A lost cat & A beside note.

The witching hour. 6pm. The high risk period when Mum would need a drink. When she couldn’t get alcohol, she would work her way through a block of cheese. Something, anything, to alleviate the high anxiety. These days she can’t get wine, so she obsesses about her cats. One in particular. Piddle.

Poor Piddle, an extremely elegant little Occicat, who went through a phase of piddling as a kitten and the name stuck. However Piddle is now wonderfully self-sufficient. She usually disappears for a day or so on the full moon, spends time roaming across the nearby golf course. She always comes back. But these days, every day, at 6pm, Mum goes outside and calls and calls and calls. Then she comes back inside and tells her caregiver that she is worried because ‘Piddle is hungry, lost and alone‘.

But Piddle is not the one who is hungry, lost and alone.

There’s no ‘medical proof’ of this of course, but my theory (and while I don’t have a psychology degree or a medical one, I have a lifetime of experience) is that as Mum becomes more childlike, she is becoming more open with her feelings. And while she can’t, has never been able to, will not ever say ‘I am hungry, lost, alone’, I know that this has how she feels. And this has how she has felt for a very long time.

The hunger, of course, is not a hunger for food, but a hunger for a very different type of nourishment. A sense of fulfillment. While she is not physically lost, she lost her way many years ago. And while she has constant company, my lovely mother feels that she is alone.

The anxiety, an almost constant presence of worry, preceded the alcohol dependence and the dementia. I have no doubt it started before I arrived on the scene. According to New Zealand’s Mental Health Foundation, New Zealand has a high prevalence of anxiety, mood and substance abuse disorders, exceeded only by the US for anxiety by the US, Ukraine and France for mood and only by the Ukraine and US for substance abuse disorders.

Recently, I read a fascinating article by a Rick Hanson PhD, a neuropsychologist on Self-Directed Neuroplasticity: A 21st-Century View of Meditation. Addressing the field of contemplative neuroscience, Dr Hanson concludes by taking the reader through a simple 5 step meditation. Becoming attuned to the breath, conscious relaxation, a feeling of safety, wellbeing and connection. What fascinates me, is that for each stage, he provides an explanation of what happens to the brain. The element of safety, struck a particular chord.

“The third suggestion focuses on feeling safe. This is a very important one, although it’s often hard for people because we have what I call “paper-tiger paranoia.” Essentially, we evolved to overestimate threats and to underestimate opportunities and resources for dealing with threats. Although that may have been a great way to pass on gene copies in Africa two million years ago, it’s a lousy way to experience quality of life in the twenty-first century. Most of us can feel safer than we normally do. I prompt people to feel as safe as they reasonably can because there is no perfect safety in life. None of us is safe from old age, disease, or death, for example, but most of us can afford to feel less guarded, less braced, and more confident in our capacities to meet life.

It sounds so very simple, but at the end of the day – and at the beginning, middle and every moment in between – isn’t that what we all want?Nourishment, mind, body and soul. A sense of purpose. To be attuned to our self, to feel relaxed, safe, well, connected.

I cannot undo a lifetime of feeling hungry, lost and alone for my mother. It took me a long time to realise that’s not my responsibility.

But she is my mother and I love her and I it makes my heart ache to think that she feels hungry, lost, alone. So next time I visit, I think I might just put a little note beside her bed which says ‘Your life has purpose. You are loved. You are safe. You are home‘…If I could, I’d sprinkle a little fairy dust and put one beside your bed too.

A weird thing happened on the way off the mat

I’ve wanted to practice yoga for years. I’ve tried. I’ve gone to the occasional class at a gym, but haven’t stuck with it. Mostly because I dislike gyms intensely and have taken out a membership against the advice of my intuition. I’ve also tried the odd class at a yoga studio, but whether it’s the time of day, or the size of the class (i.e. large), these haven’t worked for me either.

This year, however, that same inner voice that advised me against joining a gym became increasingly insistent that I find some way of developing a regular yoga practice. And so when I serendipitously came across Marianne Elliot’s 30 days of yoga online programme designed to help you develop a practice at home, something felt right and I signed up.

Forty days later, I’m on the mat each day and while I’m there a mysterious thing happens. Actually, part of the mystery is that I’m there at all…

For me, one of the best things about Marianne’s programme has been the focus on intention. At the beginning of the 30 days, but also at the beginning of each daily practice. On the very first day my intention was, and everyday my intention is, simply to show up.

There are numerous days when quite honestly, it is the very last thing I feel like. I am not a morning person so it’s not part of my morning routine. And so often, as is the case today, I still haven’t got to the mat by 10pm. But I know I will. As soon as I’ve hit the ‘publish’ button for this post, I’ll sit down, take a deep breath and begin the practice. And this is where the heart of the mystery lies, I begin and something weird happens to time. Before I know it, 40 minutes have passed and I’m chanting Om to finish. I don’t know how it happens, but it does, every single day. And I’m loving it.

So thank you to my inner voice for insisting I find a yoga practice that works for me and thank you to Marianne for appearing at exactly the right time. Long may the mystery of my yoga practice continue.

Lessons from the old fashioned mower

I couldn’t put off mowing the lawn any longer. The grass was almost long enough to warrant a goat.

We have an old fashioned reel lawn mower. It is quite possibly older than me. It has been in the family for many years, mowed these lawns hundreds of times and if it could talk, I expect it would have a number of things to tell me.

My sneaking suspicion is that the first words out its mouth would be “For a human being, you’re not very smart, perhaps next time you might like to not leave it quite so long between mowings. It would make it considerably easier on both of us.”

The second thing that Mowice the Mower would tell me, smugly I imagine, is that my grandmother (who bought the mower) was much fitter than I am. Whereas I schedule exercise into my day around work and sometimes don’t get to it, a considerable amount of exercise was embedded into Granny’s everyday activities, such as maintaining a large garden with a sizeable vege patch. And mowing.

The final piece of advice, possibly offered less acerbically than the previous two, would be that there’s nothing quite like a good cup of tea and a little piece of something chocolatey after an hour’s worth of blister inducing mowing.