Sunday, 10 February 2019

On Holiday Every Day

A few months ago I posted a meme on Facebook. It said something to the effect that we should live a life we don’t need a vacation from.

I got quite a few comments retaliating that that is NOT possible, as well as that why wouldn’t one WANT to take a vacation?!

What the people who answered failed to understand was that there is a difference between a vacation and a trip. Of course life would be more boring for people who love to travel and discover and experience new places, traditions, settings without the occasional (or not just occasional) trip! But the meme never said not to travel or experience things. It merely said we should strive to have a life that we don’t need to vacation from.

Again here there was a further misunderstanding by all those who complained that it is not possible. Maybe they assumed I meant one should be on vacation all the time (ie give up their bread-winning job) or that they would, in order to live a life they love enough, have to give up on responsibilities they feel they cannot get away from. The truth, I find, is the total opposite.

Just because we need a bread-winning job should not have us working our ass off for forty hours or more a week in a setting that depresses us, abuses us, gives us little to no satisfaction whilst dangling in front of us a carrot that we are only allowed to touch at the end of the month.

That carrot, whilst organic and expensive, might be causing us so much stress to get at that we need to split it in two and give half of it to our pharmacist in exchange for headache pills or worse. I think you will agree with me when I say I much rather get a non-organic carrot that I can eat wholly myself and not have to eat up any of the pills in order to get to my NEXT reward carrot, in a never-ending cycle that follows on its tail month after month and year after year.

It is true that we all want a job that rewards us for our studies, money wise and in the type of career we pursue. However we should check whether those are actually the only reasons why we want it. After all, we spend countless hours at our workplace and even carry the resulting good or bad mood into our personal life after we leave the workplace behind for the day or week. Add to that, it makes a difference to our life and happiness to wake up in the morning to a job we enjoy and are excited about as opposed to when we must face a day already knowing we are going to a place we dread and that we would rather not spend our time at.

Money, money, money. Don’t blame the money. As I said earlier, better a lower pay doing a job we love than a higher one that we must then share with anyone from the pharmacist (or worse the therapist) to the takeout place on the corner four times a week for not having time or energy to cook a healthy homemade meal.

Given that life is made up of much more than just our job, I am sure that some people would still argue that changing the job for a lower paid one will not do much to help us with other facets of life that tire us out and make us look at that vacation as a paradise we must strive to get to. If anything, they will say, a lower-paid job will hinder our affording a holiday to get away from it all! Get away from what exactly? Despite the grind of daily chores, the tiredness that comes with parenthood and the hundred-and-one commitments we take on feeling we can’t do otherwise, I would say most of the time it is our perception that should change in order to feel that life is a vacation all the time.

Let’s start with checking all those commitments and being honest with ourselves as to why we take them on. Some might be in our schedule more out of guilt than anything else. Like why are we rushing the kids to three extracurricular activities a week? I am sure our children benefit more from having less stressed-out parents than from catching up with everything. After all, even they need a rest that they might not be getting! Why did we say we would be glad to be on a the Parent Teacher Committee if we then grumble about not having the time for it? Don’t feel guilted into anything thinking otherwise they’ll be short-staffed. There are always people willing to do a job out of their own free will and for their own satisfaction and your own time might be better employed getting a well-deserved rest that makes all the difference when you come to tackle the commitments you actually care about.

Only a lucky few afford regular maid service so it would be unrealistic to suggest that you delegate that work to an outsider in order to switch your mind to eternal-holiday-mode. However I would be surprised if anyone at all minded the daily chores if their minds and bodies were not already overtired from a despised job and an endless list of errands. It truly is a balancing game I find.

I could preach till tomorrow about making the changes that make most of the difference to living a happy life. But that is the point of it I guess; to live a happy life! Who needs a vacation from Happiness? No one, Ever!

Sunday, 3 February 2019

A Harsh Start To Motherhood - An Awareness Article

In March 2016 online magazine CominoMag published an article of mine that I wrote very much from the heart. Rights to the article remained my own and since the magazine has now closed and my awareness article is no longer available online for viewing, I am publishing it again here today as it would be a pity not to let it remain online for people to read or refer to. I myself used to often link the article to people who I felt would benefit from it else who could share it on for further awareness of the subject. So here is probably my longest article-not-written-for-the-blog in terms of word count, for anyone who would like to know more about Post Natal Depression, what it feels like, and how to help a loved one through it else how to get better in the case of being the sufferer.

A Harsh Start To Motherhood

After the long wait, the baby is finally in the mother’s arms. She should feel overjoyed but instead all she wants to do is cry herself to sleep. Not only was labour difficult but she can’t seem to understand why they say it’s worth it in the end.

Many women go through ‘baby blues’ in the first weeks after giving birth. They will be weepy and their emotions all over the place. This is a result of hormone changes that occur not only during the pregnancy but also afterwards. Adding the fact that the new mother might be feeling less than great physically as well as having a multitude of new responsibilities to deal with, it is understandable to feel overwhelmed. A ten minute nap, a good diet and talking about how she’s feeling will help alleviate the negative moods.

A worrying ten per cent of the time, however, the symptoms do not go away after the first weeks. This is usually a sign that the mother might be suffering from a serious condition called Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum Depression is worse than an emotional roller-coaster ride. More than just the irritability and insomnia that are ‘baby blues’ symptoms, the mother will experience an inability to enjoy life, not least because she might feel that she cannot connect with the reality around her. In fact one symptom is that the woman will find it difficult to concentrate and therefore finds herself unable to focus on or cope with her new world. Fatigue and a lack of appetite only serve to worsen the mood and health.

It has been blamed on unplanned pregnancy, a traumatic birth, lack of support from the partner or on being too young (surprisingly a psychotherapist I spoke to about the subject mentioned the twenties as being ‘too young’!) The fact remains, that whether or not there is a reason for it, the new mother is going through a dreadful time.

It is said that a woman suffering from Postpartum Depression will want to harm her baby as well as herself but this is not necessarily the case. In fact it seems more normal for the mother to become so obsessed with her baby’s well-being that her whole world starts to centre around keeping him safe.

When the depression takes on an even more horrible form called Postpartum Psychosis the thoughts of suicide become realistic and might be acted upon. Furthermore, in these severe cases, there is a more pronounced inability to bond with the baby and the patient might even suffer from delusions. In the case of Postpartum Psychosis it is imperative that the situation is handled at the earliest by a qualified specialist who would know how to deal with the problem.

With regards to Postpartum Depression, unless the symptoms go away through sheer will-power in the first months, which is a difficult thing to achieve given the depressed person is not usually confident or assertive, then professional help is very often the way to go.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, antidepressants as well as psychotherapy can in most cases solve the problem. Psychotherapy is much like counselling but based on getting the patient to solve the crisis through understanding what is the underlying problem. Sometimes hidden fears and troubles in the person’s background and history might be relevant to the sessions as they might have a part to play in causing the depression.

Unfortunately, the affected mother will be likely to suffer Postpartum Depression following subsequent pregnancies and in fact is also more likely to suffer from depression in general.

Most women know that it is normal to suffer temporarily from baby blues and find themselves unable to distinguish between it and the more unrelenting feelings that might actually be clinical depression. This is why it is important to speak out and try to help if you feel there is something amiss, however trivial you think it might be.

Family might not always realise just how bad the mother is feeling, attributing any feelings to stress at being inept in the new position as a carer of a tiny fragile new being. Meanwhile the mother might feel too weak to think for herself, speak up, or even contemplate that professional help might be a necessity. She might also erroneously feel that to accept and reveal the problem would be to indirectly blame the baby and no mother wants to do that.

The point remains that it is important to recognise and acknowledge the depression. The sooner this happens, the easier it will be for the mother to have positive recollections of what should be the most joyful years of her life.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

London Holiday - Musings Part 3 - The Experience

I've spoken about 'Me' time and I've spoken about shopping. However I think the biggest highlight of my London trip was the experiences that, as always, are something unique and different to each individual and in this case reflect my own likes, preferences and interests.

Arriving at Heathrow late evening I assumed I would only start my adventure properly on the morrow. The airport knew better than I and surprised me with my first photograph-worthy view. As I casually strolled down through the long corridors following signs to my destined exit, I came acrid the spot where Eddie Redmayne apparently stood with his Oscar when he landed back from America and the Academy Awards in 2015.

The rest of the first night was uneventful and I stepped out on the morrow to my first destination, Camden Town. This artistic place stole my heart, partly for its sculpted and painted walls and also for the delicious shops and items for sale. From Gothic clothes to homemade candles (one of which now burns in my room), the shop that I will forever call 'the robot shop' for its design to the multitude of stalls selling anything from homemade baby clothes to cosy vintage signs to hang around the home.
Just as exciting, my second day led me to Portobello Road, with its endless stalls and shops, including the first Cath Kidston store I visited. One lovely gadget store had the most amazingly designed novelty items but unfortunately at the first snap of my phone camera I was sternly advised not to take pictures inside the shop so I cannot share with my readers. My purchases from that day include a print of a Klimt as well as the oil painting I mentioned in the previous post.

With those two 'must see' locations done to my heart's content, I spent the rest of my holiday just visiting places that might interest me and clothes stores I love. Then just as I started my journey with a snapshot from the filming world, I ended it in the Harry Potter shop called Platform 9 3/4. I found it just two hours before checkout, right under my nose in my 'home' train station, King's Cross Station, whilst I had looked for it in the surrounding streets instead!

Thursday, 24 January 2019

London Holiday - Musings Part 2 - Some Shopping

My London holiday will be well over by the time I get this published and yet confining my trip to just one blog post would have been a shame. The thing is, there were so many facets to the trip and I was hoping to cover all the main ones through these posts.

In my first post about London I mentioned 'a bit of shopping'. Most people would think I am trying to hide just how much shopping I did but you know what? I am actually finding it hard to shop! I did go a little overboard when I visited Portobello Road, simply because I am very much into art and prints and metal signs but I am glad to say what I got was stuff that I was actually anyway on the lookout for, if I exclude one small dainty silver snuff box for my new bedroom that I found at a real bargain price. Seeing as my new flat was still going to have mostly empty walls, I was happy to buy some really cool prints and signs that not only compliment the style of the furniture but also reflect my own personality. Add to that, I was really excited to find, miles away from home, a beautiful affordable oil painting that will do nicely for the master bedroom and was actually the finishing touch and focal point I was still on the lookout for!

Hats my size!
When it comes to the clothes shopping side, I actually amazed myself with how little I got! Even though I am a Minimalist, I do love to look as perfect as possible every single day and whilst having a capsule wardrobe limits regrettable impulse buys, I allow myself to buy unlimited clothes as long as they feel just right. In this case, only three tops and a skirt felt 'good enough' and priced 'right enough'. My other clothing purchases actually consisted of underwear (now that I might have a bit too much of but as I said, for me there are no strict limit rules as long as I buy what I love and wear it), a beautiful scarf that matches the colour of my eyes, one silver beanie and two gorgeous winter hats that I am ecstatic about simply because I was never able to find any before from Malta that fit right and looked good on me and I do like to wear something on my head in the cold. So fashionable and functional, my new hats get prime space in my wardrobe.

Since this one is about shopping, I should also confess to having made some purchases from the Cath Kidston store where I was so pleased to find a sale on, seeing as she is one of my very favourite designers. As they say, patience pays off and having brushed off buying a kitchen timer for usually finding the cheap dubious types, in the shop I came across a truly beautiful one that will go perfectly with my kitchen and is so so vintage that I just can't help but beam when I think of it. I also got a power bank curtsey of the brand, which I had been looking out for as my current one plays up at times. On sale it turned out cheaper than if I'd buy one boring standard one from back home and this is actually meant to be used specifically with apple products and comes with an extra charging cable for my iPhone SE! All in all, I made real bargains at the shop and I even bought a handbag from there. True enough, that was one thing I did not need, but it had been a dream of mine for years to own a Cath Kidston handbag so thanks to the sale I finally own my own without feeling guilty about their usually high prices.

At the end of it, considering I am in central London with a spending budget put aside specifically for the occasion, it seems like Minimalism makes us more disciplined than we would actually have thought and I lost count of just how many clothing stores I pushed myself into, only to shake my head at all the items on display and head out again onto the street. Any tips to give me the same mindset when I see beautiful underwear are seriously welcome! 😆

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

London Holiday - Musings Part 1 - A 'ME' trip

I am writing this post whilst on holiday in London, sitting in my room after three days of walking, walking and more walking around!

My trip has been a medley up to now of amazing attractions, a bit of shopping and as I said, a lot of walking (even counting solely the running around in the Underground Stations and going up and down the steps there is more than enough exercise!)

Circumstances dictated I made the trip alone this time around and this gave me the opportunity to make it 'my own' holiday so to speak. With no one else to consult with about where to go and what to do (and more importantly for me, what to eat!) as well as having no one to rely on (am so proud I managed to get around pretty well for my reputation of getting lost all the time!) I found this was the perfect time to totally disengage from anything and everything that usually takes up my time and attention and make this about ME.

I do not mean this in a conceited way. If anything, I have to confess I brought photos of my loved ones with me on this trip, simply because I still want to feel them close. However, unlike previous trips where I had to compromise or simply go along with what anyone else had decided to do, this time I was free to, say, avoid the British Museum completely whilst going round the Cath Kidston shop three or four times simply because no one was tapping their feet waiting for me to make my purchasing decisions quicker. I also took one quick look around one side of Hyde Park and, being told by a security guard (who was kind enough to take my photo and also compliment me on my eyes!) that Winter Wonderland had after all, closed and was being dismantled, decided that was enough park-walking for me thank you very much. The point I am trying to make is, that since this is my third trip to London after all, going solo gave me the liberty to pass over what I felt I had done enough of and concentrate on what is 'Wow!' to me.

A lot of people have the idea that we must all sacrifice ourselves for our families, put ourselves last, that there is some kind of martyrdom we should achieve once we become adults. Instead I have learnt that unless we love ourselves first and just as importantly nurture ourselves, then there will not be enough of us to go round for those we love.

Let's take a practical example. My friends as well as partners old and new (in effect anyone that's actually been on an outing or hung out with me really) know that the only times I get really, really cranky outside of work are when I am tired or hungry. Both can be very easily solved and yet I cannot give the best version of myself till they are. In this same way, we all of us, without exception, can be much better parents and partners and workmates and any other role we find ourselves taking on, if we are good with ourselves first.

That is why I didn't begrudge myself of the 'Me' holiday that I felt deep down I needed so bad and am enjoying it to the absolute max.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Coca-Cola Swimming Pool - An Art Exhibition by Lisa Falzon

I have had the amazing opportunity of following artist Lisa Falzon from the start of her artistic career. I remember looking in wonder at her dark slightly cartoonish images back in 2004 as they hung around the courtyard of the Manoel Theatre in Valletta, Malta.

From that first exhibition I followed on as she took up digital art, photo texture layering, illustrations of children’s books and even Etsy commercial art. Now she seems to have returned to her roots, this time however with pop-art colour images that are charged with vibrance and characters that seem happy in their as-always escapist surroundings over her original almost-gothic intentionally-sad pieces.

Some of her gigantic colourful canvases will be on show at Cafe Society at St John’s Street, Valletta (Malta) for a month as from Thursday 17th January, between the hours of 19:00 and 23:59.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

I Never Rush Any More

We live in a culture of 'Busy'. It has become a keyword to 'Success' it seems or else why would everyone be replying to 'How are you?' with 'Busy!'?

I have to admit I am guilty of doing it myself sometimes and my go-to phrase sounds even worse than that as I'm usually texting 'talk later as gotta rush!'

Rushing. I used to mean it when I said that. Nowadays, if you get a text from me saying that, don't take it literally. The reason I would be sending such a message and stopping a chat is actually NOT TO have to rush! Picture it this way:

You are cooking and you know you will then sit down to the meal which can't exceed a certain time because at that point you must get dressed and go to an important appointment. Now you could very well text through the cooking and eating, therefore unconsciously slowing yourself down and then having to rush to get ready on time and maybe even drive faster to make your appointment. Or else you could send that quick 'Goodbye' text explaining how you can't exactly talk right now. It will let you focus on what you need to be doing and follow through with your plans without a hitch.

Sometimes texting is not even the problem. In fact, at times overcommitting ourselves is! Why would you plan a trip to the supermarket just one hour before you are due at the hairdresser's? Even something as small as having a hard time looking for a parking spot will throw you off your tight schedule. I will usually refer to myself as 'Rushing' from one to the other if someone stops me with a phone-call etc simply to explain that I have to get both things done in a timely manner. I would in effect have already allowed a time cushion for any delays.

A third trick I use to ensuring I am never in panic mode is to use a week-to-a-page diary. It might sound like a strange suggestion but the reason I do that is to see that I don't fill many days in the same week with commitments. If you are anything like me, errands of any kind take a toll on your energy and putting too much in a week will feel like 'Rushing through it'.

Some of you might be arguing that it is all very well to make suggestions without knowing just how many commitments you must catch up with. I quite understand your busy schedule because I actually have got one too. In the past I would practically force myself to never rest before I got it all done and cleared from my head but guess what? It will never get all done as there will always be something new to see to at the same time that you are striving to cross off each item on your 'To do' list. No wonder my ex husband and I had so many arguments whenever I pushed him to do the same!

I now find that I am much better off and more able to deal with it all if I allow myself the space and time to not get overwhelmed, over-tired or over-burdened. I have taken it upon myself to learn how to say 'No' when a 'Yes' can't really work due to time constraints else when it is a burden to myself and/or my family. I have even limited my texting time in general and it's given me enough time back to add Meditation time to relax as well as give me more time to write and catch up with deadlines.

So truly, like with everything else in life, it seems like 'Balance' is the key word to counteract 'Busy'.