When stress subsides, the other senses soar…

IMG_3983

Last year – my year from hell, I got into the habit of eating frozen bought chicken kiev’s with mashed potato nearly every week night. Bland, carb loaded and devoid of many nutrients, but it was easy. Lazy – yes, but easy. And at that stage in my life I had pretty much stopped caring about a lot of things, one of those being my interest in cooking and eating healthy. You see when stress takes over every inch of your body, you simply become focused on making it through the day. You don’t care about whether your dinner that night is going to be interesting, delicious or challenging to make. In fact I was shovelling my dinner down so quickly that I didn’t even register what I was doing, all so I could shower and get back into bed. As I slowly unwind this year I’ve found myself becoming interested in cooking again, and I’m really excited.

They say that your gut is your second mind and I wouldn’t have believed them until last year, when I experienced just how intrinsically linked the stomach and your mind really are. I was completely burnt out from my job, stressed to the max and experiencing daily stomach cramps, headaches and bloating. I would get home and need to lay down for hours just to let the pain in my stomach subside, and I had no idea what was wrong with me at that point. I got blood tests, scans, urine samples… the lot. I finally decided to try a gluten free diet, which I have been doing for about a year now. I can honestly say this helped a lot at the time, however I would notice that after particularly stressful days I would still be doubled over in pain. After much reading and investigation, I realised that when the body is stressed and in that ‘fight or flight’ mode, your digestive system basically switches off. This is because the body is literally panicking and preparing for action, in situations where it most definitely doesn’t need to be worried. So when I was fuelling my body with wheat products which are already difficult to digest, coupled with my inactive and stressed out digestive system, it was simply a recipe for disaster.

HOWEVER, after quitting this job in November and moving home to a caring, supportive environment I can honestly say that 5 months later my gut is making a comeback! I’ve dabbled with probiotics and expensive vitamins, cut out alcohol and caffeine, reduced my sugar intake and gone for bowen therapy and regular massages. Trust me, I’ve tried everything to get my body back on the mend. Over the last few weeks I’ve slowly been re-introducing regular old bread into the mix, pasta, biscuits, muffins and pancakes. Not because I want to eat these types of foods all the time, but because I believe balance is key – and I certainly don’t want to make myself completely intolerant to these food groups!

A few months ago I wasn’t even interested in going grocery shopping, I was content just eating whatever was in the cupboard. I was focused solely on getting through the day without feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, and this took all of my energy. Now I’m excited to start cooking again, experimenting with flavours and enjoying the kitchen. I’ve just made a lovely pesto filled with basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Delish!

img_2982

Photo credits – chefmattmoran & ihavethisthingwithpink

The bitter taste of disappointment.

IMG_3871

Sitting here on a Friday night, the mellow beats of Radiohead in the background matching my somber mood… nothing sucks more than the disappointment of a shattered hope. I put myself on the line. I dreamed a dream. And with one swift phone call, that dream was lost. A kick in the stomach, a sinking feeling of rejection. You blame yourself, and pick apart every minute of the process. What if I’d done this, or said that? Who knows. Life is one door opening after another closes, and that’s the truth. Feel the feelings, take the time to be down about it. Then get back up slowly, one step at a time. 

I’ve come to realise lately that you’ve really got to have your own back. Yes, family and friends will always be there for you, but in reality everyone is just trying to keep their own heads above water. You can shout and scream all you like and not make a dent, or you can quietly resolve to be better tomorrow. Set your own personal goals and take however long you need to get there. One thing it’s taken me years to stop doing was apologising and explaining myself. So what if I don’t feel like doing this, or going there? You do you and let me worry about me. I’m not saying a nudge in the back isn’t called for now and then – we all need some gentle encouragement in rough times. But by and large we need to pick our own selves up from the floor and persevere, for any positive changes to last the distance.

We all have those songs we listen to on repeat when we’re feeling down. I’ve lost track of how many situations this song has healed me through… his echoing, haunting voice gives me shivers every time.

Forget about your house of cards, and I’ll do mine… 

Anyway I hope you have a great weekend, doing whatever it is that makes you feel alive. Try not to let little disappointments rule your happiness. Take a moment to process your reality, and then move on. That’s all we can really do 🙂

IMG_3449

Photo credits – hvmansouls & lafemmesauvage_

Why am I so uncomfortable about being in a hospital? 

I’m sitting here in a blandly furnished, freezing room watching my mother sleep in her hospital bed. Nurses, doctors and trainees keep bursting in every 15 minutes to fiddle with cords, take notes and speak in riddles so we actually have no idea what’s going on or who is running this show. The constant noise of beeping, machinery, phone calls and trolleys wheeling by in the hallway means no rest for anybody. How is one meant to recover here? Sleep is a powerful restorative tool yet my mother is being denied this essential part of life. I’m frustrated and maybe just a little scared. 

When a loved one is taken to hospital for whatever reason, every stupid little thing you were worrying about ceases to exist. That person who you thought you offended? Who cares. What are you going to eat for dinner? Toast and baked beans will do. What am I going to do tomorrow? Let’s just make it through today. Survival, comfort and care kicks in and you drop everything to make sure this person is ok, and that they know you’re there for them. As I packed her bag last night with essentials and favourite items, I realised how useless these things were. After all in a hospital you’d expect to have access to everything you need to survive. But there’s a lot more to life than simply being able to breathe. That book she was reading, her favourite pyjamas, her toothbrush… these everyday objects become sources of comfort in times of need. Anything that reminds us of home must play some role in the healing process, in my opinion anyway. 

As I sit here wrapped in a blanket, watching my mother sleep I’m suddenly aware of the fragility of life. When your body is hooked up to needles and machines, it really hits home that we aren’t here for long and we’re certainly not made of steel. Everything about this place is foreign to me. The sharp smell of sanitisation is an assault on the senses, the bright lights make you feel crazy and the hushed whispers only increase the displacement. I want her to come home. 

Of course, I am grateful for the caring staff. It takes strong minded people to work in this environment, where worried family members and constant double checking must be the norm. I just want everything to be ok and I am sick of waiting, but I need to remember – this isn’t about what I want or need. This is about my mother. And so I will sit here, all day and all night if I must. Because family is all we have at the end of the day, and for that my love has no limits. 

Photo credits – rsa_vsco & rsa_mextures

Australia, you untamed beauty.

image

We call ourselves the lucky country, and for very good reason. If you’ve had the fortune of visiting us Down Under, the first thing you might notice is how much space we have. Completely surrounded by ocean, Australia is dotted with coastal cities and beaches, rain forests, cane fields, cliff faces, natural water holes and stories of the Dreamtime. Wide open landscapes fill the country between our major cities, while smaller but charming towns fill our hearts with joy and glimpses of a simple existence. I love the fresh air here, the smell of sea salt on the wind and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Lara Bingle aptly put it, ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ in this famous tourism advertisement, and she couldn’t have been more right:

I’m lucky enough to call Australia home and am currently living in North Queensland, the state based on the North/East Coast. I felt inspired to write this blog post after a beautiful morning connecting with nature at Cape Hillsborough National Park, about 40 minutes drive from the city of Mackay (my home). We arrived at the park just on dawn this morning where a small group of people were gathered on the beach, watching the majestic kangaroos dotted across the shoreline greeting a new day. This was truly an incredible sight. I’ve seen plenty of kangaroos in my life, but seeing them on this stunning beach at sunrise, hopping along with their babies without a care in the world was really quite breathtaking. As the sun slowly burst through a light cloud cover, my friend and I had a lovely little picnic completely at one with nature and more importantly – no WIFI signal! A truly spectacular morning that I won’t be forgetting.

I know the blogging community is stretched far and wide across the world, which is why I am encouraging those international readers to come visit us here in Australia. You won’t be disappointed 🙂

image

Photo credits – organictravel & theblondeabroad

Wait, was that a real smile?

IMG_3882

For so long I was stuck in this grey reality, going through the motions of life without really being ‘present’. I’d turn up to work, catch up with the friends and keep up my social media appearance. Every night I’d be so exhausted from the emotional, mental and physical strength this existence required, that all I’d want to do is lay in my candlelit room at night listening to depressing music, dreading having to do it all again tomorrow. Of course, it finally caught up with me and it’s only 5 months into my ‘gap year’ that I’m genuinely starting to be excited about life again.

In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed subtle changes in my thinking patterns that have got me doing mental cartwheels of joy. I’ve caught myself not thinking or worrying about my anxiety issues, and while that sounds silly – if I’m thinking about not thinking about anxiety, then aren’t I thinking about anxiety again? Well yes, and no. It’s different now. For a good year it was all I thought about – it literally consumed my thoughts every hour, if not every minute of the day. I’d wake up assessing how I felt, I’d walk to work wondering how long I would last before starting to panic, I’d try and hold myself together all day until I could get out and escape to the safety of my bedroom. If I had plans that night I’d try and stay calm until I got there, then spend the entire time feeling like shit because of how exhausted I was and looking forward to just being in bed. But even in bed I couldn’t escape my mental state – I’d meditate to try and get to sleep, and then some nights wake up with a racing heart trying to catch my breath at 2am. Anxiety was with me constantly, sitting on my face and refusing to let me live my life in peace.

But as I mentioned, lately I’ve caught myself not thinking about it. And this has made a world of difference. I can actually read a book, watch a movie, talk to family or friends and take the dog to the beach, and actually just live in the moment, not worrying about whether I might have a panic attack or where I can escape to if I start feeling anxious. This is an amazing feeling and something that I don’t expect everyone to understand. I couldn’t even go into a grocery store or drive across a bridge 3 months ago without feeling sick in the stomach, worried about panicking which naturally leads to a state of panic. The cycle of anxiety is vicious, and comes on so quickly that you barely have time to put your coping methods in place. I can genuinely say I feel like my storm is starting to ease though, and I’m beyond excited. I’ve actually booked a trip to Bali in a few months with some friends which is something I feel like I deserve. After the hard work I’ve put in to overcome my challenges, I think a cocktail on the beach is well overdue!

The happiest people seem to be those who have no particular cause for being happy except that they are so. (William Ralph Inge). 

IMG_3788

Photo credits – katie.one & sandra.cumplido

Why a series of small, pleasant events can make a world of difference…

IMG_3217

Having just come back from a morning outing with my grandmother and the family dachshund Audrey, I’m feeling rather at peace with the world. Us ladies simply relaxed in a small, quiet cafe sipping on our coffee of choice (Audrey nibbling some treats), observing the comings and goings of morning shoppers, bike riders and delivery drivers. This easy, uneventful start to the day is all I ask for in life. A peaceful moment to take in my surroundings, spend time with my loved ones and ease into the day. And that’s where I think life’s overall joy comes from – a series of small, pleasant events.

I used to think I always needed something big to look forward to – a friends birthday party, a trip away or overseas, the release of my favourite TV show or a new movie. More often than not though, these ‘big’ anticipated events would roll around and I’d be left feeling less than happy. You know those activities you look forward to for days or weeks on end, but when the time comes it’s the LAST thing you feel like doing? We build it up so much in our heads and then the tiniest thing might go wrong, or plans change and boom – we’re left feeling completely bummed. I believe we need to look for the little pleasures in everyday life, and simply roll with our moods and emotions. You can’t force yourself to be happy or have fun in any given moment, you just need to ride the wave.

From the moment you get up – be grateful for the small wonders of life, for the things you have that others less fortunate do not have access to. A warm blanket, comfortable slippers, and a kettle to make your morning brew. Appreciate your family members, friends, housemates or colleagues. Without you being conscious of it, they’re always there for you in little ways. Be thankful you have a roof over your head, a car to get from A to B in, and a device to read this blog on. Louise Hay has a wonderful morning meditation that I sometimes like to do – a really nice way to start the day and open your eyes to the world around you:

I hope this post makes you think about the things in your life that are sometimes taken for granted. As the saying goes, ‘Enjoy the little things, because one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things.‘ Amen to that!

img_2907

Photo credits – takemoreadventures & thefuturekept

Ginger Ocean – What’s in a name?

image

Choosing the name of my blog wasn’t some drawn out process where I scrolled through words in the dictionary, trying to find something I identified with. In fact like most things in my life, I made a decision fairly quickly and easily. Ginger – because I have red hair, and Ocean – because that’s where I find my peace. And when I think of my blog and what it means to me, Ginger Ocean seemed perfect. It’s about my identity, my voice, and it’s my safe place – something I can call my own.

Growing up with red hair was, as you can imagine, a difficult childhood. Teased throughout my schooling years being called everything from ‘Ginger Ninja’, ‘Fanta Pants’, ‘Freckle-Faced Fart Machine’ and ‘Ranga’, was not fun. One can only be compared to an Orangutan and asked if the carpet matches the drapes so many times before wondering, ‘Am I hideous’? Of course I’d get a lot of nice comments too, from people telling me to never dye it and reminding me how lucky I am. I’m constantly asked by hairdressers if the colour is real as they remark over how thick it is (while embarking on the challenge of washing and pinning this monstrosity on my head). I smile and thank them, meanwhile thinking they have no idea how many headaches I get from having such thick, course hair. Now that I’m older, I absolutely love identifying as a red head. We all grow into our own skin eventually, and being a minority segment of the population is kind of cool right? Screw the bullies, love yourself and wear your hair with pride I say!

Matching the word Ginger with Ocean seemed to fit quite nicely as well for me, A) because it’s meaningful, and B) because it makes you stop and think for a second. Isn’t the ocean blue, not red? And that’s what I want my blog readers to do, to stop and think about the content and what it means to them. For me going to the beach as much as I can, wandering along the shore and listening to the soft crash of waves rolling in, is the most therapeutic indulgence there is. And it’s free! Who needs to dish out hundreds of dollars in sessions with a psychologist when they can simply head for the shore, breathe in the fresh air and contemplate things in peace? If I’m feeling even the slightest bit antsy or on edge, I know an afternoon stroll feeling the sand in my toes will do my mental state wonders. I’m fortunate enough to live in a town that is enclosed by over 30 beaches, but for the last 10 years I lived in the city where escaping to the ocean was something that only happened a couple of times a year. I hated it, and never again will I confine myself to the barriers of a concrete jungle existence.

So there you have it, for anyone actually wondering what Ginger Ocean means to me. Of course, it means so much more than what I’ve described here today – but those were the fundamental beginnings of something that’s given me great joy. Being able to express myself in the form of this blog has opened a door for me – writing in a creative, thoughtful space is something I really enjoy. And shouldn’t that be one of the things we strive towards in life, simply enjoying what we do?

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” (Ray Bradbury). 

image

Photo credits – portraitvision & spacebypixel