May Gratitude

As my regular readers know, this year I have set myself the challenge of thinking of ten things to be grateful for each month.  Endometriosis can be so devastating and all-consuming that there are days when it doesn’t feel like there is anything good or untainted by it.  By doing this, I hope to train my brain to keep looking for the good and the hopeful.  So, for the month of May I am grateful for:-

1)  The right to vote

Person Dropping Paper On Box
Image description: a shadowed hand puts a folded piece of paper into a sealed box with a slit cut in the top.  

In Australia, non-Aboriginal women didn’t gain suffrage at a Commonwealth level until 1902.  Aboriginal people, male and female, were denied suffrage in Commonwealth elections until 1962.

I may not like election periods, and I may not be 100% enthused by the ideas of any of our political parties, but I am very grateful that I get to have my say regardless.  It may not count for much and it may not change the fate of the country, but it is part of something bigger and more important that ultimately dictates what direction we will go in as a nation for the next few years.  It is powerful and important.

2)  Clever creatives

Every day most of us consume some sort of media for entertainment.  I personally love snuggling up on the sofa with my husband, a cosy blanket, and one of our animals, and watching, reading, or listening to something that catches my imagination.  I am so grateful to the people who come up with the ideas for books, tv, movies, podcasts and music.  They are clever and talented and fascinating and their imaginations are vital to supporting mine.

3)  Good doctors

Red and Black Stethoscope
Image description: a coiled stethoscope and red enamel heart on a reflective white surface.  

My last post detailed my recent adventures with the local GPs in my attempt to get rid of my sinus infection (finally gone!).  I may not be enthused about one the GPs mentioned in that post, but I am overwhelmingly grateful for the good doctor who sorted me out in the end.  They are worth their weight in gold.  I propose kidnapping and cloning.

Disclaimer: I do not advocate kidnapping people and subjecting them to scientific experiments.

4)  My mother came home

Readers of this blog will know how much I rely on my mother when I am having a bad flare or just feeling particularly wussy.  She was in the UK for all of April, but she came back in early May and I cannot properly articulate how much safer and more comfortable I feel knowing she is in the same city as me.

5)  Chai lattes

Six White Ceramic Mugs
Image description: a top-down view of six mugs with different shades of coffee in them.  

It’s a really small thing, but they make me happy, all spicy and creamy and warm and frothy.  I think it’s important to appreciate the small things as well, after all.  I’m lucky enough to work within a very short walk of two cafes that serve them.  One is sweeter and uses the best soy milk brand in Australia, in my humble opinion (Bonsoy), and the other is spicier and more flavourful, though less creamy.  So not only do I get my chai lattes, I get choices too.  Happy me.

6)  Mutual interests

How good is it when you meet someone and you both love the same stuff and can talk about it for ages?  I wrote my Arts thesis on feminism in vampire novels (or the lack thereof), and it turns out that one of my colleagues studied similar topics when she was at uni.  She also loves cats, video games, and fantasy novels.  Talking to her is endlessly fun.  All my colleagues are fantastic, funny, intelligent, kind people, so it’s great to be able to connect on another level as well and make good friends.

7)  Being the “victim” of (really good) culinary experiments

My mother-in-law is a very keen cook who loves to change up recipes and make them suitable for my dietary requirements, so I have recently been the willing victim of some of her most delicious experiments.  Picture, if you will, cannelloni stuffed with sweet potato, spinach, tofu ricotta and roast hazelnuts, a Moroccan-style roast vegetable bake with creamy eggplant and succulent zucchini, and a lemony-shortbread tart case stuffed with eggplant, pea, and basil goodness and topped with roasted pine nuts.

8)  Cat snuggles

My poor Max had to have dental surgery in late May.  Normally, due to yowling like a banshee and smacking doors repeatedly when he wants to get through them, he sleeps in the garage at night, because otherwise he’ll do the above regularly while we are trying to sleep.  However, the garage is a little chilly, so after his op he had to sleep in the spare room, and to stop him yowling, so did I.  The non-good part of this is that Max doesn’t just sleep the night through like a sensible person, and likes to walk back and forth over my face with little chirps to let me know he was still awake and enjoying himself (he comments on everything).  The good part was, when he wasn’t doing that, he was snuggled under the blankets with me with my arms around him, all warm and soft and purring because he loves me and he loves cuddles.  It’s a wonderful thing to be loved by an animal, especially when they want to be snuggled like a teddy bear.

9)  Good computer games

Image result for the forest
Image description: a pair of legs in a blue skirt lie at an awkward angle on the ground outside.  There are little plants all around.  Yellow text reads: The Forest.

Throughout May, I was particularly obsessed with a game called The Forest.  I’m not very good at it, partly because it is a horror game, and, as much as I love horror, I’m a total wuss.  The game is stunningly beautiful (it is set in the lush Canadian coastal forest) and also stunningly creepy (there are dripping, echoing caves, giggling cannibals, and horrifically deformed mutants).  The thought and care that has gone into the creation of both the world and the storyline is obvious, and the result is addictive.

10)  White privilege

To be clear, white privilege doesn’t mean that I have an easy life because I am white, or that I am a bad person because I am white.  It simply means that the same institutional barriers that non-white people face do not burden me.  People looking at me will never make assumptions that I am unintelligent, criminal or dangerous because of the colour of my skin.  Statistically I am going to live longer, get paid more, and have better opportunities.  People in power throughout the country are, by and large, the same racial background as me.

It is incredibly important to remember this, especially as the week of 27 May was Reconciliation Week.  Aboriginal people still face issues that I will likely never experience.  They are more likely to be illiterate, arrested, assaulted, homeless, and experience violence and addiction.  They still suffer racist abuse from white Australians, and their language and cultural traditions are being eroded.

I don’t mean to say by this that I am glad to not be Aboriginal.  That’s not it at all.  I don’t have any particular feelings about the colour of my skin.  What I am grateful for is the privilege that I experience as a result of it, even as I long for the day when that isn’t so.

April Gratitude

Another month has passed astonishingly fast, and it’s that time again – a monthly gratitude post.

Not going to lie, April has been super hard, and so finding things to be grateful about has been trickier than usual.  I haven’t really had any spectacular lows, but it’s felt like I’ve been in a constant slump.  I’ve had a number of sick days, and had a really bad experience with my last Prostap injection (a painful infection at the injection site and ongoing struggles with the side-effects).  The ongoing pressure of the adenomyosis and the general malaise and lack of hope that comes with chronic pain has been exceptionally hard to deal with.

However, I made a commitment to be more grateful and positive this year, and these posts force me to consider the good things in my life, so let’s go.

1)  Easter

Close-up Photo of Bunny Plush Toy
Image description: a grey felted rabbit holding a pink felted egg with white spots.  It is standing on a next on a wooden board and there are some white flowers next to it.  

I wrote about what Easter means to me as a chronically ill Christian, so I hope I’m not cheating by mentioning it again.  There are plenty of reasons to be grateful for it, though.  A four-day weekend (followed shortly by ANZAC Day), lots of chocolate, and, of course, the celebration of Jesus’ sacrifice that means an afterlife in paradise.  That’s always good.

2)  Girl’s night

I got a chance to spend the evening with my four best girls.  We are a diverse group in both personalities and backgrounds, but we still have plenty in common – enough that we have stayed friends for ten years during the most turbulent times of our lives.  Perhaps our greatest commonality is our love of great food, which we ate at tonne of.  One of this fabulous group is from Bangladesh, and boy, does her mum create the most amazing feasts ever.  I could LIVE off her dahl.  Her spinach is mind-blowingly good.  She is single-handedly responsible for making me like cauliflower.

Sure, it was incredibly high FODMAP and I was in agony the next day, and I accidentally ate a chilli, but it was entirely worth it.  And now I’m craving her spinach.  Damn it.

Also, the chance to see my four wonderful best friends is always so good.  Everyone should have that friend or group of friends that they love and trust and always feel incredibly happy to see, even when life is hard or you don’t want to socialise.  This is that group.  There is no feeling in the world like spending time with my girls.

3)  ANZAC Day

Red Petaled Flower in Macro Photography
Image Description: a red poppy on a field of grey grass.

I may be pretty anti-violence, but I am not against people standing up to invaders.  I can also appreciate the courage, heroism and comradeship displayed by the ANZACS and the other soldiers of WW1.  Can you imagine how terrifying it would be to suddenly see a tank coming over the horizon in a war where cavalry with swords were still in common usage?  Can you imagine the mud, the blood, the terror, the cold in winter and the searing heat in summer, the disease, the privation and the utter uncertainty?  I don’t think war is something to celebrate, but the qualities of the soldiers who fought are, and their deaths should be remembered and commemorated.  I am grateful for what they did to ensure that we won the war.

4) An income

In the last month I’ve seen a lot of articles and the like on the difficulties of people with chronic illnesses who also have to deal with a low income or poverty.  This one in particular tugged at my heartstrings.  Australia has a good social security system compared to some countries, but as a lawyer I heard a lot of stories about people struggling with bureaucracy and a lack of understanding of the nuances of their condition.  I am incredibly grateful that I don’t have to battle for Centrelink, or try and live on the amount dispensed.  A stable income, having enough left in your pay after the necessities to save or give to charity – these are privileges that cannot be underestimated.

5)  Changing leaves

Landscape Photography of Trees
Image description: a tree with golden and green leaves shades a green field to the left and a brown path to the right.  The path has red and gold trees on the right that form a sort of tunnel.  Glimpses of bright blue sky are visible at the top of the image.  

As I wrote last month, I love autumn.  I’m enjoying the cooler weather still, although I’m not thrilled with some of the very cold mornings.  What I am loving this month is the beautiful autumn colours as the leaves change from green to shades of gold and red.  Some of the older suburbs with the European trees are just incredibly beautiful in autumn.  It was a particularly big shock for me when I took a week off sick at work to go from driving down the street my office is on and seeing it go from a green tunnel to suddenly almost bare, with the road covered in golden drifts of leaves.  I also really love the smell of autumn leaves as they break down.  It’s so earthy and rich.

6) Fitness 

During April I took advantage of a Fernwood sale and bought myself a membership with some personal training.  My PT, Emily, is really fun and works me within my limits, but doesn’t let me slack off.  I’m really exciting to be getting my fitness back on track, and have been taking on some additional exercise as well (I swam a kilometre for fun the other day!).  I’m doing almost an hour of warm-up before my sessions, and it is really, really relaxing for the brain.  I can just focus on my body and making it work.  It’s great mindfulness.

I also really enjoy feeling exhausted and sore for a good reason, as opposed to just feeling exhausted and sore because disease.  It’s satisfying and makes me feel proud of my achievements.  I’m not losing any obvious weight (thanks menopause!) but I am feeling my muscles harden up and I have a little bitty line on my biceps that looks like it could be a muscle.

7) Vegan smoked salmon

Since going vegan, people often ask me if I miss meat.   Generally speaking, no.  Sure, I enjoyed bacon and rissoles, but I never really got excited about steaks or chicken.  I genuinely do enjoy the taste and texture of fake meats better in 99% of cases.  However, I loved fish.  I definitely didn’t give up eating fish because I hated the taste.  Gardein Fishless Fillets filled a big gap for me, but I really, really missed smoked salmon.  Thankfully, the Cruelty Free Shop has started carrying Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Smoked Salmon.  It’s not a perfect replica but it is very close and soooo tasty.  I had so many slices of toast with Tofutti cream cheese and some chives.  Heaven.  Happy little vegan.

8) Macaron adventures

Three Assorted Flavor Breads
Image description: three macarons in a pile.  The bottom is cream, the middle is pink and the top is brown.  

Disclaimer: the macarons in the picture above are not mine.  Mine only vaguely resembled macarons.

Image may contain: food
Image description: macarons with the insides exploded out.
Image may contain: food
Image description: a slightly less exploded macaron.  

 

Pictured above: attempts one and two.  They tasted fine.  I’ve never tasted macarons before, vegan or otherwise, so I have no point of reference, but these were nice, with a light marzipan flavour.  I definitely need to have another crack and try and get them better, but I think eventually I’ll get it.

I baked them with my sister and it was a bit of a giggle.  It took us HOURS and she managed to turn our sugar syrup into a solid rock, but I enjoyed it, even if it was incredibly frustrating to put in all that work and just get explosions.

This is the recipe I used.  On my second batch I turned the oven down to 250F and it worked much better.  I’ll keep playing and let you know if I ever manage it.

9) Love Nikki

Image result for love nikki
Image description: a pink-haired anime girl with flowers.  She has pale skin and brown eyes and is smiling.  She is the titular character in the game Love Nikki,  

If you play mobile games with pop-up ads you have probably seen some for Love Nikki.  It’s basically like Pokemon but for fashion.  Your character, Nikki, is inexplicably transported to another world with her cat, Momo, and ends up in a bunch of styling contests.  The game has a bunch of content and paying players definitely have a big advantage, but even my cheap self who just plays the free version can get heaps out of it.

It may seem like a silly thing to be grateful for, but it’s another thing I can do for fun when I’m really sick and stuck in bed.  Apps are great for the chronically ill.  Plus, I really like anime and pretty clothes, so this ticks all the boxes.  Let me know in the comments if you’d like a more in-depth review.

10) Sex Education

Image result for sex education

I don’t mean the school lessons – mine were patchy and weird at best.  Highlights included being told repeatedly to just “keep your pants on!” in a strong US accent, and pictures of diseased genitalia.  That’s a Christian school vs a public school for you, I suppose.  Both freakish and not particular useful, just in very different ways.

What I am actually referring to is the Netflix show, Sex Education, starring Asa Butterfield (you may recognise him as the titular character of Ender’s Game).  Whilst this show does have more sex scenes than I really want to see (probably unsurprising, given the name), it also deals really, really well with some very real issues – poverty, abandonment, over-protective parents, divorce, sexual trauma, abortion, vaginismus, slut-shaming, parental pressure, revenge porn, stigma against virginity, stalking, drugs, homosexuality (both repressed and flambouyant) and the attendant prejudice and danger, and a raft of others.  The characters are engaging – some are deeply loveable, some are deeply tragic, and it is just incredibly well-written.  If you don’t mind a whole bunch of nudity and want a show that really tugs the heart-strings, this is a good one for you.  I was hooked.  I am not kidding when I say I laughed, I cried, and I determined to teach my hypothetical future children strong lessons about their self-worth and ensure that they get proper sex education.

March Gratitude

Yes, it’s April now, but too bad, you’re going to hear what I was grateful for in March anyway.  Suck it up.  Be grateful.

1)  I went to Melbourne for the first time

Bird's Eyeview Photography of City Landscape
Image Description: a picture of Melbourne from the air.  It is dusk and the lights in the buildings are on.  There are a lot of tall buildings and a river with bridges over it.

Yes, I am one of those Australia-dwellers who had never actually been to Melbourne.  For non-Australians, there is this ongoing rivalry between our two biggest cities, Sydney (New South Wales) and Melbourne (Victoria) about which one is better.  Both have lots of nice old buildings, stacks of traffic, and road rules that make it very difficult for visitors to have a clue what’s going on.

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with Melbourne as a city (heresy, I know).  It’s not really that different from other big cities to me.  I just don’t like cities that much.  However, I did get to see one of my best friends whom I haven’t seen in ages, drink a zingy bubble tea, attend an interesting seminar, and try Lord of the Fries for the first time (very tasty).

2)  I saw Julie Bishop

I went to a very interesting seminar at which Australia’s recently resigned Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, was speaking.  Love or loathe the Liberal Party and its members, I think Julie Bishop is a very impressive, articulate and well-informed woman who has been a bit of a trailblazer in an arena still very much dominated by men.  She also has some amazing clothes.  It was a privilege to get to hear her speak in person and I was very interested to hear her views.

3)  I made a cake

I love baking and cooking, but they can be difficult for me, because standing for long periods is a huge trigger for my pain.  This one is pretty quick and easy, though, and it was a big hit at work!

I made two six-inch cakes instead of one eight-inch cake, and layered strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and Sarah Kidd’s delicious cream cheese buttercream between them and on the top.  I still have stacks of buttercream left over, so I’m going to make some cupcakes for next week and continue to buy the love of my coworkers with delicious vegan baking.

4)  I went to a cafe and there were millions of dogs

It was a brunch, and the food was very tasty, but the DOGS.  There was a tiny dachshund puppy in a wrap like a baby, with the softest head I have ever touched.  There was a huge lollopy smiley golden retreiver.  There was a beautiful sleek black greyhound called Jazz, who wanted lots of strokes.  There was a bear that the owners tried to pass off as a St Bernard.  It had paws the size of my face, and I have a fairly average-sized face for a 178cm human.  There was a pitbull with a smile that lit up the whole day.  Basically, it was heaven.  There was cake and dogs.  What more could you possibly want?

5)  The weather got colder

Dirt Road Cover by Dried Leaves
Image description: a shot from close to the ground of orange leaves on a dirt road.  Above them is an avenue of treats with yellow foliage.  The sun is shining through them.

It’s no secret that I love spring, but I also adore autumn.  Summer in Australia is just too hot for a pasty white child like me.  I sweat and I crisp up at the edges, and the backs of my legs stick to chairs.  I don’t like it.  Autumn, for the two weeks it seems to last in Australia, has days in that perfect 18-25 degree range, with enough sunshine to boost the spirit and enough grey rainy days to let a girl cuddle up under a soft cushiony duvet with an animal and her husband.  Perfect.

6)  I learned some salsa

Thursday 21 March was Harmony Day in Australia, a day about celebrating multiculturalism.  As part of it, my workplace hosted a salsa class.

A bunch of corporate types trying to salsa in suits will always be good value, but the class itself was just clean good fun.  Was it good for my endo?  Not even slightly.  Did I have a slightly sweaty blast and get some good cardio and strength work in?  Sure did!

7) One perfect rose

I’m a big fan of the poetry of Dorothy Parker.  She wrote a poem called “One Perfect Rose.”  It goes:

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet–
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

Well, from my garden in March came one perfect rose, and it made me very happy.  Unfortunately, I cannot seem to get this picture off my phone and into this post for the life of me, so, if you want to see it, along with pictures of random flowers that make me happy and many pictures of corgis, cats and wigs, have a look at my instagram, @offbalancespinningtop.  

8) Dinner with my friend

Despite living in the same city as her, I don’t get to see one of my friends nearly as often as I’d like.  However, we started the month with dinner together and I love spending time with her so much.  She is the sweetest, kindest person and just makes everything better.

9) Youtube Fun

I spent a fair amount of time on youtube in March.  Possibly more than was healthy.  Anyway, I had a great deal of fun binge-watching Safiya Nygaard’s videos.  She’s just so fun and happy and does such wacky stuff, and she bawled like crazy when she got engaged, which made me happy-cry.  A good time all round.

10) Queer Eye Season 3!

Image result for queer eye
Image Description: a picture of the Queer Eye Fab Five.  From left to right: Bobby (pale, blonde hair and beard, wearing a suit and a happy expression); Karamo (dark skinned with a closely trimmed black beard and a faint fuzz of black hair, wearing a very shiny suit with a grey tie and a suave smile); Antoni, pale with brain hair, clean-shave, wearing a suit and looking soulful); Jonathan (pale with brown flowing locks and a joyful face); and Tan (white shirt and black jacket, tanned skin and dark and light grey hair in a quiff, also looking suave but less smiley than Karamo).  

I love Queer Eye.  It is so heart-warming and Tan France’s hair is an international treasure.  The fact that Season 3 has come makes my little heart sing.  My favourite episode was Black Magic, in which Jess, adopted and then rejected when she was outed as a lesbian to her conservative family, learns how to trust and love again, as well as getting in touch with both her sister and her own identity as a black woman.

There was a very disconcerting episode in which a very tall man shaved off the nice beard Jonathan Van Ness had carefully given him.  I was in shock.

Do you watch Queer Eye?  What was your favourite episode in Season 3?  What made you happy in March?  Let me know in the comments!

February Gratitude

CW: pregnancy, body image

As I mentioned in January, one post I really want to try and commit to each month this year is a list of things I am grateful for.  It is actually quite challenging.  Although I’m generally a positive person who lives life at a level I would call “content”, and only occasionally swing into bouts of terror and sadness, this is quite a challenge for me, particularly since I want to put my animals and my family on every list and I have set myself the challenge to be grateful for new things every month.  Anything that stretches my ability to be grateful, however, I suspect is a good challenge.  Practice, after all, makes perfect.

1)  fLash Lash

This may sound terribly superficial, but since we’ve already established that I am I’m going to plough right ahead anyway.  My friend put me on to this lash serum.  I was really sceptical at first because the idea of a lash serum just sounds really gimmicky to me.  However, I’ve been using it for about a month now, and it works!  My lashes are actually longer.  I tried to take a before and after, but unfortunately my before is really blurry so it’s extremely hard to see any sort of difference.  The difference isn’t huge – certainly nothing as dramatic as the pictures on the website –  but it is noticeable, and I love it.  I will definitely be repurchasing this one.  (And no, sadly this is not a sponsored post and I do not get any money from spruiking the wonders of fLash Lash).

2) Maternity jeans

I’m not pregnant, but I am now a sworn devotee of maternity jeans.  I’ve never actually tried them before, although I have written about them as I know other endo-warriors who wear them.  Now I’m not sure I ever want to wear anything else.  I tried on this pair yesterday and was blown away.

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Image description: a pair of legs wearing black skinny jeans with a rip on each knee standing in a Scandi-style room with a white crib.  There is a wooden window seat next to the legs with a cream cushion and a grey throw.

They look like jeans, but they feel like leggings and they are so soft and comfy on the belly.  They are actually quite flattering, and I say this as someone who has always felt very self-conscious about the width of her hips in leggings and skinny jeans.  With a pair of biker boots they are positively badass.  Badass comfort – what more could you possibly want?  You could fight crime and look cool in these things.

3)  New friends

Whilst I still miss my friends from my old workplace, particularly my fLash Lash friend and another lovely woman who left a few months before I did, I am delighted to have found such incredible people at my new job.  They are mostly women, and they are all wonderful – friendly, helpful, chatty, hardworking, collaborative, and always up for a jaunt to the local coffee shop or grocer.  They’ve made me feel so at home.  Great colleagues make for a great job even when the work isn’t tops, and I love the work too, so it’s great all round.

4)  My employer’s attitude to disability

Although I have thankfully not had to put it to the test in a “I’ve only worked three hours in the last month” sort of way, my employer so far seems really pro-disability and supportive of disabled staff.  We get personalised desk assessments (everyone, disabled or otherwise) and if you have a pre-existing condition they get in a physio or other specialist to do it.  Mine has resulted in a better chair and an extra plug so I can have my electric heat pack plugged in at my desk.  This means no more awkward trips to and from the kitchen every forty minutes juggling a piping hot wheat bag that will be painfully hot at first and then cool down annoyingly quickly.  This hugely increases my ability to stay at my desk working.  It makes such a difference.

5)  Cool weather

I don’t do terribly well in the heat.  I am too white for days much above 30 degrees.  I like a gentle cool breeze on a warm 27-28 degree day.  English summers are largely perfect, in my eyes.  Summers here are dry and baking and seem to parch the moisture right out of you, except when it is stormy in which case they are hot and sweaty but still leave you really thirsty and dry on the inside.  Thankfully, February has largely seen a move to more gentle temperatures.  As I write this, we’re expecting a top of 24.  Perfect.  Love it.  I know I’ll be having the opposite feeling come winter, but right now I’m happy as the proverbial clam.

6)  Nice hair

It’s not always nice, but yesterday I got a haircut and now it’s just spiffy.  It’s great while it lasts and it makes me happy.  It smells nice, too.

7)  Adventurous tomatoes

I didn’t plant any tomatoes this year.  My plants just ran riot last year and I had more tomatoes than I could comprehend, so I thought I’d give them a miss this year.  Despite this, I have four or five tomato plants sprouting in the garden, including one that is growing in the cracks of the pavement again.  They are plucky and determined plants, and I’m actually pretty excited because I do like tomatoes.  I also have a single brave chili growing in my Vegepod.  I’d forgotten I even planted chillis (did I plant chillis?  Is it even a chilli?  We’ll find out when I cut it open, I suppose).

IMG_3818
Image description: my hand, holding six slightly oval little tomatoes.  One has a green stem on it.  There is dirt on some of them and on my fingers because they are fresh from the garden.

8)  Valentine’s Day

Like most people, I’m not a huge fan of the commercialism that inevitably springs up around days like this.  However, I am a fan of the idea of love persevering, and a brave man helping couples marry in secret.  I also like the reminder it brings to have a special date with my husband and take an evening to really cherish our relationship.  We’ve endured a lot together and it’s really important for us to make happy memories too.

9)  The Done app

As you may know from my previous mention of my dairies, I’ve switched from a bullet journal to a more traditional (but also very fullsome) planner this year.  One other thing I’ve done is make my habit tracker digital.  There’s an app called Done which allows you to track 5 habits for free, or as many as you like for $6.99.  I paid for the full suite.  I’m sticking to tracking my habits far more effectively when it’s on my phone, and it is actually easier to view trends there.

Image result for done app
Image description: text that reads, “Track any goal or Habit.  Track an activity multiple times a day, week, month or year.”  Beneath that is a grey silhouette of a phone.  On the screen it says, “Done”.  Beneath that are five bars.  A partially-filled yellow one says “Wake Up Early: 3.  This week, 03/04 mornings”.  A partially filled red one says “Workout: 5.  This month: 08/10 sessions.”  A partially-filled bright blue one says “Drink Water: 3.  Today: 04/08 glasses.”  A partially-filled lilac one says, “Meditation: 3.  Weekly: 02/03 sessions.”  A fully-filled blue one says, “Less coffee: 5.  Today: 00/02 cups max.”

When you have reached your goal for the day/week/month/whatever, the bar fully fills up.  The number on the right refers to your streak of how many days/weeks/months in a row you’ve managed the habit.  It’s quite motivating and really quick to do.

10) Finally getting over this cold (I hope)

This darn cold is dragging on and on and on, as they always do when you have an immune system as useful as the male nipple.  However, I think it might finally be going away.  I can feel something almost like energy waving a tentative hand in my direction, and my headache is only dizzying instead of catastrophic.  Progress!

 

 

January Gratitude

In the spirit of keeping some positivity in what could otherwise be a fairly gloomy blog, this year I want to commit to finishing each month with a post on things I am grateful for that month. I’m going to push myself to list ten things per month and to look for the silver lining even in the bad things.

Not every bad thing will have a silver lining, and some months will have far more good than bad, but I like being happy and I am trying to wire my brain to go to a happy place more than a sad place.

Before I begin, I want to note that I do not want the fact that I or other chronically ill bloggers do this as a stick to bludgeon those who don’t. Depression and anxiety can’t be cured simply by “choosing happiness,” and the realities of chronic illness are that happiness can be hard to find. It is not the duty of the ill to be positive.

This sickly sausage, however, is going to try. Without further ado, this is what I’m grateful for in January:

1) Three weeks of holiday

As readers will know, last year I made a very quick and terrifying decision to leave my old job and go into a different role. Between leaving the old and starting the new, I had about three weeks without work. This let me relax properly, let go of the tension that I had built up during the year, get on top of some outstanding domestic tasks, and really focus on my health. I was able to use the time to run, swim, sleep, play computer games, take mornings slowly. I was able to build some good habits around fitness, getting 5,000 steps a day and doing some form of exercise daily, even just walking the dog (who was delighted to have me home).

2) Beach time

After not having gone to the beach in ages, in January I got to go twice. I love being at the sea, swimming, diving, smelling the salt air and hunting for tiny fish to watch. My husband reintroduced me to boogie boarding, which I hadn’t done since I was a little girl. I’d forgotten how fun it is!

Image description: a man holding a lead with a corgi jumping on the end. They are at the beach, in the surf. This is my little corgi Pearl finding out that waves are wet and splashy, and bigger than her.

We also discovered that our dog hates the ocean, possibly because she is so stumpy.

3) My new job

Nice as my break was, paid employment is a privilege. Even more important than my income, however, is that my new job is interesting and challenging – I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m actually really enjoying it. Equally important is that my colleagues are truly lovely. I do miss my old work besties, but we still chat regularly on facebook and in the meantime, I’m building relationships with (mostly) women I already admire and respect.

4) My catio

One of my Christmas presents from my parents was some money to put towards an outdoor enclosure for my beautiful, noisy, pest of a cat. This 1.8m enclosure lets him feel the wind in his whiskers whilst staying safe from the various perils of cars, dogs, and other cats. It also stops him from terrorising the local wildlife. His favourite outdoor activity is eating the grass.

Image description: a ginger cat looking at the camera. He is lying on the top platform of a grey, multi-tiered cat tower. He is inside a large cage made of netting covered in a green shade cloth. There is a litter tray, a kennel and a pink chair in the cage, which is placed in the corner of two brick walls and floored half in grass, half in pebble-dash path. This is Max enjoying his outdoor time while I do some garden chores so we can hang our together outside.

I think its super cool and I can’t wait to deck it out with more stuff for him.

5) Thunderstorms

My dog may be scared of storms, but I love them. I love watching the horizon glow with sheet lightning, or see bolts flash and crackle across the sky. Summer thunderstorms here are brief but generally very impressive.

6) New Pathways

Some news that I haven’t yet shared on this blog is that I was recently given a tentative additional diagnosis of adenomyosis. I’ll blog more later on what that is and how it affects the sufferer, but for now I am focussing on this: my ongoing post-surgery pain has a possible explanation, and therefore a possible treatment pathway. I’m not just a weirdo and my surgery wasn’t a waste of money.

7) My parents’ lovely Czech neighbour

He gave them a whole bunch of plums from his garden, which is an act of sweet neighbourliness that I just love, and I profited because my parents passed some on to me.

8) My new diaries

I’ve talked previously about my cool new diary set from Leaders in Heels. I’ve really loved how they’ve worked for me throughout January to keep me motivated and organised, whilst still giving me space to doodle and journal.

Image description: four books in a stack; a black one with white writing, a pink one, a lilac one and a dark navy one. A ginger cat is lying behind them and his tail is flopped over them. The books and cat are on a blue checked bedspread with a red wall in the background. Max keeping me company on a flare day and looking after my diaries for me.

9) Fun hair

I bought a bunch of wigs recently. Some were purchased last year during my horrible experience with tramadol. Some were purchased in January when I realised I love wigs.

Image description: a head-and-shoulders shot of a twenty-something white woman against a cream wall. She has long grey hair in a half-up style and sparkly blue lipstick. She is wearing a blue cold-shoulder dress with white nautical symbols on it. I love this grey wig from Wig Is Fashion. My real hair will never be this long, and I’ve always loved the way grey hair looks but didn’t want to bleach my hair or commit to dying it. This wig finally let me have it and I feel like a witchy mermaid. It’s great.

It’s too hot at the moment to take advantage of them, but this year I’ll be able to change my hair up easily and without having to commit to a different style or colour. Exciting stuff.

10) How privileged this list is

The fact that I can celebrate these small, trivial things like wigs and plums is because I was born into and continue to live a white, middle-class life in a developed nation. When I turn a tap, I take it for granted that I will immediately see clean water. When I open the pantry, it might not have as much chocolate as I’d like, but it will certainly have food (usually 16 million tins of diced tomatoes, for reasons I don’t fully understand). I am highly educated, I have a stable job, and I am not persecuted for my gender, religion or anything else. My government may change PM more often than I change jackets, but we are unlikely to see coups or major bouts of civil unrest. I am safe.

What are you grateful for this month? Do you keep a gratitude diary or something similar?

A Day of Gratitude

It’s the first day of spring!  My mood has been slowly creeping towards the positive with the fresh smell in the air and the gradual increase in temperature, and now spring is finally here!  I’m celebrating it by making resolutions I probably won’t keep, but also by following on from last month and starting September in a positive way, with a gratitude post!  I want to kick this month off with a list of ten things that I am grateful for.  I challenge you to do the same thing, whether in your diary, here in the comments or on your own blog or facebook page.

Without any further ado, today I am grateful for:

1) Spring!

Yes, I know I kind of said this already, but I love spring.  It fills me with hope and a yearning to be outdoors.  In my mind it’s all flowers and lazy bees and warm days that aren’t too hot yet.

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Look at these happy little bees buzzing around in my rosemary.  

2) Work

I may not get there every day and it can be stressful as all heck, but I adore my colleagues and the work I do can be really fulfilling.  It can also be silly and trivial and you wonder why some people think that they need a lawyer to sort it out, but the feeling when a terrified women walks out of court with a piece of legal protection she didn’t have before, or a confused man who had no understanding of what he could do suddenly has a clear pathway to follow, and you gave it to them?  That’s pretty good.  It’s those moments that really make it for me, when people are staring at this confusing, tangled legal pathway and you can just go, “Here’s what you do,” and they suddenly have a clear path to follow.

3) Dr Edi-Osagi

I mentioned last week that I had an appointment with the good doctor via Skype.  More recently I received his reporting letter about the appointment, and I nearly cried.  He included every detail I told him about my pain, laid out a clear treatment plan, and noted that my quality of life is low.  I’ve never had a doctor do that for me before in such detail, or draw such a conclusion.  I didn’t even tell him I thought I had a low quality of life; he examined what I told him and drew that conclusion for himself.  It was the most validating experience and I have never felt so listened to or supported by a medical professional before, even if it turns out down the track that he won’t be able to assist me.

4) My animals

They are such a constant source of joy for me.  Every morning when Pearl comes out of her bedroom (the laundry) she does a little butt-wiggling stretch and then shoves her head into my chest for a cuddle.  When we get home from work, she dances around us with her silly little corgi paws all over the place, doing that thing dogs do where they really want cuddles but are too excited to stand still for them.

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Basking in the sunshine. 10/10 good dog.

Every day Max jumps up on the sofa to sit with me or on me and looks at me with that perfect ginger face, and purrs like a little steam train.  Each morning when I get up he throws himself dramatically down at my feet and rolls around on his back for tummy scratches.  He’s impossibly cute and I love him.

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As a lawyer, can confirm: it would be illegal not to kiss that little face.

5) My mum

Pretty much as soon as she got back from her overseas trip she was right back into the swing of supporting and helping me in every way she could.  From walking me and the dog to bringing me my microwave (which had been living with her) and just straight up emotional support, she is pretty much the bestest.

6) My husband

He works so hard and still finds the emotional energy to support and help me and the physical energy to walk the dog, do the bulk of the housework and keep fit and healthy.  He’s superman.  I don’t know how he does it.  He also makes the most amazing meals.

7) Small luxuries

This morning I had fresh berries on my cereal.  Tomorrow night I’m going to have a long relaxing bath with a face mask.  Yesterday I burnt my coconut Dusk candle and basked in its tropical smell as I made a really cool calendar page for September in my bullet journal.  This morning my dress has this little bit of tulle just at the base of the skirt and it feels so fancy.

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My fancy dress (Review’s Alouette Dress) as modelled on the Iconic by this stunning lady

8) Snails having baths

Just google it.  It’s adorable.  It made my heart sing this morning.

9) The Llandor Trilogy

My sister and I read this series of books about fifteen years ago, but over time we forgot what they were called.  We couldn’t even really remember the plot, just random elements; a boy and a girl get sucked into a fantasy world.  The girl wants to be a hairdresser.  The boy wants to work in IT.  They had adventures including a banshee in an underground cave, rock giants, and a black mage that the girl accidentally killed by shoving him off a cliff, except maybe he didn’t die because he could turn into some sort of bird of prey (but we couldn’t remember what).  We tried every google combination we could think of over many years, asked facebook friends, tried Yahoo Answers, and eventually, exactly one year ago today, we finally hit on the right google combination and discovered that the books were the Llandor Trilogy (and that there were actually three children, not two).  It was quite possibly the single most cathartic experience of my entire life.

I’m going to celebrate by reading the series again, starting today.

10) This blog and you, my lovely readers

I never actually thought anyone would read this blog.  I thought I’d write for a while with maybe 2 followers, then get bored and stop.  Instead, 2 months after starting it I have 41 followers.  It may not be many in the grand scheme of internet pages, but I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of you and you are the reason I will continue writing.  It tells me that there are people who are interested in endometriosis and that it is worth writing about.  So thank you, my wonderful people.  I hereby commit to a giveaway of some sort when we reach 100.  I’m working on ideas (but feel free to drop some more in the comments).

 

So what are you grateful for today?  What little things have made your heart sing?  Are you excited for September?

 

Staying Grateful

There’s a lot not to love about endometriosis.  It alters our moods, our bodies, our pain levels, our love lives, our work and our ability to have children, and generally not for the better.  I tried starting this month out with a post on the few positives I have managed to drag out of this experience, but today I want to talk more about how to maintain a mindset of gratitude in general.

It’s a funny thing, gratitude.  I often say and think that you don’t owe people gratitude for doing the bare minimum of decency, such as when men get applauded for “babysitting” their own children.  However, I do think that gratitude is healthy, and taking time to be grateful for small things is good for the soul.  It has a whole range of positive benefits on the psyche, from making us happier and more likeable to making us physically healthier due to the reduced stress.

In addition, Christians are called to be grateful to our creator for our lives, this beautiful planet, and pretty much everything else.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you let yourself turn into some sort of sycophant who is constantly kissing the bottoms of everyone for any minor thing they’ve done to assist, nor am I suggesting that we should be grateful for the problems that we face as people with chronic illnesses.  What I am suggesting is that we do our best to cultivate a more grateful (but still realistic) mindset overall.  How can we do that?

Step One

List things that you are unadulteratedly (is that a word?) grateful for.  Things that don’t have any negative association for you.  For instance, I am grateful for spring weather, for my idiotic cat, the love of my husband, and my comfy bed.  They aren’t things that ever have negative aspects for me.  I think you’ll find that this is actually a surprisingly large list.  Challenge yourself to make it as big as possible.  Fill pages.  You don’t need to have a reason for why you are grateful for them.  I’m grateful for mountains.  I don’t know why.  I just like them.

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Mountains are PRETTY.

Don’t just make stuff up, though.  If you hate the ocean, don’t put that you are grateful for it.  It’s not something that you can be purely grateful for without a negative.  There’s no point fluffing out the list for the sake of making it bigger – that will take away from the things that you really are grateful for.

Step Two

List the things that didn’t fit on that first list – things that suck but you are grateful for a particular aspect of them.  For instance, I hate that it can be so hard to get doctors to listen, but I am so grateful for the ones that do.  I hate that I have so few days without pain, but I am grateful when they come.

It’s important with this to list the negative before the positive.  Framing it as, “I love it when I get to exercise but I hate that it hurts so much afterwards” is not looking on the bright side.  It’s true, but it doesn’t belong on this list.

Step Three

Put your list into practice.  When you come across a bad situation or are having a terrible day, see if you can find a bright side to it.  Write it down if that helps.  I’m not saying that you will always be able to find a bright side.  Sometimes there simply won’t be one, and that’s ok.  However, the more you do this, the easier it will get.  It’s a case of faking it til you make it, and it does work.  You are training your brain to be more positive.

There are a number of things that I don’t find to be healthy habits in training your brain this way, and I would try to avoid them.  First, don’t compare yourself to someone else.  Your gratitude shouldn’t be, “Well, my endo sucks but at least it isn’t as bad as Emma’s.”  That invalidates your pain and makes poor Emma an object of pity.  Don’t do it.  Second, don’t get stupid with it.  “My pain is a 10/10 but at least I’m not DEAD.”  That’s not a helpful mindset and it will make you bitter, not grateful.  Goodness knows I struggle enough to be not bitter without thoughts like that.  Third, don’t force it.  Faking it and forcing it are not the same.  Four, don’t let gratitude get in the way of holding people up to standards of human decency.  If you got your handbag stolen at knifepoint, you wouldn’t be grateful to the thief for not actually stabbing you.  You might be grateful that you got out unharmed, but that’s not the same as being grateful to the knife-wielding menace.  Send your gratitude in the right direction.

 

I don’t think gratitude is easy when you’ve been dealt a really rough hand.  I am often too depressed to be grateful for anything.  Sometimes, even the things I’m grateful for can be really annoying.  For example, I am incredibly grateful for my cat, but as I typed this sentence I just heard him figure out how to unlock open the bathroom window and now I know I will never have peace or a warm house ever again.  Yep, here comes the cold winter air swirling in.  Little pest.  Got to be impressed at the persistence and ingenuity, though.

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Preparing to ruin my nice warm bath by opening the window and letting in all the cold, no doubt.

I digress.

Practice making perfect and faking it til you make it are pretty worn-out maxims by now, but they remain true all the same.  Some days it is hard, but I find my mental health really does benefit when I drag my brain away from the bad stuff and let it frolic in the good stuff for a while.  Being in a good place mentally then makes it easier for me to deal with the physical pain.

Do you find that being grateful makes a difference to your mindset?  How do you manage to stay grateful when we have a fair number of things not to be grateful for?  Let me know in the comments, and say tuned for the follow-up to this piece, “Staying Generous.”