The Art of being kind....just how kind are you really? It is interesting to take a personal audit occasionally, particularly in the current challenging times.
Wendyl Nissen, creator of Thrive Magazine started her magazine containing delectable articles, such as one all about compost. How to make a compost bin and the glories of compost teeming with more worms than you could sensibly choose to count... that was the kind of stuff people gleefully would choose to read when picking up Thrive, as they pondered how best to thrive not only in the garden but also in life.
A parcel arrived today from my mum up in Auckland and within it was another Thrive magazine for me to enjoy. Flicking through it briefly this morning, I admired once again the beautiful photographs and noted some of the articles I will really enjoy reading over a herbal tea. It was a blessing being sent this parcel of goodies from my beloved mum, and having something like Thrive included in it was just so lovely.
Wendyl is someone I am inspired by. I am inspired and I admire Wendyl not only for knowing what to deliver from the get go to launch her newly created magazine, but because she knows her stuff both in the garden and also when it comes to things like natural cleaning products you can easily make from scratch yourself, and that you can choose to keep readily on hand indoors under your kitchen sink.
Wendyl is something of a guru on the home and garden front here in Aotearoa New Zealand. She inspires many of us fellow kiwi wives and mothers with her very healthy can-do attitude. I am one of those inspired by her, and the beauty of a good compost bin and its contents is not lost on me.
Wheelbarrows laiden with cowpats, chicken manure, seaweed, comfrey, lawn clippings, withered and dried out autumn leaves and sticks all appear to have contributed to the making and the launching of Thrive. How awesome is that! Not only did it help launch a magazine, I imagine she has had quite the most fantastic of food crops repeatedly and plentifully growing on her own piece of kiwi turf also, all due in part to a simple and humble compost bin steadily and quietly working away making over a variety of compostable materials. This inspires me. It makes me want to keep trying to quietly do my best in the garden and to work away steadily that bit more towards those dreams & visions I have also.
Imagine just how colourful and tasty every one of her heirloom tomatoes and the highly likely glut of zuchinnis could possibly be, as a result of magnificent compost, all created through quiet, steady perseverance and patience. The classic kiwi barbeque at Wendyl's would be quite the neighbourhood soiree to attend, I'm sure!
As I ponder the possibilities of how best to prepare my own garden for the potential food crops it could provide in the coming growing season, my own compost pile looks nowhere as splendid as I imagine Wendyl's did and still does. Yet, I live with hope still flickering in my heart.
The wheelbarrow that I think would help me best, has a screw or two loose yet again. With the repetitive rain that is currently about, my compost pile is also far from steaming with signs of sound health. Compared to Wendyl's, my compost pile surely doesn't and won't for some time cut the mustard at all, and yet it is what it is and it is all that I currently have. A gal with a pair of gumboots willing to go on her feet has to start somewhere, right?
Sometimes it is easy to slip into feeling discouraged and disheartened, and the gift today of this sweet parcel from my mother with a delightful copy of Thrive really spoke to my heart and encouraged me on. The beauty of compost and the wise, positive words of Wendyl encouraged me on... thank you Mum and thank you Wendyl.
My latest read, or at least I should really say, the book I keep trying to pick up to read, is Martha Inc. The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Like Wendyl, Martha seems to know a thing or two about compost, as well as how to perfectly go about pruning roses (mine gaze back at me through the window at this very moment, even now professing how unpruned and shamefully neglected they truly are). Martha clearly has the skill and know how to cater for a crowd, whilst also slipping out multiple how-to books like Entertaining (Wow! There are over 340,000 copies of that very book, tucked away on many a homemaker's bookshelf, according to the stats I have just read).
Wendyl and Martha. Martha and Wendyl. These are two women that appear to have succeeded on so many levels, whilst a good many of us very ordinary homemakers just hope to once again drag ourselves out of bed to get the child to the school gate in a timely fashion each morning, and then work out how best to tackle the dishes still lurking on the kitchen bench alongside all the other projects demanding our attention.
I admire both Wendyl and Martha, I truly do, and I can only hope something of their knowledge, their skill and their ability will gradually rub off also on me, as I read their various writings and watch a related Youtube video or two.
Wendyl knows a thing or two about compost and I greatly admire her. Martha knows a thing or two about compost, pruning roses, doing numerous handcrafts and putting on exquisite dinner parties and I greatly admire her.
These two amazing, dynamic, successful women make you want to go out and make your own meagre compost a masterful artwork and the most productive of steaming successes. I want to look out via the dining room window and see the roses skillfully pruned. I even want to strike cuttings and gain success financially at some point in the future if I possibly can, because somehow by some amazing miracle all the cuttings would choose to successfully strike and go on and produce the most stunning of blooms.... wouldn't that be great?!
I want to wear bright and happy aprons, produce the most delightful smelling afghan biscuits and have my children think I am the world's best mother, as I aim to greet them at some point in the near future with freshly squeezed fruit juice grown from our very own fruit trees. I would like Wendyl and Martha to both be quietly proud of me.
I want to do things as well as Wendyl and Martha and I don't think it is a bad thing at all to aim to have such standards as they project. I want the success and the productivity, throughout both the house and the garden, that they each seem to have and my often grubby hands testify to that fact that I am endeavouring to give it a go to try and make it happen as best I can.
I want to drink myself healthy and eat myself healthy. I also want to be unapologetically me and those that are threatened by it can just back off and slink away. I want to push through the self doubt and the fear of failure and get on with getting on, and I truly want my compost to be the best jolly compost it could be! May God help me, and so too please may all that Wendyl and Martha have each put out into the universe that I have read to date help me also!
I want to see, feel and experience the same blissful, rewarding success these two awesome and awe inspiring women have had come their way............... and I am choosing today to see it start within the simple confines of the humblest of compost piles at my place, built from recycled and repurposed building materials found about the property.
Compost? You've got it sorted Wendyl! Compost, rose pruning AND putting a luncheon together for 240, you've got it in spades, Martha! God bless you both. The inspiration, the encouragement, the extra push & motivation you both gave this little kiwi mama today, it is highly appreciated. Now, I best go out strike on my gumboots and get busily working yet again on that compost!
Sometimes things just don't go the way you hoped and planned.
Sometimes you can give it all you've got, for a considerably great length of time, and still things just don't go the way you hoped and envisaged they would.
Sometimes you can give it all you've got and what was broken, what was dysfunctional, what was hurtful and most definitely wrong and unhealthy, will simply not righten itself.
Sometimes you can give it all you've got, and then you simply have to let go and let things be what they truly (and most honestly) were all along.
Sometimes you just have to let the end come, so what is best, what is truly right and good, will have its place finally and most fully in your life.
Sometimes things just don't go the way you hoped and planned, and you yourself join the ranks of a good number of other ordinary, good people, all at various stages of dealing with loss, with grief, with heartache, with trauma and with crisis... all those components that come about after the dissolving and ending of a significant relationship.
Sometimes things just don't go the way you hoped and planned, and you yourself join the ranks of others all also parenting alone, as committedly and sacrificially, as only a loving solo parent can.
Sometimes things just plain don't go the way you hoped, and you have to dig incredibly deep.
You have to dig deep. Real deep. Deeper than you ever previously thought you could envisage having to dig. You have to deep down into your very soul and very core being and find the strength to do what you normally do, whilst also dealing with tremendous grief and heartache.
Digging deep down to your deepest core essential roots and values, becomes what is key, absolute key, to helping keep you and yours totally centred and incredibly strong is best found there.
A good number of the intelligent, skilled, gifted, amazingly kind people who have sat across from me over the past several months have reminded me often, (without sometimes saying even one word), that no one, absolutely no one, goes into signing on to and committing to a relationship ever expecting it to come to that fork in the road that sees it being cast into a state of brokenness and eventual dissolution.
We simply don't do that. None of us. We simply do not enter in, anticipating or seeking that. We don't. Never.
We simply don't go in risking getting stung & bitten by hurt. We don't. Never.
We don't go in looking for distress, for trauma, for crisis, for the eventual dissolving of a relationship. We just don't. We don't. We don't. Ever.
We go in instead with hope itself, clearly walking beside us and leading us.
We go in with hope that what will result will be good, be really healthy, really safe, really lovely and predominately great.
We go in, hoping beyond hope that it will all prove to be some measure of heaven on earth. We just don't go in seeking hell and hardship, grief and heartache, pain and hurt. We simply don't. We don't. Never.
You have to dig so, so deep when a relationship hits the crossroads and dissolves.
When you find yourself on the other side in this new season, new chapter, and you also find yourself being a sole parent, you now have to dig deep, extra deep..... and then often dig deeper even yet again.
A story shared by a friend came again recently to the forefront of my mind. It was a personal story of there being a time in her life she just had to remind herself to keep solely focused on breathing calmly, steadily, for the next half an hour.
Why? Why, you may ask? Because the devastation and the traumatic crisis she was going through, after her marriage had fallen apart, literally kept wanting to take her breath away.
Digging deep. Sometimes you just plain have to, because you need to keep yourself on a steady course of literally breathing.
I get it. I totally get it.
You have to dig deep and sometimes just focus also on keeping on with steady, calm breathing, because people are depending on you to dig deep and be a steady, firm rock of support for them.
You are personally depending on you to dig deep also. You have to dig deep, suck it up, keep your big girl pants tightly belted firmly around your middle and just get on with getting on, because no one, absolutely no one else is going to step in and hold the reigns daily unless you yourself do so.
You have to dig deep on so many levels and in so many ways. You have to dig deep on the kindness front for starters.
You have to dig deep on the kindness front, because some other folk around you are just not going to be kind. They are going to be thoughtless, they are going to be selfish, they are going to be blatantly blunt and straight up when you just may not feel up to be subjected to their directness,, their harshness, their unwillingness to act with kindness at that very moment in time. They are going to express their prejudices, unleash their presumptions, expose their judgments and you are going to have to weather the fallout about you with as much grace and kindness as you personally can possibly muster.
You are going to have to dip deep on the patience front, because the smallest insignificant comment can send a child off on an emotional rollercoaster and they may not have the actual words yet to explain the grief and the hurt they are deeply feeling. You are going to have to dig deep on the patience front because some folk are just obstructive, obnoxious, biased and you will be the direct target of their own dysfunction.
You are going to have to dig deep on the perseverance front, because a simple phone call to a utilities company to establish personal accounts could take literally hours, because some people just don't communicate well, and records get muddled and lost, and the simplest of things can literally become the most complicated of processes, simply because they can.
You are going to have to dig deep and aim to hold onto something of a sense of humour. One day, yes one day, (even if for now it seems likes it is literally going to be decades away), you will find some of the nonsense and 'poo' you are put through actually quite funny. Today it might not seem so funny, but digging deep, holding on to that which was dug up from the deep, will help you keep your wit in the long run.
Digging deep. There is an art and a skill to digging deep. When life has sent you a hard curve ball, when the 'poo' has finally, most definitely hit the fan and there is no disguising it, you have to dig deep like you have never dug deep before.
There will be clearly those that can identify with having similar experiences of digging deep, and they will gradually come out and cross your pathway. They will see something in you that triggers their own memory or memories of digging deep, and they will feel safe to tell you, in some measure, they too have been in that very same place of having to dig deep.
It is a trench and not a pit.
It is a place and practice that is perfectly fitting, most clearly and securely healthy, all the while being the most fitting of steps to take when you are experiencing heartache and grief. Those that dwell in the shallows will never know the depths like you do, nor will they ever obtain them; because digging deep is a masterful art and a most masterful accomplishment.
Dig deep. Real deep. As deep as you need to go. Dig as deep as you need, because ultimately you have got this, and all is actually well......................and your breath will be most definitely, always most readily and reliably steady.
Expectations appear to be low. They appear to be very low. As I have stepped out, day by day, into this new season of being a sole parent, it has struck me how low expectations from some quarters truly are, when it comes to sole parents, particularly 'solo mums' and their dependents.
Some folk clearly have long held deep beliefs and biases (regardless of how much they may try to claim they don't), around what a sole parent can and cannot achieve and can be expected to do. People clearly have long held deep beliefs and biases also around what a child of a sole parent can and cannot achieve and can be expected to do, and their narrow beliefs and biases are plainly sad.
Be it extended family members, be it friends and acquaintenances, be it businesses and companies you previously engaged with and who previously valued your custom and accepted you would pay your regular or annual bill payments.... they gradually all reveal what underlying attitudes they hold when it comes to a sole parent, particularly a solo mother, as well as her children.
I have seen something of both the best and worst of humanity in some respects these past months, as I am now mantled with this title of being a sole parenting mother, and my children are duly labelled in some quarters 'fatherless' and the children of a 'solo mum'.
There are those who kindly and gently come alongside and ask genuinely, "What do you need?"
There are those that do simple, yet such helpful things, like the dropping off a sack of kindling at the front gate, just to make one experience of going out to collect firewood less of a hassle. (Those that did that: God bless you for your kind gesture, it meant a great deal).
There are those who spontaneously send a monetary gift card to help pay for a fortnight of groceries. (Wow! Truly wow! Thank you for your generosity! The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as I dealt with the unwarranted taking of funds by a business not keeping thorough tabs on what money they had already received from me!).
There are those that are kind, those that are caring, and those that are truly the salt of the earth; when you are still in the earliest of stages of picking up the shattered pieces of what was previously your typical home life.
There are those who genuinely come alongside and confidentially pray.
There are those who text and phone and offer the comfort of simply saying, "I am thinking of you, and I am here if you need me." There are those that say they are there for you and they really, really genuinely and sincerely mean it.
There are those however that claim to care, yet choose instead to stand back and simply gossip & engage in tattling behind your back, as well as those who choose to cut you off completely.
There are those also that expect you to fall apart and not hold it together.
There are those that want to tell you to keep hoping and keep trusting for reconciliation and better days ahead, when what they are personally clinging to is an unrealistic and uninformed understanding of why a relationship has in fact dissolved.
There are those that offer you unwarranted advice, and those that offer you well grounded legal advice.
There are those that wait on the sidelines for you to fail at what you next put your hand to. They want you to fail, because they have a vested interest in having you experience failure; they simply want their own narrow, biased vision of who you are, to come to be, in both time & reality.
There are also those who have not acknowledged or talked to you for a considerable time, yet they stop you in the street and straight up ask you most directly," So, why did your husband leave?"
There are businesses that no longer appear to trust you to pay the very accounts you faithfully previously helped pay. It would appear, now being a sole parent allegedly changes who many of us fundamentally are, as previously-proven loyal bill payers, able savers and frugal human beings.
Expectations are low when it comes to sole parenting, particularly with regards to those labelled 'Solo Mum.' Those deemed to be now labelled with that often very emotionally charged label, are expected to fit within a narrow stereotype, it would repeatedly seem at present.
Expectations are very low, presumptions and judgement whip around rather quickly, and I personally have had something of a guts load of it. It is somewhat laughable, yet it also makes me personally currently rather (and rightly so) frustrated and angry.
It has been something like clockwork that every 2 - 3 days there has been something unwittingly requiring attention, something that previously just ticked over without any hassle, without any previous question.
The number of utility companies that I am still trying to deal with, to simply set in place paying the usual monthly payments, is becoming something of a quiet yet unpleasant personal joke.
My expectations, yes, my expectations have gradually lowered also, in relation to a number of businesses and their business practices attitudes and biases towards me, now as I am a sole parent, a 'solo mum', because it does work both ways, you see.
There is a new norm becoming prevalent.
It is the new norm, because the underlying expectations I have been subjected to now, as a newly appointed & labelled 'Solo Mum', are that I will allegedly fail, and I will fail allegedly horribly downwards, via a slipping slope, and an allegedly predictable spiral of dysfunction.
There are those I literally know of who are standing on the sidelines expecting to see their own biased presumptions and judgements be proven correct. They want me to join the ranks of other sole parents, 'solo mums' who have failed, who have stayed trapped in a downward spiral; because it would suit their fixed mindsets about what is a well rounded, healthy family, and therefore literally bring to fruition their prejudices.
Previously, simply because there was a man in the house, there was no question about whether I could run a home impeccably well, carry out a regular, daily well-rounded homeschool programme for our children, whilst managing the establishing of a small business enterprise on a small rural, lifestyle property, as well as contributing occasionally to church and community projects, etc. There was no question, and yet now perhaps there is?
Nope. Not a chance.
This rural based mama may be going it solo, but my path is able to approached still, with some good old common sense and sound, logical intelligence on my part. Life going forward will have my best gumboot foot being put forward, in order for it to be as well navigated overall as I could personally endeavour for it to be; even if there are still some variations, in time and output, along the journey occasionally.
Yes, it is a new season. Yes, there are things that have needed to be adjusted and needed to be reviewed, however, I am still very much the same conscientious, hard-working person I was previously, before the marriage I was part of came to a crossroad path.
I am still a capable, able-bodied human being who can do their very best to solve day to day issues on a rural lifestyle property. I am capable of picking up and using a pole saw, moving a heavily stacked up wheelbarrow, and even changing a lightbulb or the like all without the necessary aid of a Prince Charming allegedly to come rescue poor, little old me.
I am a person with skills, abilities and experience, quite capable of achieving my long time dreams and goals if not hindered by the undue, unwarranted interference of others and their biased judgments about what women, and particularly a 'solo mum' can do and achieve. The dreams and goals may just for a time take a little longer or even be put on hold a little, while my children and I grieve and re-group ourselves, but that is perfectly okay and also perfectly normal.
A sole parent is not a second class citizen. A solo mum is not a headless chicken, who needs to be rescued. They are not clueless duds who cannot contribute well to society, or fail to run a successful rural enterprise. They are not deserving of pessimism, or being deemed a lost cause, stuck forever in a cycle of poverty, and a pit of dysfunctional financial management.
Some of us 'solo mums' are as good as you are, (in some cases even better), at managing our finances, balancing our workloads (even our rural workloads), our new found domestic situations, and it is unwarranted and uninvited presumptions and assumptions that add additional pressure and hardship so unnecessarily.
Facing expectations. Facing low expectations particularly, it is an unnecessary extra hardship. Those of us who are classed as sole parents need to not be subjected to as much negative bias as we are. Those that sit comfortably back in their armchairs and cast about further curses about the fate of a 'solo mum' and their children, need to take a good long, hard look in the mirror to face up to their contribution to where society is really at, when it comes to those prejudices they duly cast about others and their circumstances.
Facing expectations. Facing up to low expectations? The presumptious and the judgmental need to raise their own personal meeting of bars, around vision-casting and future fortunes, a tad higher.
Hardship, real financial hardship, here in Aotearoa New Zealand? A good portion of people just don't want to know.
Something to ponder: