The complexities of life often present themselves in the form of complex and multifaceted intersections of emotions. Today, on what would have been my sister’s birthday, I am reminded of the hole her loss has left in my life and yet knowing I was privileged to be loved by her gives me reason and a tonne of memories over which I can silently smile.
In our daily lives, we may experience moments of joy and fulfillment, while also navigating the difficulties that life can bring. Today I was reminded of a graphic by @THEPRESENTPSYCHOLOGIST which a colleague had shared with me following a conversation about ‘the complexities of life’.
Over the last few years, I have been learning (or sometimes being forced to learn) how to embrace the lived, felt, full, and messy human experience. For me, there have been many things that have brought a smile to my face and a sense of happiness to my life, however, life has also brought its share of struggles.
For the longest time, and occasionally still, I have felt the need to ‘pick a side’, to oversimplify or disregard the different emotions that I experienced because I didn’t feel permitted to embrace both sides of what I saw as paradoxical poles. I felt that if things were ‘good’ I had to put on a facade of happiness despite facing inner turmoil or challenges, not to mention the societal pressures that often make it difficult to openly express struggles. Likewise, when things were ‘bad’ there was no room for laughter or joy.
One of the things that has given me the greatest reason to smile has been becoming a mother. The joy and love that comes with raising a child is immeasurable, and it has brought a new level of meaning to my life. This has been juxtaposed with the loss of my dad to cancer four years ago and the unexpected passing of my sister two years ago has been incredibly difficult. The pain of losing those close to me is something that I will carry with me forever, and to be honest, is something I haven’t yet begun to fully unpack. Because I work and live internationally being far from home has meant that while it can be lonely and challenging at times, I have been shielded from facing the physical loss of my loved ones on a day-to-day basis, but I have also as a result lost the sense of “belonging” to a place called home…
I had to leave a job due to an extremely toxic boss and work environment, which was a difficult and severely emotional experience but since then I have found a better work-life balance, which has allowed me to focus on what truly matters to me. I have been blessed with great friends and relationships, as well as a deeper spiritual life and increased self-awareness which have resulted in a much healthier mental state and I am finally off my meds and therapy has been going well. While finances can be a constant source of stress and worry, as we strive to make ends meet I have a wonderful and supportive husband who has been there for me through thick and thin.
Despite the difficulties that I have faced, I know that I am not alone in my experiences. As the graphic shows; it is possible to be capable and lost, smiling and struggling, kind and set boundaries, vulnerable and powerful, successful and traumatized, extraverted and alone, valuable and flawed, introverted and reaching out, and loving and questioning all at the same time, and I can definitely attest to this.
Many of us struggle with balancing the smiles and struggles in our lives. It is important to remember that it is okay to feel the weight of our struggles and to reach out for support when we need it. At the same time, it is also important to embrace and celebrate the smiles that come our way, even in the midst of the challenges.
“Life is full of both smiling and struggling, and it is often the intersections of these two paradoxical realms that make up the fabric of our lived experiences. For many of us, our joys and our challenges are intertwined, creating a complex tapestry of emotions and events. By recognizing the complexity of our emotions and experiences, we can create a more supportive and understanding environment for ourselves and others.
Today, on what would have been my sister’s birthday, I am choosing joy in her memory of her life and still holding the space to feel broken by her death.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is sending the world into a panic frenzy as communities resort to social distancing and nations limit travel in an effort to contain the spread. In many places, like here in Thailand, masks are running out almost everywhere. Last week I helped one of my neighbours sew 20 of a thousand masks which were going to be donated to a local hospital. A few people then asked me for a pattern, so I thought it would be good to make one and share the love. So here it is…
While it is important to keep yourself and other safe and protected during these times, we also need to consider the planet, which is, and will still be our home once we get past this global crisis.
Surgical masks are still the most protective barriers, but since they are single-use they create a lot of waste and have been reported to be washing up on beaches across the region.
I wanted to see if there were any good sustainable alternatives to single use masks.
On doing some reading and found this article that compared various materials for making D.I.Y face masks and rated them based on effectiveness and breathability. Cloth masks made from a cotton blend can be quite effective and reducing exposure to the virus, and they are also breathable. The article suggests using pillowcase and cotton t-shirt material combination.
I created a D.I.Y reusable face mask sewing pattern which allows for the insertion of a filter which makes it great for long term use and for both those who may be sick, or just trying to keep themselves protected. You can insert a folded paper towel, a dried wet wipe, a surgical mask or a filter cartridge if you want to add extra protection. To sew the pattern together, I made a sewing instruction sheet and I am working on creating a video tutorial too.
It’s all fun and games till your jeans don’t fit…and “SADLY” for me, my genes don’t fit.
Protruding glutes, curvy hips, thick thighs, and muscular calves are the cards I’ve been dealt through genetics, so why is it that these features seem to be the very things that I can’t seem to fit into my jeans. My body is a mix of my African grandmother’s broad hips and thick thighs and my European grandmother’s muscular calf’s and broad shoulders. I’m not short either and living in Asia the past very year I often feel that I tower over most of the people around me.
I have always had quite an “athletic” build and over the past few years have gained weight over my broad frame and I have found myself struggling because my genes don’t seem to fit into the society driven image of what I SHOULD look like. I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember, always wanting to be smaller, more toned, more defined more “mainstream” and when my jeans don’t fit I go into a state of panic.
I have recently been struggling with a new wave of weight gain, not like any previous episodes which were brought on by growth spurts, expected side effects of medication or gradual “up-sizing”. This episode was brought on by sheer neglect, I got too busy with everything else I didn’t see it coming. BAM!!! 20kg/44lbs more than I was, just like that…
Well, it wasn’t really just like that, I ate my way through breakups and then ate my way through long nights of trying to launch a new business, then ate my way through filling the void that was left when that failed. I didn’t just eat my way through the lows, I ate when I was happy too. I happily got to know my husband over numerous dates many of which involved our mutual love for food and cooking all this unmonitored eating coupled with a shift in my daily schedule, a shift in my priorities and a lot of traveling and moving added up.
It added up over time, and as each month and year went by, it added up, stayed on and here I am, my jeans don’t fit.
I know that the “obvious” solution is to get a new pair of jeans because I can never get new genes, but in that realization lay my biggest problem, that it really wasn’t about the jeans not fitting, it was about my genes not fitting in.
Even though with some searching through the plus-size racks, I could find jeans that fit, “upsizing” would always make me feel ashamed of who I am; a curvy, overweight, broad-shouldered, “athletically built” 30’something-year-old, who had always wanted to be smaller, even at my smallest.
These thoughts about my image have haunted every waking hour for as long as I can remember, from the daunting task of finding something to wear each morning (a task that has become even harder as now it is coupled with the task of finding something that still fits) to my every meal, every shopping trip, every fitting, every day at the pool or the beach, every time I cuddle next to my husband or strip down to take a shower and catch a glimpse of my naked reflection… really, to be honest, these thoughts about my body image, haunt every moment I spend doing the things I love to do, and taint the joy that they ought to bring.
I have become a girl who cries all too often because I can no longer fit into my favorite jeans… but now I realize that I cry because my genes don’t fit into society’s ideas of what is beautiful.
So why do I care so much… How have I allowed images of “perfect bodies” and society’s perceptions of what is attractive to control and haunt me to the extent that really what I have begun to detest is who I actually am?
My hope this year is that I can learn to love my body, to be kind to it, to listen to its needs as focus on keeping it clean, healthy and active so that I can enjoy the beach, the cuddles and the glances in the mirror with gratitude for all my body does for me, knowing that I am good enough even though my jeans don’t fit.
Have you ever tried, tasted or done something for the first time and wondered how you lived your life up to that moment without it? Well, that is the best and only way I can describe how I feel about my menstrual cup.
Periods are not something we like to talk about and so often we don’t. We just kind of try figure it out as we go, and if we are ever daring enough to try something new, we do, without much hoo-haa about it, because ” Aint nobody got time for that!”
But hear me out. I recently made a switch to using a menstrual cup from using tampons for my period and I cannot express how amazing it has been. I don’t know why I didn’t know about this sooner, but I’m glad I made the switch. I wasn’t unhappy using tampons, I always have, and my period has for the most part been regular and not too inconvenient, apart from the migraines that come with them, so I didn’t ever feel the need to look for alternatives.
However, as I began to question what was in the products I use, and what I put in my, or exposed my body to, I began to wonder if super bleached cotton was potentially seeping toxins into my body over the years. Not to mention the waste using tampons creates; if we do some quick math, that’s 4 tampons a day, 4 days a month, 12 months a year. That’s 192 tampons a year!
That means that since my first period, I had used about 3072 tampons. That is a little crazy if you ask me. Considering you can use each cup for up to 5 years; so that’s about 1000 tampons. Considering this, it was an easy switch for me. Physically, it was a little bit more work, but by the second cycle, once I had mastered “the folding” it wasn’t cumbersome at all.
Using a menstrual cup has given me much more freedom during my period. I feel empowered and safer knowing I am not exposing myself to harmful chemicals. It is also convenient, saves me time and money and is easy to keep, use and clean.