Seven Benefits of Meditation

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Meditation is a great way to relax.  Monks, yogis and health professionals have been passing on this piece of advice for centuries.  Relax the mind, relax the muscles, and witness your worries vanish into thin air!

But comprehensive study has also proven that regular meditation is more than just a way to relax.  Apparently, it also helps the body and mind fight against all sorts of ailments, diseases and disorders.  Here’s what the professionals over at Food Matters had to say…

1. Mediation increases immunity

Relaxation appears to boost immunity in recovering cancer patients. A study at the Ohio State University found that progressive muscular relaxation, when practised daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence. In another study at Ohio State, a month of relaxation exercises boosted natural killer cells in the elderly, giving them a greater resistance to tumours and to viruses.

2. Meditation balances out the emotions

Emotional balance, means to be free of all the neurotic behavior that results from the existence of a tortured and traumatized ego. This is very hard to achieve fully, but meditation certainly is the way to cure such neurosis and unhealthy emotional states. As one’s consciousness is cleansed of emotionally soaked memories, not only does great freedom abound, but also great balance. As one’s responses then are not colored by the burdens one carries, but are instead true, direct and appropriate

3. Meditation increases fertility

A study at the University of Western Australia found that women are more likely to conceive during periods when they are relaxed rather than stressed. A study at Trakya University, in Turkey, also found that stress reduces sperm count and motility, suggesting relaxation may also boost male fertility.

4. Meditation relieves irritable bowel syndrome

When patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome began practising a relaxation meditation twice daily, their symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea and constipation improved significantly. The meditation was so effective the researchers at the State University of New York recommended it as an effective treatment.

5. Meditation lowers blood pressure

A study at Harvard Medical School found that meditation lowered blood pressure by making the body less responsive to stress hormones, in a similar way to blood pressure-lowering medication. Meanwhile a British Medical Journal report found that patients trained how to relax had significantly lower blood pressure.

6. Meditation prevents inflammation

Stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, say researchers at Emory University in the US. Relaxation can help prevent and treat such symptoms by switching off the stress response. In this way, one study at McGill University in Canada found that meditation clinically improved the symptoms of psoriasis.

7. Meditation helps maintain peace and calm

The simple difference between those who meditate and those who do not, is that for a meditative mind the thought occurs but is witnessed, while for an ordinary mind, the thought occurs and is the boss. So in both minds, an upsetting thought can occur, but for those who meditate it is just another thought, which is seen as such and is allowed to blossom and die, while in the ordinary mind the thought instigates a storm which rages on and on.

Beautiful.  All you need is half an hour a day.  All it takes to see improvement is consistency.  So go on, give it a go.  You might be surprised at just how much of a positive impact it has on your life.

when its time to let go…

Okay…so the go cold turkey on the smoking didnt quite work out this round. I managed to last two days before my emotions blew out of control and I caved in, begging Darks to buy me a packet. I was juuuuust about there too. If I had hung in there one more day, that ‘its the end of the world’ mind frame that I find myself in when I havent had a hit of nicotine would have passed. The shakes would have subsided. The urge to kill Darks for no reason other than being himself would have lessened. Pfffft…and I thought I had some semblance of control over my mind. In the nicotine area, my control sucks. The first three days are the hardest, no shit. But…I’m working on it. As I do.

But even though I havent managed to end the nicotine spree just yet, something else has come to an end. And not quite abruptly, if I might add. When the reality hit, it never really came as a surprise to me and, if I were to hazard a guess, I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone really. Least of all me and Darks.

Me and Darks. Chalk and cheese. Night and Day. He the logical, me the emotional. He the popular, me the loner. He the responsible and open, me the reckless and secretive. He all cold and detached on the inside, and me forever burning with emotions that, right up until this day, he has never been able to fully comprehend. They say opposites attract, and that’s us – thats always been us. Even after some ten plus years, nothings changed. Only difference is we have alot more calmer way of dealing with situations now. No more scrapping it out, no more screaming and shouting and throwing things at each other. No more running off for days on end, or at least on my part. Old age and maturity I think. In that way, me and Darks have grown so much. But the core issues are still there. Always have been, and if I stay, they always will be.

In a way, I think Dark is going to be very relieved when he realizes that I am summoning up every ounce of courage I can muster to finally let him go. Even though this isn’t exactly out of the blue, as we’ve been talking about it for a year, I still sense that he’s going to be hurt. But I also sense that hes going to be ok. As for me…well, there are times when I feel I’ll be just fine. Then there are times like now, where I feel lost and uncertan and harbour this gigantic fear of being without the one person I could always rely on to be there for me when life got dicey. I’ll be surprised if loosening my hold over this relationship for good doesn’t kill me. Its been pretty much the only constant thing in my life, and the only semblance of stability I have, even if I do spend countless of hours each day trying to understand where hes coming from, where I’m coming from, and wondering how the hell we’re supposed to find the middle ground amongst it all.

Twelve years of doing that…and I just cant do it anymore. I’ve exhausted all my efforts and have finally thrown in the towel. I have nothing more to give. I cant keep fighting it, or denying the obvious, nor can I make this relationship into something that it is not. And I can’t hush that inner voice anymore, the one that has always blasted me with that truth over the years despite my stubborn refusal to hear it. Even if I did cover my ears and refuse to listen to it then, I’m listening to it now. And its slowly but surely beginning to sink right in.

Its never easy for me to let go of something that means so much to me. Thats always been me. I’ve been clinging onto Darks like hes my life raft – my anchor – the only one that can keep me from drowning. The people I consider close to me – my friends and my family – they only know me to a certain extent. They know only what I choose to let them see. Darks – he knows all of me. He knows me in all my uncensored glory. He can see what lies beneath the many different layers, and can read through the many veils of pretense that I can drape over myself on any given day. Pretty ironic, how I let the walls come down for him, and pretty much gave him the key to my heart and everything that lay within. And hes the only one I’ve ever really let in, truly and completely. Yet he still doesn’t seem to understand me. But I understand him. I understand his needs and his wants, and feel like I’ve supported him accordingly. And with each day that goes by, I’m coming to understand about him the most important aspect of all. That he is never going to change. And neither am I.

I think a big part of why I’m scared to let him go has more to do with me than him. Actually, when I think about it, its probably the absolute reason. I have a hard time accepting the real me sometimes. At times, I confuse even myself. I have days where I question and doubt myself so much that it drives me crazy. And because I spend so much time on that wavelength, I naturally presume that others are thinking along the same lines. But I’m learning to get over it. As for Darks, he may have never understood me. Nevertheless, I always felt like he accepted me – exactly as I was. I fear of never experiencing that acceptance again. But I’m working on learning to accept myself, which, I think, is going to be the hardest – yet most profound lesson of all.

But the pain…oh…like razor blades slicing away at my heart. It aches yet now knows that what I want can never be. But…I’m determined to get through it, because getting ‘through it’ is something I’m good at doing, so I take a bit of comfort in that. I think I’ll always love this guy. And if I could write a list about the things I’ve learnt from him, that list would be a page long. Being with him has not only been an honour and a privilege, but it has also been the greatest learning experience of my life. Though we are currently under the same roof, the gap between us is already beginning to widen, so its now only a matter of time. Despite the heaviness in my heart, and despite the turmoil going on inside my head, I know I have to fade out of his life somehow, and see it through to its inevitable conclusion. He will be ok. And, I think, so will I.

All in my head? I think so…

meditate Apparently, emotions are, amongst other things, a by-product of all that goes on in your head. They are also, to put it bluntly, one of my biggest downfalls. When I look back on my life, I realize that mostly all of the dumbest and worst mistakes that I ever made were made primarily from an emotional point of view.  Even now, I still tend to make decisions based on emotion rather than logic, hence the reason I find myself in boiling water more often than not. I have not always been aware of this.  I guess this is just how God made me.  And although right now it tends to be a weakness, in time, I hope to turn it into a tower of strength.  Converting all that intense emotional energy into a positive force to be reckoned with is what I plan on doing.  Somehow.

Meditation.  There’s something about this that has me greatly pondering if I have finally found something well worth pursuing. If you are highly strung like me and have a tendency to live life on an emotional bandwagon, then seriously… try meditation. It’s been a month and a half since I’ve been practicing it, and already I can sense an awakening going on.

Initially, I thought it was going to be easy. How difficult can it be to sit in silence for one hour, think shining, positive thoughts and give thanks to the universe and God for all that I have? Piece of cake, right? Actually…no. Sitting down for an hour in silence is the simple part. Going inward, calming the inner tempests and attempting to hush the never ending noise within – different story altogether. And doing it every single day takes some diligence, too.

I make an effort to practice it every single morning. Previously, I was rolling out of bed at nine-ish, smoking ten cigarettes before lunchtime, and spending the day procrastinating and wondering how to get myself through the days that stretched ahead of me like a long cavernous yawn. Now, as soon as my eyes opens, I… …

…WIPE THE SLATE CLEAN.  As soon as my mind is conscious enough, I say to myself that, no matter what went on yesterday, today is a BRAND NEW DAY!

…make me a coffee/green tea, wrap myself in my mink blanket, go sit out in the fresh crsisp air and make myself comfortable on the outdoor couch …relax the muscles. Concentrate on breathing. Attempt to clear the mind of all noise, voices, events, memories and anything negative.  Think its easy?  Prove me wrong.

…GIVE THANKS FOR ALL THAT I HAVE. Feel that thankfulness down to the tips of my toes…ATTEMPT to stay in this blissful state of mind for at least an hour mind1 I’m no pro at it, but its getting easier. As I keep stating, there is something that must be said for meditation. The connection between the emotions and the mind is more profound that I imagined. I find myself having a hell of alot more calmer days when I start my day off like this, and if I somehow ‘forget’ to do it, the difference is obvious, even if its just obvious to myself. The bigger picture, about life and about what I must do in order to reach a more fulfilling state of mind, is becoming crystal clear. And so it should.  Because when you’ve managed to reach that lenient state of mind, there are no thoughts, no voices and no emotions clouding the reality. The inner waters that have thrashed about inside of me for as long as I can remember I am finally managing to bring under control. The negative self-talk within gets quieter. When it speaks, I’m actually fully aware of it and can now make an effort to stop it dead in its tracks. And the more I practice it, the more my perception – about the world, about the people around me and about myself – begins to shift.

‘…sitting down in silence for an hour is the easy part. Going inward, calming the inner tempsts and attempting to hush the neverending noise within, a different story altogether…’

If you ask me ‘so what’s this got to do with springcleaning my life?’ the answer is obvious – it has everything to do with it. It is the springclean and cleansing of a mind fogged up with so much baggage that it is, first and foremost, the one thing we must bring back into line if any of us ever hope to reach the level of success and happiness we yearn for. Its the core. The basic fundamental. The key to it all. Control the mind, control your life. Its either that – or your mind controls you. Sad, but true.

Its all in your head. Everything is. Its not easy, and I’ll be the first to admit that. But faaaar…when you think about it, what is???

Going for Gold – the battle to come clean.

I’ve been doing alot of research on nutrition lately. Its an integral part of my plan to go clean, and I think its going to help me immensley when it comes to abolishing all things doing my body absolutely no favours. They say moderation is the key, but I’ve been doing moderation for the last ten years, and from my experience, it’s just not cutting it. Moderation should mean once every month, or every blue moon, not having a cheat day once every week. The way I see it, thats keeping the cravings and addictions well and truly alive so you never really have a chance to overcome it. Moderation is half-assing it. And half-assing it is something I’m obviously no good at.

So its either go for gold or don’t go at all. And I think this time around I’m gonna go for gold.

I have read article after article on a range of health and food related topics in order to arm myself with as much knowledge as I can about what it is exactly that I am putting into my body, and if its even beneficial. Then of course there’s that other secret weapon, and the most valuable source of information you can get. It’s free, has always been there and always will be. I’m referring to listening to your body and heeding its advice on what it needs. Notice how I said what it ‘needs’ and not what it ‘wants’? Big difference between the two. Deep down inside, we all instinctively know whether something is good for us or not, yet we still put it into our bodies. It’s the norm. Call it living in denial. Call it brainwashed and confused by society. Call it the ‘lifes too short, so eat, drink and be merry’ gene. Call it whatever you want. End of the day, when you find yourself looking in the mirror, your only seeing the choices you make on a day to day basis reflecting back at you.

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Anyway, back to the topic. Sometimes, shuffling through all the information online can be daunting. At times, I wonder if the articles are even legit. But the answers to MY specific questions – they are rarely debated with or contested, and it seems to me that nutritionists, doctors, health experts and so forth have all called some kind of a truce when it comes to the simple facts about weight loss. They may edit and revise and word their articles in seemingly different ways, but the facts still stand. And before I hit on those blunt truths, let me ask you this – are you familiar with any of the following?

1 – you have attempted to give up bread, but find you can’t, you’ve convinced yourself its really not that bad for you

2 – you’ve spent a whole week eating clean, exercising regularly, then you splurge on the weekend with vodka/sprite/bourbon/cola/gin/juice (take your pick) – a treat for being ‘good’

3 – You followed your night out on the tiles with a massive day-after-hangover feed of BBQ salads, bread, sausages etc. You call this your cheat day and you have one once a week. On this day, you are free to eat anything you want to.

4 – you do the above every single week/end. Its the norm.

There is more I want to add, but I’ll refrain myself lest this turns into a novel. I’m positive that there are a number of people out there that can relate to the above, and I’d bet on my life that that number is sky high. That was me a mere two months ago, too. Even though I’m now more about the ‘mind, body and soul’ buzz rather than just the lose weight buzz, this information needs to be known. Its free. Its simple. And its common sense. To lose weight, the reality of what really needs to be done has to SINK RIGHT IN.

Here are the blunt truths. Ready to hear it?

1 – Unless your a high powered athlete, an All Black, or the owner of a super-duper fast metabolism, you CANNOT lose weight if you eat bread daily. Two slices alone contain 700 calories, and thats without the butter. A sandwich helps you pile on the weight more than a candy bar. Carbs are your number one enemy, not sugar. Interesting huh?

2 – You CANNOT lose weight if you are ‘splurging’ on alcohol every weekend as a ‘treat.’ Alcohol, pre-mixed and even beer, is jam-packed with sugar and additives and can undo a whole weeks worth of clean eating in a single night. Best bet is to go with top shelf on the rocks. Not everyones cuppa tea though.

3 – You CANNOT lose weight if you have a day a week as a ‘cheat day’ and it consists of eating anything you want in an entire day. Again, it will undo a whole weeks worth of clean eating and see you back at square one in no time.

4 – You CANNOT lose weight, become fitter, become healthier, perform at your best, live life to the fullest etc etc until you change your approach. And the best approach to go with is the following – THAT IT IS A LIFESTYLE….not a diet. Diets are temporary fixes. And rarely work in the long run

Not exactly groundbreaking information I know. Google it online and its all up in your face in a second. You probably knew all this anyway, but make no mistake – it is really just that simple and just that complicated. I think I recall hearing and reading all this banter throughout my whole life. I saw it on the TV growing up, read it in the Woman’s Day, witnessed it in real life when a number of my aunties went this route at some stage of their lives. Basically, it all starts with nutrition. Good, clean, simple nutrition. And it all starts with making the choice of accepting the lifestyle rather than accepting the quick fix.

Thats all it comes down to, I think. Choice. So if you think lifes to short to be worried about what you eat, then hell, eat to your hearts content then. Boil-ups, takeaways Mcds, KFC, bread, sausages, lollies, fizzies – go for the lot, and when your finished, wash it down with that six pack of bourbon and coke. Drink fizzies every day if its your ‘thing.’ Pour sugar all over your cereal. Load your coffee with sugar. And while your at it, sit on your ass all day long. If it makes you happy, do it. YOLO. So live it your way.

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Personally, my choice is the latter. I’m picking the lifestyle over the quick fix, the clean over the filthy, because life is indeed too short – to take your health for granted. I’m not getting any younger. And neither are you. So remember this if you dont remember anything else that I’ve written here – you only have one body, and sooner or later its going to pay you back exactly what you’ve given it, and twice over. So make the choice today. Be good to it.

Color life yellow

Whoever said it was hard to change your mindset knew what they were on about. The mistake they made was using the word ‘hard’ because ‘hard’ doesn’t even begin describe it. Just the fact that I am thinking it is hard goes to show just how powerful the mind controls, when it should really be the other way around. But…it is hard, no kidding. Its worse than hard, ten times, maybe twenty times worse. It takes such colossal effort you might as well try lift a house with your bare hands. Changing your life is to change your way of thinking. Its a total makeover of your life as you’ve always known it, and an overhaul of a whole entire lifetime of habits and thought patterns that have seemingly been set in stone in the deepest recesses of your psyche.

Im not being pessimistic. Nor am I being negative. I actually like to think that, for once in my life, I am being realistic. I’ve spent years and years putting in the effort of constantly pumping myself up with positive affirmations and inspirational quotes – because I’ve had to to combat the negative thoughts that sometimes come as naturally to us as breathing. Of course, at the time, you don’t realize that they are negative thoughts. It takes a while to awaken to the reality of it. At the time, you just think they are thoughts – that they have always been there and always will be. They don’t really have much to do with anything that happens in your life…do they?

Actually, yes they do. I think I am finally waking up and smelling the coffee. Thoughts and everything that goes on in the mind has everything to do with what goes on in your life. Im sure of it. And the famous sayings that have been passed down since ancient times are clicking into place – and are finally starting to make sense.

“…to change your life is to change your way of thinking…its an overhaul of an entire lifetime of habits and thought patterns that have seemingly been set in stone in the deepest recesses of your psyche…”

I doubt that I am all alone when it comes to experiencing the wonders of what goes on ‘up there’. My mind churns endlessly and at times just absolutely refuses to be still. It twists and turns, rises and falls, questions, prods, wants this and that before self-doubt the size of Texas storms in and overshadows it all – and it does this every single day. As I write this, I imagine my mind as fifty percent light, and fifty percent dark. The image I had in my head – half my brain coloured yellow, and the other half coloured black, kind of made me giggle – and yet it also revealed a stone-cold sober truth to me. Naturally, the yellow side displayed all that was good in my life. It held all my hopes and dreams, my aspirations and ambitions – and that unwavering, steadfast faith that has never let me down, even in times of trouble. On this side of my mind, positivity ruled with an iron fist. Smiles and laughter and appreciation for life and all its experiences lived here. This is where all my good memories were stored. This is where an understanding and empathy for all those that I knew – friend or foe – dwelled. This is the side that speaks to me lovingly, encouragingly, urging me to press on, to keep going. Telling me that I am human. Telling me that its ok, that we all make mistakes. And that we all deserve the best that life has to offer – no matter what.

On this side of my brain, I have stood back up after a momentary setback and am once again making plans to go after what I want. I am living my life exactly the way I want to. Visualizations are flickering throughout my brain like images on a projector screen – and they are showing me doing the things I absolutely love – taking Zumba classes down at the gym – writing and becoming a published writer – leading a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle and, most importantly, helping others do the same. Living the example, becoming the example and becoming somebody my baby will be proud of, my family and friends will be proud of – but most of all, going that extra mile and becoming somebody that I can be proud of.

And then there is the black side. Here lurks all that is ugly and all that is bad. Self-doubt, pessismism and negativity dwell here. The voice is of the snarling kind, and it tells me that I’m not good enough, not pretty enough, I’m never gonna make it, I’m never gonna be somebody and nobody loves me. This is where the memories of every bad thing that I have ever done in my life are stored. It may have happened years ago, but they still have a habit of replaying in my head like a bad movie I’ve seen a thousand times. Reminders of when I was a baaaad girl, and thus, because I was a bad girl, I don’t deserve any of the good that life has to offer.

In reality, these really are only just thoughts. But what I’ve come to realize is that these thoughts are a host to a multitude of other things. For example, when I was in high school, there was this one guy that would tease me relentlessly. He called me fat. He called me ugly. He threw the ball in my face one time, which resulted in a bruised and bloodied nose. He was pretty cruel. When the topic comes up, I always re-tell this story – but I tell it in a way where it is intended to be funny, and the moral of the story is that I have moved on from it. I think I have moved on – but to an extent. I have supreme confidence in myself now. I know what I am and I know what I’m not. Self-honesty is very important to me. And to be honest, I think that, when that bad movie plays in my head about that specific time in my life, it conjures up that insecurity once again, even though I am now a thirty three year old woman. When I have that thought in my head, the feelings of hopelessness return and causes me to doubt myself. Which, in turn, propels me to make choices based on how I am feeling because of this memory that is imprinted on my brain.

And I think this is what its all about. There is a war waging within each and every one of us – yellow versus black – but it is up to us to decide whether light is going to prevail over dark or the other way around. Every little aspect of our lives can be improved drastically – if only we can control our mind rather than having it control us. The life I dream of living – the life you dream of living – it has every chance of manifesting – BUT only when we learn discipline in all things – including disciplining the mind.

“…every little aspect of our lives can be improved…if only we can control our mind instead of letting it control us…”

Especially disciplining the mind. That is the major factor. It is, I think, going to be the key to everything. For example, when I tell myself that I need to awaken every morning at six to do pilates, mediatate for half an hour, write for one hour tops and get the house spic and span before baby is up and claiming all of my attention – then thats what I have to do. Its actually what I really want to do, but the mind is constantly on a roll with excuses. I went to bed late. My baby woke up in the middle of the night. I had a hard day yesterday. Or my favourite – there’s always tomorrow. And what if you were more onto it with your babies routine? What if you had meditated yesterday to relieve some of the stress from having a bad day? What if tomorrow never comes???

The health, fitness and self-improvement industry – these are the fields I have my sights set on, and my primary plan is to combine these with my writing somehow. The main reason I have always desired to work in these areas is because I know firsthand just how AMAZING it feels when your body and health are in top condition – and I want to help others experience this feeling too. But although I know I am more than capable of entering and excelling in whatever profession I choose, I am, at this point, hardly in any position to be advising others. I am currently battling to give up the cigarettes, and argue with myself everyday over this stupid, pointless, money-wasting habit. Just the other day I was thinking to myself how smoking was holding me back. But its not the smoking holding me back…..its this little squishy roundish thing in my head!

Lack of discipline and lack of mind power – thats what it comes down to I think. But I’m getting onto that now. I want to erase the blackness in my mind, and paint it with the brightest yellow in the box. Ultimately, this is my goal. But…oh man, is it hard. Hard doesn’t even begin to describe it. Doesn’t mean its impossible, though. Nothing in life is. It just means I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. But I will….eventually.

Anxiety Attacks – I’m gonna fucking get you…

Every once in a blue moon, I go against my loner/weirdo status and brainwash myself into thinking I totally rock in social situations. Recently I found out the hard way (and probably for the kazillionth time) that this is, unfortunately, not true. Social awkwardness is one of my most undesirable assets, and is as much a part of my being as my useless hearing ability. I know this. I’ve known this since forever, and yet I still go through the motions where I deny it, the result being that I put myself in the firing line for all and sundry to be witness to the bumbling mess that is me sometimes.

Like I did on Sunday. It was cockiness that done it. One entire week without a single puff of a cigarette had me convinced that I was invincible. Giving up the smokes had me drawing on every ounce of discipline and sheer determination I possessed. It was far from easy. The whole time, it was like a storm was going off inside of me and I couldn’t stop it. I kept myself locked up. I hyperventilated and got the shakes just about every day. I cried over spilled milk. I wrote endlessly. I even scared the shit out of myself by thinking unthinkable, murderous thoughts about Darks.

Side effects, you see. But after seven long days, and by the time Sunday rolled around, the nasty storm inside of me had abated, the sun had come out, and the worst was seemingly over

I awoke on Sunday brimming with success and armed with an “I AM” attitude. Fuck, if I could do that, I could do ANYTHING. I felt on top of the world! Like nothing could stop me, and I could do whatever the hell I wanted to do and be whoever the hell I wanted to be!

It was Fathers Day, and going anywhere wasnt part of the agenda. At first. The original plan was to just stay home, drink some beers with our nephew and let baby run a muck around the house. In the oven, I had pork, potatoes and pumpkins roasting. Stuffing and pasta and vegies on the side. A coffee cake for later on. Smirnoff going down nicely, and a few more chilling in the fridge. And the best thing of all, my nicotine cravings were very low. I was a week smokefree for the first time ever since I took up the disgusting habit, fifteen odd years ago.

It was the perfect Sunday!

And then Darks waltzes into the kitchen while I am poking potatoes, “Mubs, is it alright if we go to BJ’s for a beer?”

I’m sure my face fell ten feet. “But…I’ve made you’s a dinner?”

“I know, mubs. I’m sorry. We can still have dinner…when we get back?”

I shrug. I’m no good at pretending when I’m displeased about something, but that’s just me.

A while later, Becks arrives to pick up the passengers. Becks and BJ are friends of our cousins, and they have been around for a coffee once or twice. They hail from New Zealand too, and have been in Australia for eight years. Just another Maori couple trying to get ahead for their family, and wise enough to know that it’s just not going to happen in New Zealand.

My nephew and Darks are out the door and in the car in a shot. Sullenly, I trod back into the house. I resign myself to drinking all by lonesome, staring at the walls and listening to Beyonce songs. Not to mention the Fathers Day memories of my own two dads, floating around in my house and in my brain. One father dead, and the other I havent talked to in years.

Tragic. So much for “I AM…”

I’m about to take a long swig of my Smirnoff when Becks pops her head back in and is all “Why don’t you come?”

That doesn’t sound too bad, actually. But…”Um…I would. But the roast is on in the oven.”

“I can come back and pick you up in an hour if you like?”

So…approximately an hour later, “I AM.” Meaning I am sitting amongst a group of people I know, but don’t really know, getting pleasantly drunk and playing the role of a social butterfly to perfection. Guitars and trumpets and harmonicas are being skilfully played. Rowdiness, loud drunken banter and cigarette smoke is in the air. And the roast, pasta, stuffing, vegies and coffee cake, which I spent all morning lovingly preparing, has been deserted at home.

“Awwww. Your baby is so cute,” Becks comments. She is downing Tooheys. I wonder if I could ever warm to her. She is very friendly, and has the smiliest pair of eyes I’ve ever looked into.

“Shes a cutie, aye.” I agree, keeping my eyes on my baby pottering around and wondering what kind of havoc she was gonna cause here. I could see potential for her to cause destruction everywhere. Guitars and trumpets sat on the outdoor seats. She was eating chips out of a glass bowl. Any second, she could just drop that. She could pull the blinds down? She could, in one swift movement, knock all those bottles off the table, send some smashing to the ground even…

“How old is she again?” Becks butts in to my thoughts.

“Two and a half. Shes gonna be three in December.”

“Awwww.”

“How many kids do you have?” I ask.

“Just the one, Jamie.”

“Oh, so the boys belong to him?”

She nods. “Jamie was three when I met him.”

Now its my turn to be all “Awwwww. Do you guys plan on having anymore?”

“Absolutely not!” she says, and we both laugh. “What about you?”

“Yup. When babies five and when I’m thirty-five. Thats when she’s getting her brother.”

“Awwww. You’ve got it all sussed out then?”

“I hope so.” I say.

To be honest, I’m having a marvellous time. It feels good being out of the confines of my claustrophobic house and just mingling with people. I sing. I smile. I drink. When baby drops the glass bowl, as I predicted she would, and glass shatters everywhere, Becks shoo’s away my frantic apologies and forces me to sit down while she cleans it up.

“Hold the baby,” she orders. “And don’t look so guttered. It was only from the two dollar shop.”

I smile gratefully. And then Becks husband is calling out to me from across the table. “I think I know someone your dad might know,” BJ yells out. BJ hails from Te Teko, New Zealand, which has got to be some kind of coincidence, as that is where my biological family come from. I wonder if he’s yelling because he knows I’m deaf, or if he is drunk. Either way, I’m just glad I don’t have to ask him to repeat himself.

“Whose that?”

“A Douglas? He was this big dude,” he puffs his arms out. “And black. And scary.”

“That sounds like my Dads brother, Douglas.”

“He’s about…sixteen, seventeen?”

“Oh nah, that’s too young.” I say.

“I think his name was Douglas. Did your Dad have much brothers?”

“Shes adopted, bro,” Darks butts in. Unnecessarily “She was brought up with another family.”

“Oh true.” BJ nods and everyone looks at me as if I am from Mars. Except for Darks, whose looking at me with…pride? But I could have got that wrong.

I wanna kick him in the toe. But he’s sitting way across the other side. I smile in a way that’s meant to appear benign to everyone else, but threatening to him. “Fostered, actually. My real mother dropped me on my head. Thats why I’m fucked. Ha ha ha.”

And no-one laughed. Well, they laughed, but it wasnt genuine laughter. It was the kind of laughter that is meant to humour somebody else, in this case me. Not because it was funny but because it was, well, the opposite of funny. It was unfunny. But what of it. I’m use to that. I let out another mirthless laugh, and tug at babies clothes as if to straighten them. Trying to detract the attention away from myself before I make things worse.

And then it happened. Things did get worse. It swooped down on me so suddenly, I literally gasp out loud. Luckily Becks was too busy sweeping up broken glass to notice, and everybody else was fully immersed in singing a rendition of The Eagles ‘Hotel California.’

I smile at the sea of faces. I mime the words to Hotel California, and clink my bottle against Becks when she returns to her seat. I engage in conversation automatically. Meanwhile, my insides are slowly, but surely, turning to shit. My vision blurs. My pulse quickens. My heart begins to thump away like a bongo drum in my chest. After a few minutes, the rowdiness becomes faint, and the only sound I can hear is the trombone-like sound going off in my ears.

Actually, it’s the worst anxiety attack I’ve had in years. Many years.

I turn to Becks and, without thinking, I say, “Can I have a smoke please?”

She raises an eyebrow. “I thought you’d given up?”

“I have. But…one won’t hurt.”

And she gives me a lecture about how I’ve done so well, and how I don’t really want a smoke, and is all encouraging and telling me to be strong. She can’t see that I am gasping for a breath and near ready to tell her to shove her lecture and just give me a fucking smoke before I kill her. But that would be unfair. And so out of line.

I just manage an exasperated, “Ohhh…alright then.” Then I add, “Is it ok if I feed baby? She must be hungry now.” We look over at my girl, who is staring with fascination at one of the Koro’s.  He is strumming the guitar, singing, and playing the harmonica all at the same time. She is jacked up on chips and chocolate and looks anything but hungry.

Becks looks at me oddly. “She’s ok, doll. Here. Have another beer.”

“Umm I think I’ll feed baby first. Is that ok?” I squeak. I sound desperate and out of breath.

Becks just nods. Its begun. Shes looking at me sideways. “Ok, doll. Help yourself.”

“Thanks!”

In the kitchen, I dish baby some food into a plate, all the while trying to catch my breath. I wipe at my forehead, and realise that I’m dripping sweat. My heart is racing at a hundred kilometers an hour, and it feels like an invisible hand is squeezing at my throat. I have to fight back the urge to burst into tears. I dump baby at the table, dump her plate in front of her, then make a big show of feeding her, even though she’s perfectly capable of feeding herself.

I cant believe this is happening to me. I don’t know why this happening to me. It must have been the lack of nicotine in my body that brought it on. All I know is that I havent felt it this badly in years. My throat is dry as paper and aches. Tears are bursting out of my eyelids disobediently, and rolling down my cheeks. I angrily wipe them away. I take my time feeding my girl because I cannot fathom going back out again. I cannot face anybody. I just want to go home. Back to my four walls. Back to my claustrophobic house. Back to being a loner/weirdo with bugger all friends.

Back to the only place I feel safe. So much for the I AM. I am nowhere near a social butterfly. I must have been dreaming. Cant say I didn’t know though. Temporary amnesia. It happens all the time.

I look down at my baby. She chews her food silently, staring up at me, wisdom in her big brown eyes, as if she knows. And so she should. She is pretty much the only one besides God who ever witnesses me in these sorry states.

In the end, I ditch Darks, who is away with the fairies anyway and doesn’t even notice me leave. My cousin takes me and my baby home. On the way, I blabber on nonsensical to her just to keep myself from falling apart. Cant even remember what I talked about, to be honest. All I remember was wanting to get the hell home so this grip on my throat could loosen, and this ridiculousness could come to an end.

Which it did. Eventually. And later on, when I was over it, I didn’t go crawling back into my hole, like I normally do after these anxiety attacks hit. Nor did I make excuses. Nor did I feel sorry for myself. Nor did I say to myself that I was never putting myself through that again. When it was over and my breathing had returned to normal, I jumped on the internet and began looking it up.

It was the look in my babies eyes that did it, when I was feeding her at Becks. That was a defining moment for me. I want her to be a strong, confident woman, and its pretty obvious she’s not going to be one if I continue to let her see me in all my anxiety-ridden glory.

Knowledge is key – that’s how I gave up smoking. I’ve come to a few conclusions about my anxiety attacks, but nothing definite yet.

As I said in my previous post – there’s no room for excuses anymore. I intend to control as much of my life as possible, and not the other way around. Being a loner is one thing. Being angst-ridden is another. I’ve got this. As surely as I got the nicotine, I’ll get the anxiety too.

Another thing to add to my ‘to-do’ list.

I’M GONNA GET YOU!

 

In the wardrobe

Jenny stepped outside, shutting the front door firmly behind her.  Overcast day, and yet not a slight breeze blowing in the air.  The little bit of sun that peeked through the clouds tickled its rays upon her face as she trudged down the driveway and paddled down the street.  In the distance she could hear the sounds of laughter and yelling.  Other kids, making their way to school, probably.

God, please make them leave me alone.  Just until I get down to the river.  Please, Lord.

She inhaled long and deep, then exhaled loudly as if to release the tension that was building inside of her body.  It had nothing to do with facing those kids and their mean, vicious taunts she listened to on an almost daily basis.  She was accustomed to that, although not having to deal with it for one day would be marvellous.  But no.  Bullies was the last thing on her mind right now.  She had far more pressing matters to deal to.  Such as dodging school for the first time in her entire life to get out of running the dreaded Cross Country which she absolutely detested.

Although I could do with some exercise.  God knows my size eighteen frame needs it.  But the pain.  The taunts.  No way.  No way in hell…

She dragged her feet, her heart beginning to pound more rapidly at the thought of it.  She was going to wag school.  Dodge.  Commit truancy.  An image of her father’s face flashed before her eyes.  He was frowning and solemn, his eyes laced with disappointment.  But he was dead now, deader than a doornail.  Had been for a year, so what did it matter?  She pushed the image back, way back into the darkest corners of her brain.

She approached the roundabout and crossed the road.

I’m gonna do it.  I’m really gonna do it.  I’m gonna dodge school.  I’m gonna go through with the plan!

Thinking this to herself.  Encouraging herself.  Telling herself that she can do it.

She paddled on.  Eyes downcast.  She only lifted her head when she heard a familiar voice, and as soon as she laid eyes on the lanky boy with the ginger hair, she cringed, her insides shrivelling up, the plan momentarily forgotten.  He was up ahead of her, fooling around with his cronies.  Jenny lugged back, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t turn his head and see her.  No such luck.  She lifted her head even higher and walked forward nonchalantly, feigning ignorance as the boy whooped loudly and stopped up ahead to wait for her.

How unlucky could you get?  Seriously?

“Whoooa….is it a bird?  Is it a plane?  No…ITS AN EARTHQUAKE!!!  Hang on for your life everyone, its Earthquake Jennnnnaaaaay!”

The entire reason why she didn’t want to run Cross Country.  Because then this is what she’d be listening to all day.  And not just from him either.  Jenny stared at him in what she hoped was a menacing glare.  She walked past the lot of them, nose still in the air, looking for all the world as if she didn’t care one bit.  Inside, she just wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

The story of her life really.

After they ran ahead, still laughing and warning the other kids walking to school about the upcoming ‘Earthquake’ Jenny spotted the opening that led into the river bank.  She doodled, pulled back, allowing other students to pass her by.  She waited.  Then when she was certain that no-one was looking, she slipped away.  Unseen.

So far, so good.

She’d been here plenty of times before.  And she knew exactly where she was going to hide.  She trudged on and on, through long blades of grass until she came to the river bank.  She climbed up, ran down the little hill and made her way towards the tall, magnificent willow tree perched on the edge of Sullivan’s lake.  Its branches were perfect for concealing herself from prying eyes.  Not that very many people came down here, but still.  It was better that she was safe, rather than sorry

That’s why I have to pull this off.  I’ve got to make sure this plan runs – flawlessly.

She sat near the water, concealed with willow branches, keeping an eye out now and then.  She glanced at her watch.  8.25am.  Her mother was still at home, but in two more hours, she’d be sitting in the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, answering calls.  Jenny decided to wait where she was until ten.  She stood, glanced around again, then pulled her t-shirt and Billabong shorts out of her bag.  First things first.  Get out of her uniform.  Inconspicuous was the key.  If she was spotted walking the streets, during school hours, with her uniform on, anyone would be able to tell she was playing hooky. .  She couldn’t afford to be spotted, couldn’t afford for her mother to get the phone call that she – the supposedly good daughter who practically had no friends, yet managed to acquire A grades in spite of this – was dodging off school.  Disappointing her mother was the last thing she wanted to do.  The very last thing.

The minutes dragged.  And dragged.  She stood, sat, threw gravel dirt in the water.  She must have pulled out one thousand blades of grass and glanced at her watch a million times.  She sat, stood, did a jig by the river pretending to be Scary Spice from the Spice Girls.  Sat, stood, and softly started humming the tune to Karen Carpenters song ‘Goodbye to Love’ wondering to herself how it was that some beloved superstar from America could know the feeling of thinking that nobody loved her.  And the world, they loved her more than she ever knew.  Then the nostalgic came and wrapped her up in its arms and suddenly she was crying.  For her dad.  For her mum.  For herself.  Then her mind focusing on that ginger headed-boy, wanting to shoot him, wanting to know why he was so mean to her, why they were all so mean to her.  Of course, it was probably the fact that she resembled an over-sized whale.  What else could it be?  But still, that was no reason to taunt somebody, didn’t they have a heart, didn’t they care what she would be feeling?  Thinking thoughts about starving herself.  That’ll show them. And the silence, growing louder and more deafening as the minutes passed.

Then finally, mercilessly, after what seemed like a decade, her watch read 9.50.

Close enough.  Time to go home.

It didn’t take her long to reach home.  She had been on edge the whole time.  Every car that passed made her jump.  What if it was one the school teachers?  What if they recognized her?  What if they dragged her by the ear and back to school?  She’d have to run the Cross Country after all.

Groundless fears.  As soon as she spied her house, minus her mother’s car parked in the driveway, she felt herself drowning with relief.  She did it.  She wasn’t going to get caught after all.  Her mother finished at The Bureau at four.  She’d get home, and Jenny would have the house spic and span,  dinner ready on the table, and her mother wouldn’t even suspect a thing.

She was just about to climb the porch steps when, out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed the familiar grey bonnet turning into her driveway.  Her sister’s car.  What?  Quick as a flash, she bounded into the house, the relief turning to overwhelming panic.  Without even thinking, she ran into her bedroom and shoved herself in her wardrobe.  She could barely fit in there. Desperately and with almighty effort, she pushed her large frame back, back amongst the mattresses and boxes, grunting and groaning and shoving so she could pull the door shut.  Her heart was in over-drive, drumming rapidly and loudly, like a bongo drum against her chest.

She listened.  The horn beeped.  Then it beeped again.  Jenny closed her eyes.  She prayed, fervently hoping that her sister wouldn’t come into the house and make herself at home.  Jenny would have to resign herself to sitting in the wardrobe all day otherwise, and she could barely fit in there, let alone breathe.  She strained her ears to listen, then let out a huge sigh of relief when she heard the car start-up and drive away.  She reached for the handle.  Or at least where the door handle should have been.  She felt around in the dark, blindly searching.  Confused.

It took a few seconds before it dawned upon her.  The realization.  That there was no door handle.  Well not on the inside, anyway.

Dear God, she was locked in!

Dumbfounded.  She was dumbfounded.  She didn’t get it.  She put all her weight on the door, pushed and shoved, but to no avail.  Searched again for the non-existent door handle, telling herself it had to be there.  But it wasn’t.  And then the reality hit her even harder than the first time.  She knew without a doubt now.  She was locked in!  Locked in her own wardrobe.  In her own house.

Oh my god, oh my god.  OH MY GOD!

Panic flooded her body. She stood there in the dark, squashed up against the clutter, disbelieving what had just happened.  She’d lived in this house since she was a toddler. Twelve years later, and she was only just finding out that her own wardrobe had no door handle on the inside.  What the…?  She couldn’t believe it.  Didn’t wanna believe it.

And yet, it was happening.  She was shoved in there, tight as sardines in a can.  It was stuffy and claustrophobic.  Not to mention dusty.  The dust and the smell of staleness filled her nostrils, and the only air coming in was from the tiny crack at the bottom of the door.

I could die of suffocation in here…good god…

At the thought of death, logic and reasoning fled her body.  She began to cry, softly at first, then louder and louder until she was screaming and banging her fists on the door, begging and pleading for someone, anyone, to hear her, and let her out.  Like an animal gone wild, she pounded and screamed.  But she was in a wardrobe, her screams only whispers in the wind to the outside world.  She wailed loudly, her chest rising and falling with her sobs.

When she realized that no-one was coming to her rescue, her arms went limp.  Her voice faded until it was a soft whimper.  She was so exhausted she wanted to sink to the floor, but the lack of space plus her giant frame wouldn’t allow it.  Her nose was almost touching the door.  But with some more shoving and pushing, she did manage to jam the mattresses right back up against the wall, thus allowing her to sink to the floor, curled up.  Her knees pushed against the protruding rolls in her gut, almost cutting off her air supply.  But she didn’t care to stand.  Didn’t care to do anything except sit there, and wait for Fate to decide what was to become of her.

Time ticked by.  Endlessly.  She’d given up looking at her watch at 12.00pm.  Tidbits of her life flashed before her eyes.  Her mind went back to happier days, the days when her dad was still alive.  Zooming around the paddock on his two-wheeler motorbike.  Fishing and camping trips.  An image of her parents hugging and kissing while a younger Jenny chased seagulls and frolicked in the sea.  Then the darkness came.  The police at her front door, bringing the news of the car crash that killed her dad

And her mothers howls that day.  If Jenny ever lived to be a hundred (which was looking unlikely) she didn’t think that she’d ever forget that sound.  The sound of anguish and despair.  It resounded in her head as if it happened yesterday.  Thats when everything had changed.  When her dad died.  The bullies, the over-eating, a depressed mother who could barely see to herself, let alone a grieving daughter.

Why hadn’t I seen this before?  Why hadn’t I known?

Not that it mattered anymore.

Sleepy.  She was getting sleepy, her mind fuzzy, disoriented.  She wasnt aware that she was no longer gasping for air, she was only aware that she was drifting, seemingly drifting like a lost boat on a calm sea.  She wondered if her father would show up to take her to the other side, and imagined what he’d say upon setting eyes on her.  “My girl, what the hell have you been eating?”  Making her giggle on the inside. She felt tingly all over.  Unreal.  Even as her eyelids grew heavier and heavier, the boat drifting out farther and farther away…until…

BANG!

Her mother was home.  Her mother was home.  Overwhelming relief washed through her body, making her want to burst into tears.  Yet, she couldn’t move.  Why couldn’t she move?  Why were things so drowsy?  Almost unconsciously, she weakly lifted her hand and knocked on her door.  Softly, repetitively, and over and over and over again.

The door suddenly swung open, and Jenny tumbled from the darkness, into the light, falling into a heap on her bedroom floor.  Her mother looked down at her daughter in complete shock.  She was red as a tomato and seemed on the verge of unconsciousness,  her arms shielding her face as if the light hurt her eyes.  And Jenny remembered saying one thing before darkness engulfed her.

“Sorry mum…sorry daddy…”

***

“Oh my God, this is so embarrassing.”

Jenny sat up in her hospital bed, her mind flitting through the last few hours.  She’d very nearly died in the wardrobe.  If her mother had decided to come home any later, she would have died.  Suffocated to death.  Now that she was on the mend and thinking straight, all she could think was just how much of a laughing-stock that would have been.

Girl suffocates to death in her own wardrobe.

It didn’t bear thinking about.

“It’s alright,” her mum soothed, her voice a hell of a lot softer than what it normally was.  “Your alive, and that’s the main thing.”

Jenny looked at her mother closely.  She looked so old.  And so tired.  It tugged at Jenny’s heartstrings.

“Mum, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, love.  I’m just thankful that your still alive.”

“I just…I hate school, mum.  People pick on me all the time.”

Her mother peered at her daughter in the dim light.  This was a surprise.

“Pick on you?”

Jenny nodded.  Maybe it was her near-death experience.  Maybe it was her mothers tiredness.  Whatever it was, everything came bursting out, like a dam gushing forth.  Her dad, her bullies, the ginger headed boy who made her life hell on a daily basis.  Everything, that is, except the main reason she dodged school that day.

It seemed so pathetic now.  Whats the point of telling her that?

They talked for a long time.  Mainly about dad.  They held hands and cried, letting out things that should have been let out a long time ago.  Her mum stated that she was going down to see the principal first thing in the morning about the bullying, and promised to help Jenny overcome it.  And she also spoke about life.  And it being what you make it.  Jenny didn’t need to be told twice.  She understood exactly what her mum was saying.  She knew she had to get her health, and her weight, back on track.

It was pretty late when they finished.  Jenny got the feeling that something had been sorted out.  That after wallowing in their own pools of grief, they were now swimming in it together.  And maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be ok.  Even so, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed something she hadn’t noticed before.  The window was wet.  “Is it raining?” she asked.

Her mum nodded.  “Its been raining all day, love.  Apparently, they had to postpone some big event at the school.  Its been held next week.  You should be fine to go to school by then.  I’ve already rung your teacher.”

Jenny let out a long, collective sigh.  After all that had happened, it looked like she’d be running The Cross Country after all.  Seriously.  How unlucky could you get?