When KonMari doesn’t spark joy: Five lessons learnt through decluttering with KonMari

KonMari and decluttering in general seems to be the latest fad.  Fueled by the current show on Netflix people are lining up to throw out their possessions.  There something oddly liberating about getting rid of things, perhaps only matched by the joy of purchasing them in the first place.  When we release this clutter, along with them we release years of frustration.  The frustration of not being able to find objects,  seemingly forever lost in a sea of clutter. The frustration of not knowing where and how to store excess goods, moving them in desperation from one place to another, unable to find them permanent homes.  And finally, but perhaps most significantly the frustration of not being able to keep our homes tidy.  In this way throwing things become therapeutic, and indeed makes us less anxious and stressed.

I first came across the KonMari three years ago. I had a clutter problem and wanted to use the extra time I had in the school holidays to tackle it. Through my attempts of using KonMari on and off for the past three years this is what I have discovered:

1) It’s not always wise to throw everything out that doesn’t spark joy:  My toilet brush, for example, doesn’t particularly spark joy, but it’s not something I necessarily want to let go of.  On a more serious note, even if we’re dealing with clothing, for example, I don’t recommend throwing out everything that doesn’t spark joy, at least not initially.  There are some things in my wardrobe that I don’t really love, but they do fulfil a function. If my budget had no limit I would consider replacing them, but even beyond money, it would also take valuable time to find something that fulfils that same function that I really love.  Truth be told, I’m so fussy that it’s possible that it does not even exist.  So I recommend that unless you have unlimited time and money, maybe hold onto those practical things, and consider replacing them when your circumstances permit or as you find a replacement that you love.

2) Take what she says about books with a grain of salt:  Marie Kondo recommends limiting yourself to 30 books. This one area that has been widely criticised recently and rightfully so.  Reading and books should be central to every home.  Ideally, children should grow up surrounded by books.  Being read to and seeing their parents reading is invaluable, as a former English teacher I can’t stress this enough!  Even just having books around for little ones to flip through and ‘read’ before they are able to, is something you can’t put a price on.  My oldest daughter, now an avid reader, at the age of three, carried approximately five books around the house with her at a time.  She would pile books up so high on her bedside table that I was afraid that they’d fall and crush her when she slept.  Was it annoying? Yes.  Did I love having books scattered throughout the house? Not at all.  But I was raising a reader, and that was more important to me than aesthetics, so I encouraged it and quietly placed piles of books on the floor beside her after she fell asleep.

If however, you have a ridiculous number of books, no children, and you don’t even read, then yes, its probably a good idea to get rid of most of them.  If you are not a book person, as I suspect is the case with Marie Kondo, then keep what serves a function, or what will fit in your bookshelf.  There is probably no need to keep your university textbooks from decades ago, or the highly outdated book on how to make a website.  Be realistic and practical; if you don’t love it, will never use it, ditch it.

3) The KonMari method of folding is not as great as it seems:  Don’t get me wrong, I do really like her folding.  But its not the magical solution she makes it out to be. Suffering from a severe lack of drawers I was unable to utilise this method for my own clothing, but I did trial it for two of my children.  While I loved it to begin with it was more time-consuming.  Furthermore, I found that when in a rush or one of the kids got something out of the drawer, it quickly got messed up and had to be tidied up fairly regularly.  This tidying process was also more difficult and time-consuming than usual.  So although it may work well for an adult, it does take a little longer and it needs some regular maintenance when it comes to children’s clothing.

4) Don’t feel the need to talk to your possessions:  In her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’, Marie Kondo suggests communicating with your possessions.  I can love some of my objects, I can appreciate them, but I’m not about to talk to them because somebody says I should.  It might work for some, but I’m just not a talking-to-things kind of person, and that’s ok, I don’t have to be.  As with everything in life, I adapt things to suit my personality.  I don’t believe in trying to be something that I’m not and I don’t believe it will make me more productive. On the contrary, I feel that it’s so much more difficult to do things when you are not being genuine, you’re much less likely to persevere.

5) Don’t insist on doing it all in one lot if you feel it’s not possible:  One of the first things I knew when I started reading Kon Mari’s book is that I wasn’t going to be able to do it in one go.  Despite being on holidays, I still had kids that I had to care for.  I had to feed them, deal with their toileting and break up fights.  I also had to do some basic housework (dishes, washing and general tidying).  With 7 members in my household at the time, just the clothing category in and of itself would take me a week.

I understand her reasoning for trying to do it in one go.  It’s a great idea to ride that initial wave of excitement, to put in the hard yards early on and then enjoy the fruits of your labour.   However, for me, this all or nothing mentality was damaging. It was damaging because from day dot it set me up as a failure.  This is not only the case for mothers, but anybody trying to fit in KonMari with a full-time job, or other major time constraints will face the same dilemma.

In a response to this problem some, such as members in this FaceBook group, have generally adhered to the KonMari method but developed a program that can be done over an extended period of time.  This is very useful for those of us who can not spare so much time in the initial decluttering phase or those who have an overwhelming amount of clutter.

Systems such as KonMari offer hope.  The hope of a beautiful home, full of only well-loved possessions.  The hope of greater productivity and organisation.  And the hope of a simpler and stress-free life. It does not have to be all or nothing, take what suits your values and lifestyle, and tweak it to suit your circumstances.

KonMari is not the first program I have attempted in my pursuit of organisation.  From Getting Things Done to FlyLady, I have tried a few different programs, but the promise they initially held never came to fruition.  Each system was useful in its own way, but none of them was the perfect fit for me.  They provided inspiration, motivation and the proverbial kick up the backside but little more.  They each included some good ideas, some I have adopted sporadically over the years, but I have yet to find a perfect system, particularly one that would work for everybody.

At the end of the day we all have completely different lifestyles and circumstances, it is not surprising that there is no method of organisation that is suited to everybody.  Is it really that remarkable that I, a homeschooler and mother of 6, will not find success in the same methods as, for example, a single executive?  Naturally, these things will be influenced by the amount of free time one has, their responsibilities and the resources they have available to them, just to name a few.  So instead of getting excited by one particular method, I think a far more useful approach is to ask yourself what you want to achieve, do some thorough research of various methods and techniques, trial different things and incorporate that which best suits both your personality and your circumstances.

 

 

 

Nigh terrors

She sleeps like an angel.  Her blond hair covering her face, her big blue eyes gently closed.  She is so tranquil and so very beautiful, far cry from the bundle of energy she is during the day. Watching her sleep warms my heart.

The peace is short lived.  It begins as a whimper. I hear it and a feeling of dread creeps into my heart.  Should I go comfort her?  Will she fall back asleep if I do?  Or will I just wake her more?  I hesitate for a moment, unsure what to do.  Then I realise that she is at the point of no return, she will not fall back asleep on her own.  I’m still unsure, deep down I know but I still pray it isn’t the case.  I go to her bed and she comes to me, but as soon as I wrap my arms around her I realise.

She is not soothed by my presence as she should be, on the contrary,  it excites her more.  She pushes me away, at first yelling, but slowly her voice rises to a scream…a piercing scream.  Her eyes are wide open, a look of horror on her face.  She looks startled and confused.  I don’t know what to do. The more I try to hold her the more afraid she becomes.  The more I try to understand her the more she pushes me away.  She stiffens her body, every muscle tensing up.  I can’t hold her, I can’t comfort her – I am powerless.

I sit there stroking her beautiful blond hair as she screams out “MUMMMYYYYY”, “NOOOOOOO”.  I want nothing more than to comfort her.  What is she so afraid of?  What is she saying “NOO” about?  What does she dream that is frightening her so?  She pushes me away again, I don’t know what to do.  Maybe I’m scaring her?  Maybe she’ll sleep better without me?  I get up….”NOOOOOOOOOOO” she pulls me in near to her again and tightly wraps her arms around my neck, only to push me away again.  I’m desperate to know what she wants, to know how I can help her, but from experience, I know that this is not possible.  All that is left is to try my best to comfort her.  I know it’s not good enough, but that’s all I can do.

Eventually, she wears herself out.  Her screams slowly quieten down till they are nothing more than a quiet moan, and then eventually nothing.  Every now and then she still lets out a sigh until she is fast asleep.  I lay there for a while, exhausted and relieved. Afraid to get up prematurely and squashed in her tiny bed.  Finally, I slowly remove her hands from me and when she does not move I know it is safe.  I quietly raise myself up and walk away, thankfully she is still asleep.  I look back, she is my beautiful angel again.

Many years ago my daughter was one of the 10-15% of children who suffers from night terrors.  This episode was played out in our home on a regular basis. Initially, I didn’t think much of it until as it wasn’t unusual for her to have periods of waking and distress throughout the night. It wasn’t till I mentioned it to my maternal child health nurse at the time that she casually said: “that would be a night terror”.  There is nothing casual about it!  It’s so horrible to see your child so scared and confused like that, especially when there is nothing you can do to make it better.

I had initially learnt about night terrors years earlier as a psychology student at university.  I had naively thought of it as something that happened to other people, to other people’s children – not to my baby.  Contrary to what every parent who faces this feels, night terrors are actually a normal part of the normal range of development of deep sleep patterns and apart from immediate distress they bring they are nothing to be concerned about.

Night terrors occur when children partially wake from a state of deep non-REM sleep.  During these episodes a child’s mind is asleep, but their body is awake.  Often, as was the case with my daughter, their eyes are open and they are talking (or more often the case screaming), leaving parents such as myself very confused.

Perhaps the most difficult part of witnessing these episodes is that there is very little that you can do as a parent.  Since the child is not awake any effort to comfort them should be gentle as waking them is counterproductive, often just confusing the child and aggravating the situation.  The best thing to do is to gently comfort the child, making sure that they are safe and not in danger of hurting themselves until the episode subsides, at which point they are likely to fall back into a deep sleep fairly quickly.

For the most part night terrors are just a phase that some children pass through and often there is nothing you can do about it.  But there are a couple of things that you can try.   Firstly, do your best to ensure that your child is sleeping enough.  Having a good bedtime routine and regular sleep times can help if this is an issue.  If this doesn’t work or if your child already sleeps well you can try ‘scheduled awakening’. Night terrors usually occur round about the same time every night, if you wake your child half an hour or so before it is due to occur, it may reset their sleep cycle, and by doing so hopefully avoid the night terror.

If these attempts do not help do not hesitate to seek further assistance from your doctor.  Especially if the night terrors are violent and you feel that your child may injure themselves, that the night terrors are happening frequently and significantly impacting on the families sleep, or if your child is very sleepy during the day.

It’s been over 10 years now since we last experienced night terrors, but once you’ve gone through it you never forget the feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in the face of their anguish. As with all phases it eventually passes and one day you wake up and breathe a sigh of relief with the realisation that night terrors are no longer a part of your life.   But the experience of being unable to comfort your child is one that rears its head time and time again, after all, life is full of hurt and disappointment.  Sometimes all you can do is gently hold them knowing that you can’t do or say anything that will make things better.  And as with night terrors, sometimes, despite all the will in the world to make things less painful, all you can do is be there for them and wait for them to feel better on their own.

 

 

 

Turning a blind eye to threats of violence: The problem with Facebook’s ‘community standards’

A couple of days ago suggestions of violence were made towards a Facebook friend. This included the address of this person’s workplace and a call for others to join him. The reply directly below this was an image of a gun being held to a figures head at point blank range, blood spluttering from the victim’s head. This post was reported on Facebook repeatedly, but all who reported received the same message. Apparently, it did not breach “community standards”.

According to Facebook’s so-called community standards, co-ordinating harm is not allowed. They “prohibit people from facilitating or coordinating future criminal activity that is intended or likely to cause harm to people”. Further, they claim to disallow “Statements of intent, calls to action or advocation for…..acts of physical harm committed against people”.

Despite this, time and time again we hear of breaches of these community standards. The most serious of these has been the use of Facebook to spread hate speech and incite violence against Rohingya Muslims. UN human rights experts investigating in Myanmar were even concerned about the role Facebook played in the genocide. Even after repeated warnings and promises to act, hate speech and calls to violence still remained, and possibly still do.

The question becomes if these call to arms are clearly prohibited, why is Facebook allowing them to occur? Why, even after being reported time and time again, do posts such as this remain? Why do clear breaches of their community standards go ignored? What is wrong with the system?

The best case scenario is that its incompetence. And as much as I’d like to believe this, given the regularity with which it occurs, I’d say this is highly doubtful. A more likely scenario is that Facebook’s community standards represent a very specific part of the community. It goes beyond the noble and just sentiments suggested in their policies, to a shameful code set by those who are happy to turn a blind eye to bigotry.  A code which empowers those who fear and seek to persecute those who are different from themselves. 

In short, their community standards represents the worst among us. How many people have to be harmed by their double standards before they adhere to the standards they claim to espouse?

Be Good, Little Consumers

A poem I wrote on consumerism inspired by the poem ‘Be Good, Little Migrants’ by Uyen Loewald.

Be good, little consumers,
Just go to the shop,
Some retail therapy?
Keep going till you drop.

Be good, little consumers,
No money to spend?
Fear not there are methods,
Your source has no end.

Be good, little consumers
This deal’s just for you,                                                                                                                 Don’t tell anybody,
Just purchase on cue.

Be good, little consumers,
You have no time to spare,
Quick before it expires,                                                                                                            There’s no time to compare.

Be good, little consumers,
Your need matters not,
You’ll soon find a use,
Get it now while it’s hot.

Be good, little consumer,                                                                                                              Don’t forget the next event,                                                                                                      There’s nothing this month?                                                                                                      Never mind, we’ll invent.

Be good, little consumers,
Feel the rush of that bargain,
Keep coming for more,                                                                                                          Succumb to the jargon.

Be good, little consumers,
Don’t buy into the hype,
Less is not more,
Disregard all the tripe.

Be good, little consumer,
You can never go back,                                                                                                                    We have science behind us,                                                                                                          We’ll keep you on track.

So be good, little consumers,                                                                                                            Be proud, take a bow,                                                                                                                    You’ve reached savvy proportions,                                                                                              You’re one of us now.

Nature playgroup

One of the things I struggle with is getting outdoors with the kids.  I have always had one who wasn’t quite so great with instructions.  The one who does a runner at the most unpredictable of times.  The one who you have to constantly watch like a hawk.  As a result, I have often left the outdoor stuff for the weekends when my husband and older kids are around to help.  I just don’t feel it’s safe otherwise.

I had my eye on a nature playgroup for a while.  But because I was about to give birth when I heard of it, and then had a newborn to care for, I didn’t take it any further. Eventually, I realised that we had been stuck at home for way too long and I needed to do this.  Not only for the boys to spend some much needed time outdoors and burn off some energy, but also for my sanity.

It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision.  After coming across a reminder of the playgroup on a Facebook post I decided then and there that we would join.  Too often I sit on things, put them off, tell myself I’ll look into it later….and we all know that later never happens.  I had just emerged from the newborn haze (which admittedly took longer than usual), and I was itching to get out, so I immediately contacted a facilitator and organised it.  After a good nights sleep the panic set in.  Am I crazy?  Do I really want to take a 4-month-old to spend a couple of hours outside in the middle of winter?  Maybe I should have thought this through a bit more. But I knew that getting outdoors more was just what my boys needed, just what we all needed,  so I pushed the doubts aside and went ahead with it.

From the first session, I was hooked.  After a scenic drive, we arrived at our meeting spot, the views were breathtaking.  To begin with we went on a nature walk, picking up leaves and other bits and pieces for our craft activity.  Our facilitator pointed out many wonders during our walk, different trees, moss, burrows, and we even got to see a mob of kangaroos.  After the craft activity, the boys found a tree to climb before being lured away by everybody’s favourite activity, mud play! This is where the kids get dirty, jumping in the mud, mixing it, and making all sorts of goodies. We have mud pies, mud biscuits and mud soup, and naturally, I have to sample each of these culinary delights.  My 7-year-old, who is apparently too cool for this session can’t help but enjoy himself, often finding a little nook embedded in a tree where he bakes his goodies, before an imaginary timer informs him that his mud cake is ready.

After spending minimal time outdoors for 4 months I went away from the first session truly exhilarated, and more importantly, the boys both had lots of fun, even though my 7-year-old tried his hardest not to.  The fresh air and sunshine did us all the world of good, and we have enjoyed each session ever since.

So if you’re considering a nature playgroup or looking for an activity to do with your little one/s I highly recommend a nature playgroup, you won’t regret it!

When the oxygen mask drops: Why as mothers we need to sometimes put ourselves first.

My first days as a mother were challenging to say the least.  My son was unable to breastfeed, and in fact, did not attach for the first time until he was 4 weeks old.  Because of this I basically spent that entire first-month feeding,  sadly I’m not exaggerating as much as you would think.

I was advised to feed him every 2 hours so I would try to breastfeed for about half an hour, feed him milk I had previously expressed for half an hour, and then I’d express milk for his next feed, this took around half an hour as well.  Every 2-hour block, I would get around half an hour to myself, or to do non-feeding things.  I thought I was going to lose my mind.

Things did get easier, we eventually established breastfeeding, and life went on.  But I was a mother now, and everything I did reflected that; the clothes I wore, the books I read, and the people I now socialised with.  My life had changed forever and I just went with the flow, trying to do the best that I could.

No longer could I just go out on a whim, every outing needed a mammoth effort.  I had to pack a nappy bag with extras of everything ‘just in case’.  I had to make sure it wasn’t his nap time or feeding time so he was in the right mood.  Even if I planned and timed everything to perfection and was finally on my way out of the door, I would often be met with the sudden stench of poo, which typically would be the result of a poosplosion which required a bath and complete change of clothes.

Beyond the practicalities was the mental load.  Was I a good enough mother?  Should I use cloth or disposable nappies?   When should I start solids?  What foods should I give?  How should I discipline? The questions and concerns never end.

Just when I thought I had it all worked out and starting to gain in confidence I arrived at the next phase, the next challenge and it started all over again.  And when the craziness that is motherhood became my new norm I discovered I was expecting another addition, as if the chaos that has was my life wasn’t enough.  But I loved it and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Those early days were like a blur.  The days became weeks, the weeks became months, and the months became years.  Somewhere along the line, I came to a scary realisation. In my attempts to be the best mother I could be, I realised that I no longer knew who I was.  In my effort to dedicate myself to my children, I realised that I was losing myself.  I didn’t quite know what to do about it, but I did know that if something didn’t change soon I was going to burn out and that wasn’t going to be good for anybody.

So I started thinking of myself and making decisions that in my mind were selfish.  I bought myself a nice new camera and took up photography.  I toyed with the idea of starting my own business.  I took time regularly to just relax and do nothing.  I started putting myself first.

All of a sudden that pre-flight safety demonstration that had perplexed me so much as a teenager made sense. In case of an emergency, the instruction is to put an oxygen mask on yourself before tending to your children.  It took me so long to understand this.  After all, what kind of a mother would put her needs in front of the needs of her children?

A good mother. A mother who takes care of her needs first will be there for her children when they need her.  In an emergency situation, a mother who takes care of her needs first will be conscious and able to better assist her children in case of an emergency. In our day to day lives, a mother who takes care of her needs first will be happy and energised, better able to nurture her children.

So the next time you put your needs of yourself in front of those of your children, do not let the mama guilt prevail.  Remember that by taking care of your needs you are better able to take care of your children. Just make sure you put your needs first when the oxygen masks come down, maybe not so much when the food trays come out.  But sometimes, when they’re not looking, that’s ok too.

 

 

The Perfect Consumer

I have a bit of a confession to make. Something I am somewhat ashamed to admit, but I feel I need to come clean.  I love shopping.  I don’t know why I love shopping, but there is something about it….the fulfilment of a perceived need, the excitement of a bargain, and the ability to walk into a shop and to acquire whatever goods I desire.  I really can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, but there’s just something about it that I find quite exciting. I never really noticed this before.  I always knew I enjoyed shopping a little, but it took a shopping drought, brought on by the birth of my baby, for me to notice exactly how much.  After not shopping for a couple of months I finally visited a local shopping centre, and I’m embarrassed to admit I found the experience somewhat exhilarating.

I should probably point out here that I’m not a huge spender or anything.  I’ve probably just given the impression that I go throwing wads of money away on next to nothing, on the contrary, I am quite careful and even my husband says I’m pretty good with money.  I look for bargains, rarely buy myself clothes, often buy the kids discounted clothes at the end of the season for next year, and talk myself out of numerous purchases that we don’t really need.  I do, however, sometimes indulge a little more than I should, and I know I can do better.  So it’s not that I find my love of shopping problematic in and of itself, it’s just that on a personal and spiritual level I find it quite disturbing.

What I find equally, or perhaps even more disturbing is another discovery I made about myself recently – I love throwing things out!  There’s something empowering about getting rid of objects, objects that you no longer need, and more often than not, you never did.  Objects that just sit around taking up precious space, making it harder for you to clean and tidy based on the overwhelming amount of things that you have.  With each thing you get rid of you create more space for yourself and make your life that little bit easier. Curiously, the more I get rid of, the better it feels!  As I declutter more and get rid of more things I can feel a weight lift from my shoulders.  It’s liberating.

Upon reflection, I have come to realise that I have become the perfect citizen in this capitalist world; I have become the ideal consumer.  We love to buy and obtain more and more material possessions.  The next bargain, the next breakthrough in technology, the next fashion item, and the latest gadget to teach our children.  Then, over the years, we realise we have accumulated so much that it becomes suffocating.  So we go through the cleansing process of eliminating that which we do not need.  We throw away what is not worthy of keeping, ‘blessing’ others with the objects that no longer add any value to our lives.  This of course, in turn, makes room for more possessions and the cycle begins all over again.

How do you break free of this cycle?  I am not entirely sure.  However, I do have some ideas which I hope will at least help alleviate part of the problem. The first step is awareness. I know it has become a bit of a cliche, but I really do believe that the first step to finding a solution is acknowledging the problem.  Furthermore, before making any purchases I will ask myself “do I REALLY need this or will it just end up in a garbage bag, as so many things have before?”  “Is purchasing this akin to throwing money down the drain?”  Hopefully, this will help me to avoid unnecessary purchases and keep me on track.

Another area I need to work on is to focus on quality instead of price.  In search of the elusive bargain, over the years I have prioritised price over quality.   The result is that many of my possessions needed to be replaced regularly.  Not only do I end up being stuck with things I don’t really like, but I spend more time and money having to constantly replace them, often holding on to the older item, and thus generating more and more clutter.

I made this discovery a few years ago when I discovered Kon Mari. As her method dictates, while decluttering my closet I held each item, asking myself “does this bring me joy?”  It was rare that I would answer in the affirmative.  This was quite an eye-opening experience as I came to the realisation that I barely had anything in my wardrobe that I actually appreciated.  Each day when I’d try to find something to wear I had to navigate through an abundance of clothing that I never wear and don’t even like.  I promised myself that going forward I would be kinder to myself, allow myself to spend more on individual items that bring me joy, with the knowledge that in the long term I would be spending less.   In my futile attempts to be selfless, I had been wasteful.  I was spending more, buying things I didn’t like, and generating clutter.

So going forward I plan to focus on quality and enjoyment instead of quantity or price. I doubt the results will be instant, but I do hope that within a year or two I will notice a big difference. I don’t expect that I will ever cease to be a consumer, but I do hope that my role as one will become limited and that over time I can learn to live more simply.

 

 

 

After the darkness

Earlier this year, when I had my baby, I went through what was probably one of the most difficult weeks of my life. My pregnancy was high risk and my birth, a c-section under general anaesthetic, was in complete contrast to all my other births. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there, and without going into too much detail my baby ended up in ICU after breathing difficulties. It was one thing after another and I was just embracing each hurdle that came my way because, the way I saw it, I had little choice.  But when one of the doctors witnessed a suppressed cough, suspected pneumonia, and I was told that I could no longer visit my baby, I was at breaking point.

I remember laying there, the nurse trying to insert yet another cannula, my arm by this point resembling a pin cushion, tears streaming down my face. I was in hospital, I was in excruciating pain, and I could barely move. I had no recollection of giving birth, I was only with my baby for a few hours before he was whisked away, and although I would go down and visit him for his feeds the pain made it difficult to stay long. To make matters worse the painkillers were messing with my head and when away I could barely remember what he looked like.  And then the last straw – being told I could no longer see him.

It turned out that I didn’t have pneumonia after all.  The doctor panicked after hearing my cough, but I was fine and I was free to see my baby.  My baby was fine as well, all the tests came back negative, and his breathing episode was not due to an infection, probably a combination of being born by c-section, being early, and a side effect of the strong painkillers I was taken.  After jumping over a few more hurdles I was able to have him by my side again and after just under a week at the hospital, I was finally able to come home.

As the weeks went by my hospital stay haunted me, and when I would think back about that time I would more often than not feel tears welling up in my eyes. Sometimes I would wonder if I was ok.  I had gone through a difficult period and I think it’s normal to feel saddened by it, but occasionally I would wonder if maybe I would need some help to get through it all.  I just decided to keep an eye on it, and it appears that time does indeed all wounds – at least to some extent.

About 6 months after his birth I was speaking to a friend about it, I told her about some of the difficulties I went through, and then I added: “in a way, I’m kind of glad it happened, it helped me to realise what people go through”.  As soon as the words left me I realised it was a bit of a strange thing to say.  I mean who is glad to face hardship?  Who reflects back at the most difficult time in their life with some satisfaction.  But I also realised that it was true, a part of me did find something positive in the experience.  It was puzzling.

Then one day, a couple of weeks later, I found the answer.  I was reading ‘The Conscious Parent’ by Shefale Tsabary, and I came across a paragraph that explained my unusual feelings.  Tsabary writes:

 

When you experience everything as a potential teacher, you embrace anything life sends your way.  You cease either being at war with life when it presents you with a challenge, or being in love with it when it treats you kindly.  Rather, you see both the dark and the light as opportunities for becoming a more conscious human being.

 

This dark time in my life was humbling.  It showed me the fragility of life, it helped me to understand what others go through at difficult times, and it allowed me to realise how blessed I truly am. Just like a butterfly struggling to squeeze through its cocoon, this dark time in my life nurtured something in me which was not there before.

So from now on, whenever life throws me a curve ball I will try to remember this experience. I will strive to remember that with every hardship there is the opportunity for growth.  Instead of wishing it away, I will endeavour to recognise that maybe an experience that I would never choose for myself is exactly what I need to teach me exactly what I need to learn.  Maybe it is only after the darkness that we can regenerate.  And maybe it is only with adversity that we can truly flourish.

 

 

Seven Ways in which Facebook has Changed Our Lives

Last week I got an interesting Facebook notification.  Apparently, it was my 11-year faceversery.  Yes, that is a word, or at least it is according to Facebook. It would seem that I have been using Facebook for eleven years. Eleven years!  Has it really been that long? Eleven years of reunions and discoveries.  Eleven years of likes and shares.  Eleven years of socialising in the comfort of my own home.

The first time I used Facebook I had no idea what it would become, in fact, I hated it.  I had about 5 friends, and it appeared to me to have no purpose.  Why are these people sending me cyber flowers that grow?  And what does this poke mean? I was far from impressed.  I don’t think I logged on again for another couple of months.  This time I  found more friends and my wall became less bare.  Slowly it became more and more interesting.  I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but before I knew it I was hooked.  And so began my love-hate relationship with Facebook.

As the world biggest social media platform, with over 2 billion regular users, there is little doubt that Facebook has been influential – for better or worse it has effected the world. Here are just some of the ways that Facebook has changed our lives:

1. Facebook has changed how we socialise:  Why make the effort to get up, get dressed, and actually leave your house to meet somebody when you can do so in comfort of your own home (and in your pj’s!)? When we feel lonely, depressed, or just feel like company, there will always be somebody available to connect to.  As much as this seems like a good thing, its actually robbing us of some much needed face-to-face time with friends which has been shown to have a positive impact on our health. So although it’s fine to hop on Facebook when we’re feeling a little lonely, be sure to also make time for those face-to-face interactions.

What’s more, when we do finally get together with others, our interactions are not the same. The sight of people sitting down to a meal at a restaurant all staring into their phones is so common that some restaurants have taken the extreme step of banning mobiles.

2. Facebook has helped us retain special memories:  Originally introduced three years ago, the ‘On-this-day’ function, as the name suggests, showed us our Facebook highlights from the current date in previous years.  Now, easily accessible as “Memories”, it shows everything from our previous Facebook posts, posts we were tagged in, friendship anniversaries, photos we have posted, and the newer animated recap from the past month or season.

This is definitely one of my favourite features of Facebook.  It not only helps me to remember milestones but more importantly it helps me to remember the beautiful memories and funny incidents involving my children.  Like the time I found my little girls had fallen asleep in bed together, sweetly cuddling one another.  Or the photo I took of the drawing my then 4-year-old made, perfectly capturing her anger at my husband who didn’t let her run across the road and forcibly held her hand.  These are all memories I cherish. Most of them would have been long forgotten if it wasn’t for Facebook and seeing the yearly reminders always bring a smile to my face.

3.  Facebook has changed how we share photos: As somebody who has lots of family overseas, this is another feature that I really appreciate.  Long gone are the days where I would prepare photos well in advance and physically send them overseas, now my relatives can see photos of our family regularly.  They can watch them grow and feel closer to us in a way which was never possible before.  Similarly, friends who live far away or just rarely get to see us can still share in our lives, and suddenly the time and distance doesn’t seem so large anymore.

4. Facebook has changed how we perceive others’ lives:  One of the downsides to photo sharing is this perception that others have amazing and perfect lives.  Let’s face it, we are very selective when it comes to photo sharing. I could cook a hundred relatively boring meals, nothing pic worthy, but that one impressive looking meal I cook all year (not necessarily indicative of its taste) is going on Facebook.  Similarly, I don’t photograph the days we spend at home, in our plain home clothes surrounded by clutter. Instead, I photograph our outings and holidays, with our temporary picturesque surrounds and the rare occasions that my children are being civil to one another.  The result?  Our lives look almost picture perfect, a far cry from reality.

On the plus side, this has lead to attempts to counter these unrealistic standards through photos and descriptions of reality.  Often shared by celebrities, but also normal everyday people, these posts are about everything from post-birth bodies, makeup-less faces, and particularly bad days as a parent.  They normalise the hard slogs, the unglamourous mundane days of our lives, and remind us that at the end of the day, despite appearances to the contrary, we are basically all the same.  More importantly, they help rid us of the impossible standards we start to expect of ourselves.

5.  Facebook has changed how we consume news:  Facebook has not only changed the way we access news, but it has also changed the type of news we access.  I rarely watch news through television anymore, often relying on whatever news articles my Facebook friends share to learn what is happening in the world.  There are positives and negatives to this.  The positive is that the big news corporations are losing their domination, they are no longer alone in dictating what is and what isn’t newsworthy.  Additionally, they can no longer restrict the opinions we are exposed to.  The negative is that this can be rather insular, learning about a very small spread of news that people who share similar characteristics, views and values as ourselves find newsworthy.  Ideally, news should extend us, inform us of what is occurring around the world, and sometimes even challenge some of our current perspectives.  Facebook does not do this perfectly, but have we ever had perfection?  And is this the role of Facebook?

Facebook seems to think so and has recently accepted some responsibility for how news filters through its platform by taking measures to reduce the incidence of fake news. Although this looks like a great initiative, the ease with which the fake news label can quickly turn into a form of censorship and a way of controlling information is of concern. Hopefully, the right balance is found, but given how these things normally work I’m not holding my breath.

6. Facebook has changed motherhood:  Another one of my favourite things about FaceBook is the communities it builds, particularly for new mothers.  As a new mother, it is tough at the best of times, you have hundreds of questions, particularly if you’re a first-time mum.  Beyond the practical help, these groups for new mothers can be a life-line.  Sometimes, just when you’re at breaking point, when it’s 3 o’clock in the morning and you don’t know how long you can keep doing this for, just being able to open up, pour your heart out, and have somebody there who knows exactly how you’re feeling is invaluable. The birth of my first was a very lonely experience. Going from working full time and constantly seeing people, to having little communication with anybody for the first few months, made a difficult time even more difficult.  Thanks to Facebook (and to a lesser degree forums) those days are long gone.

7. Facebook has changed how we spend our time:  Although the average person spends 35 minutes a day on Facebook, there is little doubt that many of us spend way too much time on Facebook.  Most of us have our good and bad days and often justify it by using it during our downtime, while waiting for appointments, or instead of television.  The problem is when we use it when we rest at home, it often leaves us unavailable for our families during a time we used to be available and we don’t really know the effect this will have on relationships, particularly with our children. It is rumoured that Facebook is working on an app to monitor our usage to help remedy this. It will be interesting whether this will have an impact on our usage, only time will tell.

 

What started as a way for college students to connect has grown into one of the world’s largest social networks.  Not all the changes described above are specific to Facebook, they do, however, all feature strongly within this platform. There is no doubt that Facebook can be a useful tool, but as with many things in life, there can also be many drawbacks.  The trick is to use it wisely, that way we can reap the benefit without succumbing to the harm.