought stupidly thought it was selfish and vain, I’m learning fast that actually I deserve some love and care from me too.  So here’s how it works (straight from Kevin’s blog):

“Get a pen and paper (or pull up a blank word file on your computer) and compile a lit of songs which remind you how loved you are and/or remind you that you are worth loving.

They should be songs that mean something to you and my advice is to aim for about 10-12 songs.

Once you have written your list or lists set about finding and obtaining those songs.

Once you have them all, burn yourself a CD or set up a playlist on your music player, that you can use any time you are feeling down or lacking in self-worth and need some encouragement.

And how about sharing the fact that you have taken up this challenge on your blog and sharing your list with others.  You can even share why certain songs mean so much to you.  Oh and feel free to link back here so that I can check out your songs too.”

Great idea.  I love music and while I used to participate, via voice and flute, now I just listen.  Music means a lot to me because it often expresses things that I can’t find the words to say.  While I love music I admit I’m not someone who has music on all the time as background.  It just becomes noise to me, and being ‘slightly challenged’ in the hearing department, it actually prevents me from hearing other things going on.  So when I have music on, it is to listen to.

I’ve made my playlist (see below).  I couldn’t quite decide when it came to narrowing it down, so I’ve exceeded Kevin’s suggested limit by going to 14.  But hey, rules were made to be broken. :-D

How have I chosen these songs?  Well, they’re not my favourites, although my current favourite is included (I’m not disclosing which it is, but feel free to take a guess).  For lots of different reasons, including the music, the words, the memories, the feel, the people the song reminds me of,  and my mood at the time I was putting it together…  these songs are my ‘feel good’ songs.  They remind me it’s actually okay to feel good, and head me in that direction.  Simply put, listening to them is a way to look after me.

If you read A Late Entry… Music (Passions Profile Challenge #3) you’ll know that music is one of the things I am passionate about.  I have a wide range of tastes, and this list doesn’t completely capture the diversity of my tastes.  As I’ve said before I love music from my country so  there are a couple of kiwi musicians in there on the list.  Have a listen.  I hope they leave you feeling good too.

The magic 14 are:

Louis Armstrong - What a wonderful world

Marc Cohn – Walking In Memphis

Van Morrison – These Are The Days

Celtic Woman – Pie Jesu

Tiki Taane - Over The Rainbow

Finn Brothers – Nothing Wrong With You

John Lennon – Woman

Eric Clapton – You Look Wonderful Tonight

Cher - You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me By

Lou Reed – Perfect Day

Tiki Taane  – Always On My Mind

Joshua Kadison – Jessie

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Aaron Neville – Ave Maria

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

― Victor Hugo

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” 

―    Friedrich Nietzsche

‘Pink & Sparkly’ From Aunty Cate

Beautiful! But it’s as pink as I do.
Image credit: Mary/flickr.com/photos/virgomerry/402534971/

I love pink tulips and you’ll be my friend for life if you ever give me some, but actually I simply look ridiculous if I try to do ‘pink and sparkly’.  Be under no illusions.  I don’t do ‘pink and sparkly’.  Ever.

I learnt that lesson back in the 1980′s when we went through the pink and grey fashion phase.  In an attempt at the time to be the 1980′s equivalent of hip, young and cool I had a pink and grey outfit for work.  I wore it regularly but never looked anything but pale, washed out and completely ridiculous.  Eventually I learnt my lesson that simply because something is fashion, doesn’t mean I should adopt it.

Pink just isn’t me.  I don’t suit the colour (I also learnt in the 80′s that I’m more autumn colouring) and it really just doesn’t suit my personality either.  As for sparkly?  I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than me with diamantes, glitter, fairy dust and the like.  Who am I trying to kid?  Sometimes it takes a while, but  I always think it is important to accept who I am, and move on.

That said, never fear.   I do have a ‘pink and sparkly’ outlet.  It comes in the form of nieces, and coming up soon two nieces have birthdays, so I get my chance.  The fact that their parents might not do ‘pink and sparkly’ either, gives me more incentive to make sure these two girls get ‘pink and sparkly’.  Of course it helps that the older of the two (who will be turning six this year) has always been very out and proud about her love of all things ‘pink and sparkly’.  In recent years I have made sure that both Christmas and birthdays were marked appropriately, regardless of her parents distaste of such things.

This year (and to my friends who know her, please don’t spoil the surprise) I have got her a pink and sparkly duvet cover for her bed.  She will love it, even if her parents don’t appreciate the hand-wash label.  Look at it this way.  It means her parents don’t have to indulge her pink and sparkly side because they know full well that her aunty will.  That is one of the wonders of being an aunt.

The second niece birthday approaching is just two weeks later, with the centre of attention being L (who I have talked about often) who will be turning two.  The other day when I was visiting she was taking great interest in the rings I was wearing, so I’m sensing ‘pink and sparkly’ will be in order for her too.  At least this time, I know her parents won’t grimace and be thinking “How dare Aunty Cate!”.  Between now and then I’m going to need to do some serious shopping.

I have a third niece, the older sister of the six year old.  She has never done ‘pink and sparkly’ so don’t worry, I don’t inflict it on her.  She is into doing craft activities and so this year she got a craft project to work on, which she apparently loved.  Her parents readily accept that craft is also beyond them, but at least I know there is a perfectly capable, and crafty nanny on the scene to help.  And in case you’re wondering so far, none of the boys are showing any interest in pink and sparkly, so yes, I am able to adapt my gifts to their taste.  Actually the boys are always much more interested in chocolate.

That’s the thing about being an aunt, to boys or girls.  I get to give them things they would like, rather than perhaps what they should have.  For all parents worrying right now, I promise that I try to keep their parents’ views in mind but I guess I take the ‘all care and no responsibility’ line. Okay, so ‘no responsibility’ isn’t quite right.  If they are in my care then yes, I am responsible. Mostly what governs my attitude towards my six nieces and nephews is love.

I don’t have children of my own, but these kids are very much connected to my flesh and blood.  They are my brothers’ children, and it’s a place I can share some love and affection. Right now they’re also all at good ages to be able to accept and appreciate it (in their own ways).  Unfortunately three of them don’t live nearby and so I don’t see them or know them as well as I like, but I’d still do anything for them.

It’s funny because I know people who hate the term aunt or uncle and don’t want to be known as one.  I love it.  My own aunts and uncles were never close to me, again because of geographical distance, but they are still important to me, and I respect them each greatly.  When I use the term aunt or uncle to describe their relationship to me I do so with honour.  I am proud to call them by that term.  It’s the same with being an aunt.  Actually the first people to call me Cate (instead of Catherine) were my eldest nephews.  Aunty Cate was a whole lot easier for them to learn to say than Aunty Catherine.  It stuck.  The ‘Cate’ and the ‘Aunty’.

Like everyone, I have family issues too.  None of us have the perfect family and we’ve probably all been hurt by them at times.  For me, I think it hurts so much sometimes because family matters.  Even if I wanted to, I can’t walk away from them because we have a connection of blood that binds me to them.  I know I am fortunate to not have had the problems with family that some experience.  It simply reminds me to be thankful for what I’ve got.

Going back to ‘pink and sparkly’, it’s not who I am… and that’s fine.  But I love it in the right place, and at the right time.  And much as families are hard work, when it comes down to it I love them (even the adults). :-)

“Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we’re related for better or for worse…and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”

―    Rick Riordan,    The Sea of Monsters

“No one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood; only family knows it’s own weaknesses, the exact placement of the heart. The tragedy is that one can still live with the force of hatred, feel infuriated that once you are born to another, that kinship lasts through life and death, immutable, unchanging, no matter how great the misdeed or betrayal. Blood cannot be denied, and perhaps that’s why we fight tooth and claw, because we cannot—being only human—put asunder what God has joined together.”  

 -    Whitney Otto,    How to Make an American Quilt

Meet Duncan… A Black Dog

To bring a close to my posts related to Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m taking a different approach.  I really hope that as a result of the awareness challenge, that someone can feel more supported my their friends and family as they fight for mental health.  I hope that someone has a better understanding of the challenges involved in achieving mental health for some of us.  I hope people are talking more about mental health and mental illness.  I hope people are more prepared to help us fight stigma.  But meantime, I am a little concerned.  For the black dogs of our world.

Many of us know how hard it is to be stuck with labels but imagine how hard it must be to be seen as a representation of something as awful and destructive as Depression.  Yes, I’m talking about the poor black dog.

Winston Churchill is the one who made famous the connection between a black dog and depression.  He described his depression as a black dog.  But actually the connection started back as early as Greek and Roman mythology, where a black dog was symbolic of the for-telling of death.  I’m not going to bore you with a complete history lesson, except to say that there is more reading below if you are interested.

This week, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to mark World Mental Health Day, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone (originally a kiwi of course) told the story on You Tube of overcoming the “black dog of depression”, adapted from his book, Living With a Black Dog.  This four minute clip has been flying around social media, but if you haven’t yet seen it, have a look here:

It’s pretty good isn’t it?  And I think what Matthew Johnstone and WHO have done is excellent in promoting awareness of Depression.  But to tell you the truth, I’m slightly concerned about the reputation black dogs are getting.  The rate we’re going they will be in as much danger as Big Bird.  To assist me in my attempt to restore their reputation, I have the help of Duncan, my six month old canine nephew.

As you can no doubt see, Duncan is a black dog but I can assure you that he is not depressed, nor is he adding to anyone’s depression.  Duncan is an over-grown, exuberant puppy.  He’s very enthusiastic, although not too good with commands yet.  Thankfully I had the assistance of one of my nephews in getting Duncan to stay still for the photo shoot.  The only thing about Duncan that is anywhere near Depression is that he gets lonely when the family are off to work and school.  Lonely yes, but not depressed.  There is a huge difference.  As soon as anyone comes into view or even sniffing distance, Duncan is back to his cheerful self.

I accept this is a bit of a silly post, but it does concern me that as we spread the word about Depression awareness, we aren’t painting a good picture of black dogs as a whole.  Matthew Johnstone’s book is an excellent description of Depression, and for that reason I am in total favour of it.  But is it fair on the real black dogs of the world?  It’s one thing to use a pink ribbon, or a lime green one for that matter.  But a black dog?  I certainly wouldn’t like it if I were a black dog.

In attempting to demolish stigma of mental illness, and in particular Depression, I wonder if we might be worsening stigma against black dogs?  Duncan is not happy ( yes, he did tell me) and on behalf of him, I feel I should do something if that is the case.

What do you think?  Am I simply off the planet?  If you have a black dog, what does your dog think about this?

And to finish, some wise words from the man himself.  It is absolutely nothing to do with black dogs, but everything to do with Depression.

“We have not journeyed all this way because we are
made of sugar candy.” 

―    Winston  Churchill

Something In the Wind? (TAGGED!)

Tagged!     Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Yes, I too, have been tagged.  There seems to be quite a bit of this going on, so perhaps there is something in the wind.  Thank you to Kevin at Voices of Glass for tagging me and making sure I didn’t get left out (that was always my fear in playing tag as a kid).

The rules set before me are:

1.  Post the rules. √ Done
2.  Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post.  √ Done
3.  Create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.  √ Done
4.  Tag (eleven) people with a link to your post.  √ Done (Well we’ll get to that later)
5.  Let them know they’ve been tagged.  √ Done

Before I go any further I need to explain that I started to answer the wrong questions.  Obviously my brain wasn’t in gear and I was half way through before I realised.  So actually what you get is half of the questions Kevin answered and half of the ones he asked.  Confused?  Apologies.  Anyway here are the answers you’re getting…

1.  What is your proudest moment from your blogging career?  Actually it just happened recently when someone told me that I had given them hope.  What more could I ask for?  It not only made my day, it made my blogging career.  So a special thank you goes to the person concerned for sharing this with me (they know who they are).

2.   What is your proudest moment in your life?  That’s a hard one.  My wedding was my first thought but then I was so high on Valium (to make sure I went through with it) I can’t remember anything of it.  How could I be proud of something that didn’t work and I can’t remember anyway?  So I’m going to go with when I got my degree in 2008 (Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Social Work if you’re wondering).  I admit I was too freaked out by crowds to face the graduation ceremony so I just got mine handed to me in the registry office.  That suited me just fine.

3.  What makes you feel happy when your down? Seeing the sea helps me feel better.  It’s only a 10 minute drive away so I’m lucky.  Or else there is always my nieces and nephews.  They always make me smile and three of them are only 40 minutes away.

4.   Is there a particular song that makes you happy?

Apologies for the poor sound but it was a little more interesting than the usual version.  As for why this song?  For reasons I’m not going to go into (because you’ll then know that I am completely crazy) the song reminds me of my Dad.  And actually the Sesame Street version kind of fits for the same reason.  It’s always good to be able to be silly, in spite of myself.

5.  Do you have any tattoos and if so what and where are they? At the moment I have no tattoos but for about a year now I have been seriously considering getting one.  I just haven’t completely decided where I want it.  I’ve narrowed it down to my wrist or my shoulder.  But it is going to happen.  And who said people with BPD were impulsive???

Image credit: voicesofglass.com

6.  If I was to get a tattoo on my left buttock and you could have absolute say in what I got tattooed there – words or picture or both – what would you choose and why?  (And trust me there is plenty of room for quite a few words LOL ( Now there’s a mental picture you never needed! LOL) Oh and answering ‘wide load’ would not be nice!  Kevin has a series on his blog of Funny Words, (which is well worth checking out) although I’m often inclined to believe he simply makes words up.  He says he doesn’t but…  Anyway the last word was ‘Flibbertigibbety‘.  He openly said he was inclined to be this way sometimes and I think it would only be appropriate to have his butt labelled as such… and maybe a picture of his gremlin (see here).

7.   If you could be one human movie character of the same gender as you which character would you choose and why?  Please also name the movie as well as the character in case we don’t know them. I admit I’m not good at remembering movies but I’m going with Janeane Garofalo from The Truth About Cats & Dogs.  She was the vet with really low self esteem but I’m pretty sure she won her man in the end.  And she was so good with the animals.

8.   If you could be one human movie character of the opposite gender to you which character would you choose and why? Please also name the movie as well as the character in case we don’t know them.  Another difficult one but Baines (Harvey Keitel) in The Piano.  What a man!  And a great NZ movie too.  If you’ve never seen it check it out.

9.  If you could be one non-human movie character which character would you choose and why? Please also name the movie as well as the character in case we don’t know them.    Alf the Alien from the TV series.  I’m guessing it was the 1980′s.  Back then I just loved it.  And he became a movie character at some stage.  But please be aware I’m not talking about Elf.

10.  Beauty pageants often require the participants to demonstrate an individual skill or talent – if you were in a beauty pageant which individual skill or talent would you demonstrate?  I’d have to sing.  I’m not sure how I would demonstrate blogging on stage so singing is about the only other talent I have. ;-)

11.  What part of your body would you change if you could and how would you change it and why?  (If this is too personal  just makes something silly up like adding wings to yourself or simply decline from answering lol)  You have to be kidding.  I have an eating disorder and a body image problem.  I’d change the lot.  Okay so that’s not an option?  How about what I wouldn’t change?  I’d keep my hair.  I have curly hair and I like it that way.  Everything else can go.  LOL.  One final comment, is that the addition of wings would be great.  Travel would be so much cheaper.

.

As you will see I have completely broken the rules by answering the questions I wanted to, and avoiding those I didn’t (accidentally).  I’m also breaking more rules and opening this up to anyone who wants to be tagged,because I know lots of people have been tagged already.

As for my questions:

1.  What is your favourite movie of all time, and why?

2.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose? (extra points if you choose NZ!)

3.  Why do you blog?

4.  What is your personal definition of happiness?

5.  What is your favourite milkshake flavour?

6.  If you had to give yourself a pen name for your latest novel being published, what would you call yourself?

7.  What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

8.  What are you most proud of?

9.  What do you make of karma?

10.  What is your favourite treat?

11.  Who would you love to meet?

So do you want to play?  Consider yourself tagged and go for it…

It Made My Day

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Obi-Wan Shinobi of Shitegeist recently made my day by nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  The thought that my blog might be inspiring, as well as “keeping the blogosphere a beautiful place” is fantastic, so thank you very much Obi-wan Shinobi.

His, is a blog that I admit I haven’t been following for long, but in the time that I have, I have found myself educated, challenged, enlightened and even entertained.  Just what I love in a blog.  I like his honesty, but also the way that he balances that line we all grapple with sometimes of what to share and what not to share.  Enough of that though, except to say it would be well worth a visit.

The rules:

  1. Display the award logo somewhere on the blog
  2. Link back to the blog of the person who nominated you.
  3. State 7 things about yourself
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award and provide links to their blogs
  5. Notify those bloggers that they have been nominated and of the award’s requirements

7 Facts About Myself:

  1. I have to admit what I confessed to Obi-Wan, and that is that the first live concert I went to was Cliff Richard. Yes, I know it’s sad!
  2. I studied music right through school, learnt several instruments, but never made myself an accomplished musician.
  3. I have walked over the Bridge Over The River Kwai (and I’m talking about the bridge, not the movie)
  4. I want a dog.  A small one but not a ‘handbag dog’.  How can people carry dogs in handbags?  It’s so wrong.
  5. The first protest I was ever involved in was an anti-Apartheid march (in 1981)
  6. My parents were embarrassed when I was born.  True.  It’s says a lot, doesn’t it?
  7. I am currently reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  Better late than never!

The bloggers I nominate for this award are:

bipolarandbreastless

Miss Mental Health’s Rant Space

Laura Susanne Yochelson

Voices of Glass

Yes, I know the rules said 15 bloggers, but that’s it for now.  I’m going for the minimalist approach. :-)