Slope

Do you ever have a run of being relatively content and calm with life, and think, ‘This isn’t so bad. What was ever so bad about the bad moments? I can handle this.’ ?
… Perhaps it’s an anxiety thing.

Well, I’m going through a bad moment. It’s the culmination of many factors, and the kind of mood where I find myself attributing my current situation to the entirety of my life up to this point. I know things will improve.
Eventually.
But now… is not awesome.

Devin is not a part of the bad. Have I mentioned undies are now his butt-wear of choice? Yep. Most of the credit for that goes to Jene and Devin. I just crossed my arms and said, “I am SICK of buying nappies.”

A few days ago, with a bottle of juice in hand, he told me, “I love juice, Mummy. For all of my life.”

Today, as we were playing with Ruby (our dog), Devin said he could feel her heart beat. Then he said what I had told him, that Taz’s heart had stopped. I said yes, that’s right. He struggled for words for a moment, and eventually asked, “Maybe Taz’s heart will start beating again soon?”
Oh, I had to swallow a lump at that.
He also asked later, after his nap, if we could play in the backyard, “where Ruby is, and where Tazy is buried.” I’ve been fine about it for the last two weeks, but those two sentences today…

The hardest moments with him lately are the times he is being… well, opinionated, for want of a better word. I will tell him it’s time to get ready for bed, and he will look at me and say, “No.” I know the word is nothing new, but the way he says it is as if he has the final say on the matter. I told him today to not tip the cloud dough in to the sandpit (after he had done it), so of course, he scooped more up and dumped it in. It wasn’t that he was testing me or being deliberately defiant – he just wanted to do it. So he did.

He is also developing some not-so-subtle persuasion techniques. Phrases along the lines of the juice comment, for example, are often used when he wants something…
“Mummy, what you got on your toast?”
“Vegemite.”
“Hm. I like Vegemite, Mummy. I do.”

And he whispers questions that he thinks will receive an answer he doesn’t like…
Tan I have something?
“Pardon, Devy?”
“Tan I have something to eat?”
As if we will say yes because we can’t hear him?

That’s all for now, it’s later than I realised. I hope life is kind to you this week.

Overcoming anxiety and being rewarded with an awesome outcome…

… I could stop and think of a snappier title, but that sums it up, really.

Play School is an iconic Australian television show for kids. It’s been running since 1966 and is the second longest running children’s show in the world. Two presenters sing, dance, tell stories and make crafts on a variety of simple sets, with the aid of equally iconic toys with names like Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Scrap and Humpty.
(Excuse the dry introduction, I’m trying to lay some background details.)
There are also often live Play School performances that tour the country – and they really tour it, they don’t just visit the capital cities. I remember my mum taking us to at least one of these, and of course we grew up watching the show on TV.
I knew there was going to be a show here, and I was so excited to take Devin, but by the time we had money to buy tickets, they were sold out. I was extremely disappointed; this is not a city where live entertainment abounds, let alone live entertainment for kids. Every time I saw a poster or heard mention of it for the next month, I would sigh heavily and relive the disappointment.

On Thursday, the day before the show, we made a spur-of-the-moment change of plans and went out to eat lunch, rather than stay at home. So spur-of-the-moment, in fact, that I had to drive all the way home and back (a twenty minute round trip) because I had forgotten my wallet. By the time we were eating it was almost 3:30pm.
Just as we were finishing and gazing around the shopping centre food court, Jene said, “Hey, that’s Jay Laga’aia.”
And so it was, just he and another man (actually Bill the piano player for the show) wandering around the (quite small) complex.
I stared and thought. Should I take Devin and speak to him? Maybe ask for a photo? This was a rare opportunity. I’d never encountered someone well-known before. But no one else was approaching him – did they not recognise him, or were they just as shy as me? My heart was pounding as I grappled with conflicting feelings of anxiety and urgency.
Jene continued to urge me to do it, and finally, as they were heading out the doors, I found myself walking in their direction almost without thinking.
I had Devin by the hand, and I ushered him ahead of me as I apologised for interrupting. I introduced Devin to Jay, and Jay to Devin. Jay asked if we were coming to see the show, and I said that we’d missed out on tickets, so we were saying hello now.
“Oh, no! Hmm, well, I’ll you what Devin – you bring Mum along tomorrow anyway, get her to give me a call, and I’ll get you both in, free of charge.”
At this point my hands were shaking uncontrollably and I could barely grasp the card he handed me. I could feel the familiar flush spreading from my chest to my face. I thanked him very much and said we’d see him tomorrow, and just as we were walking away, Devin asked me, rather loudly, “Who’s that?”
Double flush.
Throughout the encounter Jene had taken himself off out of sight, and the first thing he said to me was how red I was. Wonderful.
Regardless, I felt incredible. I could scarcely believe I had done that. Me.

That night, I suddenly realised I would need a phone with credit to make the call the next morning. Frustrated with credit recharges and possibly feeling the last pulses of adrenalin from earlier, I impulsively ordered a phone on a plan before arranging to take Jene’s mobile with me in the morning. This is noteworthy because when I made the call and it went to message bank, I tried to hang up – and couldn’t. The phone wouldn’t respond. Jay Laga’aia would’ve received a voice mail of me saying, “Ohhh, it won’t hang up, Devy!”, frantic tapping and fumbling, Devin whinging and me hissing, “Devin!”, before I finally resorted to switching the phone off.
I bravely turned it back on and tried again; this time when it went to voice mail, I was able to hang up, glory of glories.
(I didn’t leave a message because… well, I froze. I can hardly deal with answering machines in normal circumstances, let alone incredibly unusual ones like this.)
A few minutes later, Jay called back, and soon Devin and I were in the auditorium, waiting for the show to start.

Devin picked a Humpty and shared his Le Snack… while making faces. Because, I don’t know. He’s a three-year-old.


The show went for 45 minutes, which is just about perfect. You can see the emphasis is on imagination – the washing basket was a tractor and a boat.

Devin was becoming rather fidgety by the end, complaining that he was hungry, but I wanted to wait for an autograph and thank Jay again. We didn’t have a long wait in line – they were lovely and friendly to everyone but still moved quickly because they had another show to perform soon after. We reached Abby first, she signed a card for Devin and slid it over to Jay as he was finishing with the kids in front of us. When he saw Devin’s name, he looked up to find him and gave him the most enthusiastic greeting.

Though they hadn’t really been stopping for photos, he told me to put Devin up on the table so I could get a picture. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get Devin to look away from the signed cards, but he did at least nod and say “yes” when Jay asked him if he’d enjoyed the show, which is more than the blank stare that he usually gives people. I said we’d had a great time and thanked him very much, and we said goodbye.

After a quick regroup on the stage and a closer examination of the autographs, we headed out to get some morning tea at the cafe downstairs. (Well, eventually, after Devin had watched the glass-walled lift go up and down a few times.)
Just as we had almost finished, both of us feeling calmer and refreshed, I got another call from Jay. He said he hoped we’d had a good time, asked what we were doing for the day and told me what his day entailed, and passed on his best wishes for Devin.
Such an amazingly nice guy!

I felt incredible after all of that. Proud of doing something for Devin that resulted in a positive chain of events for both of us. I really can’t articulate how significant this was for me… All I can say is, the me of even three months ago would not have done any of this.

I felt so buoyed by the experience that I let Devin ride up and down the carpark lift (a novelty in this city) for a while, and when we got home I registered us both to volunteer for National Tree Day – which is a story for another post.

So thanks, Jay Laga’aia – your kindness had more of an impact than you probably realise.

When I feel scared I imagine I am a tree. They don’t get scared. They are just trees.

I haven’t written anything substantial in a long time and I’m having a bit of difficulty so please, if you’re still here and still interested, bear with me.

I’ve been taking anxiety medication for about three months now, and so far, it’s helping a lot. The positive change is not actually something I’m fully aware of until I properly think about it – for example, I realised today that I would answer a phone call without a second thought. That’s HUGE. For years now I would only answer my mobile when I was expecting an important call, and I never, ever answered the home phone. I’ve also stopped involuntarily flinching away from people whenever they pass me – at home and in public.

What’s more, I took up a job offer! My dad sees his massage therapist regularly, and mentioned once that I’d been thinking of taking that path myself. She very kindly offered to let me spend the day with her so I could see first-hand what she does and whether it was something I wanted to pursue. At that time, though, I was still in the worst grips of anxiety and becoming discouraged about the future, so I didn’t go.
Recently, she told Dad that she needed some casual help for reception and cleaning, and that if I was interested, the job was mine. I heard the news on a Wednesday night, and the next morning at 8:30, I took myself down to the business and basically said, “Yes, please!” Pre-meds, I wouldn’t have slept that night, and I probably would’ve put off accepting until it was too late. I was still a little nervous, of course, but I did it. And I felt great. Now I’m just waiting to start.

This also means that Jene will be accompanying Devin to Kinder Gym and music classes* from now on – something that, I think, will be great for both of them. Despite having attended Kinder Gym for three terms and music class for one, Devin is still very shy and reluctant to participate. Much more so than any other child we’ve encountered. Though I do like going with him, I have to admit that I’m likely a big part of the problem – I’m the Comfort Parent. I’m hoping that Jene (being simultaneously more no-nonsense in discipline AND sillier in play than me) will bring out a more outgoing side of Devin.
*An early childhood music class. Rhythm, movement, singing, listening… Devin does not sing in class, but will sing the songs when we’re in the car. Often weeks after hearing a song for the first and only time.

I’ve been reluctant to write about these little glimmers of progress because hey, I didn’t want to jinx them. My instinct is to keep things quiet because of the part of me that’s waiting for everything to fall through… The past few years have been frustratingly stagnant.
I’m very tired of waiting, though, so here it all is.

Some more brief ‘news’ before I give my lazy brain a rest – this MooGoo oil cleanser is performing miracles on both Jene and I; the suspension in my car seems to be getting worse by the day; a Korean/Japanese takeaway finally opened here and we’re all in heaven; a few weeks ago I sat in duck poop while making sure Devin didn’t fall into the river; Devin is obsessed with Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy and also –

– he still needs a haircut.

It’s all right.

I have problems with anxiety and the stress it causes. That’s no secret. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m mentioning it now. I feel like the anxiety is getting out of control and I really need external help – but I’m anxious about getting help. I’m also worried about not getting help.
Earlier this week, I woke up feeling especially tense. My stomach was churning, my chest was tight, and I kept having to stop and take huge breaths because I’d realise I wasn’t breathing properly. Usually that kind of bodily reaction is the result of many hours of winding myself up, not the state I find myself in immediately upon waking in the morning. Unsurprisingly, the proceeding day wasn’t fantastic.
When my anxiety peaks like that, it’s almost as if it’s hypnotising me. I can’t concentrate on anything except what’s going on in my head. I fumble around the house, eyes glazed, throat tight, not sure what exactly to do… Worse still, I’m aware of this behaviour, I know it’s unnecessary and fruitless, I know I’m being horrible company, but I find it painfully difficult, if not impossible, to pull myself out of it.
On that day, I put on some music. I don’t have an mp3 player, so I frequently listen to albums in their entirety. I’ve heard Devin Townsend’s Infinity countless times, I have my favourites, but as I was wandering around the house, not really paying attention to the music, one song that I often mentally skip suddenly infiltrated my vicious little thought cycle.

I’m not suggesting it was meaningful or important in any way, that it was some kind of message; it was just a nice moment. For the seven minutes of the song, I felt more relaxed, and my appreciation for the song increased substantially – so much so that I don’t know how I’ve been ignoring it for so long.
Yet another reason to be grateful for Jene.