A Work In Progress

Cate

I’m going to tell a secret:
All things that breathe, that grow,
that have a beat to their heart or
a flow to their cells, all things alive
are connected. If you take the time to
hold life, truly hold it in your hands,
you can feel this connection.
It feels like a tiny wire, pulsing with
electricity. The larger the creature
the larger the pulse, but it is always
there. Stop killing spiders, flies,
beetles and bugs and start holding them.
Let them crawl on you and feel their
tiny feet on your skin. Let them know
that you love them, too, and you will
feel it.
I promise.

– Tyler Knott Gregson

From the outset I can assure you that I am the last person to suggest letting spiders and bugs start crawling over your skin.  Not me.  No thanks.  Last night just before going to sleep I watched in horror as a spider crawled its way down an invisible web onto my bed.  I very nearly packed my bags and left home for a week.  The only problem was the spider was between me and the door.  What totally freaks me out is that I have no idea where the spider is now.

I like Tyler Knott Gregson’s words here though, but admit I adapt it a little.  I have been learning to appreciate the small things in life, including small creatures, but I am selective.  I’m more than happy to have the experience of a ladybird or butterfly on my hand, but definitely no spiders, beetles or other creepy crawlies.  I am a work in progress, and maybe I’ll grow to be brave, but not just yet.

Learning to appreciate the beauty of small things in life, for the sake of my mental health, began for me when I lived through some devastating earthquakes in Christchurch, NZ in 2010 and 2011.  When the basics of water, electricity, sewerage, access to services, and for many, their homes were destroyed (my home was badly damaged but still livable thankfully, but my parents home was condemned, and my brother’s business was almost destroyed), I quickly learnt to focus on what I had.  I had my life, I was lucky enough to have a bed to sleep in, food to eat and I knew my family were alive.  Those are pretty big things but over time, I could appreciate more and more, taking the focus off what I didn’t have.

Actually the change in my thinking came from my (yes, unhealthy but that’s another post) habit of smoking outside the back door.  Hearing birds nearby and seeing a simple flower in the garden took on new meaning for me.  Three years on, and I am still waiting for my home to be repaired.  The driveway has huge cracks in it, but last summer somehow, through those cracks came gorgeous red poppies.  Simple, but beautiful amidst the destruction.  I had so much taken away from me in those quakes, but what was left took on extra meaning.  When I felt despair, especially when my father died suddenly shortly after the worst quake, I could still see good.

It wasn’t a conscious decision to go look for the good.  It just happened, but as it did my mental health began to improve.  The depression and emotional dysregulation of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) began to lift, and I began to learn ways of managing my emotions.  It was a complete breakthrough. While I lost, and I have no desire to ever go through such an experience again, I learnt (finally).

Image credit: Facebook Alice in Wonderland’s Teatray. Used with Alice’s kind permission.

Many people would probably start talking about mindfulness about now.  That’s something that is strongly recommended for those with BPD, and my own experience tells me why.  The definition if mindfulness that I like is “noticing what’s going on right now“, or “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience“. (

To be honest, I’m no expert on mindfulness and actually I tend to stay away from what I see as jargon.  The experts might disagree with that, but I’m just one of those people who doesn’t go in for big words.  I’d rather break it down to what I actually mean, and what I know other people will understand.  But that’s me, I’ve always done that.

Simply put, I just noticed (initially by chance) what good was still left around me and somehow took on focussing on the good rather than what I had lost.  It worked.  My mood improved, and I was able to communicate with those around me much better.

I’m not saying it always works.  This past week has been a particularly difficult one for me and I have been very depressed.  It was really hard to see any good around me.  But it was there, and eventually (with some help) I started to notice.

Maybe I sound a bit like a Pollyanna.  God help me, I hope not.  I’ve never been much of a positive thinker.  I admit I am a glass-half-empty type person.  But I’m realising that at least I have a glass, and that has to be a start.

A person who teaches me this (time and time again) is my three-year old niece, L.  Through her eyes I can look at the world differently.  I can actually see hope through those eyes of hers.  She would see the red poppies growing through the cracks and be all consumed by the wonder.  The poppies prove that good does come from bad.  Maybe not always, but often.  That’s what I need to remember.

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.

There are seven million.”

― Walt Streightiff

Credits:

Poetry used with permission from Tyler Knott Gregson, tylerknott.comtreehousephotography.org

Image used with permission from Alice at Alice in Wonderland’s Teatray, on Facebook.

© Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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24 thoughts on “A Work In Progress

  1. If you’re able to keep drinking, somebody keeps pouring. So enjoy your half a glass and keep writing!

  2. Thank you, Cate. If you can do it, I can, right? Thanks for inspiration. Being failing horribly at this lately.

  3. This is definitely something I’ve learned to appreciate the power of. Sometimes you hear people use these phrases like ‘being in the moment’ and it comes off as more a nice flowery thing to say than something that can make a real difference. But, well, it does make a difference. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • It’s funny you say that Micah, because I have a bit of that problem with the term mindfulness. Maybe it’s just a matter of working out our own way of what works for us. Making a real difference works for me. 🙂

  4. I’m an over thinker. When things are going well (mentally), as they have been these last few weeks … I am embracing the moments … I start to look at the longer term things going on around me that no longer bother me … and I begin to think that they actually should be bothering me more.

    Is my state of bliss some form of ignorance, escapism, or a means of coping with something I know I can’t? The whole ‘ignorance is bliss’ thing.
    Or should I just take these moments when they come, maybe as a means of my body making my mind take a rest … and stop with the overthinking? It does feel kinda good 🙂

    • As one over-thinker to another, I am interrupting to say take the moments, Jared. Take the rest. Enjoy what you have while you have it. For me, it could end in a moment or last for a year. I don’t know, and I learned what a wonderful thing that actually is, the not knowing. Our life is moment-to-moment, the big things are built from the little.

      A song for you. The visuals aren’t as good as in the Missy Higgins, but the song fits just here.

    • I know that feeling well. I’m trying to remember not to wreck things for myself. Things can be bliss but then I come along and wreck it by overthinking. Sometimes it’s worth just letting it be, and going with the feeling while we’ve got it. That’s what I tell myself (when I remember) anyway. 😉

  5. I’m just at the beginning of learning how to manage those (BPD) emotions. It’s so encouraging to read what you say. I’m convinced that my only route from the churning emotions and endless thoughts is through mindfulness….living in the moment. Even just a passing few seconds being mindful can make all the difference. Lovely post!

  6. When we see the good things – like a beautiful flower – for a moment, we’re lifted out of wherever we are. And that’s another good thing. It’s also a lot easier to think about things positively if we have positive things to dwell on occasionally. If that makes any sense.

  7. “But I’m realising that at least I have a glass, and that has to be a start.” I love this line. Well said.

  8. I still see seven million wonders – along with seven million grieves, with my eyes. Feeling that connection Tyler Knott Gregson speaks of is a double-edged sword. It will bring you great joy but also great sorrow. However, we must not shy away from it for the sake of those who suffer. For who will care for them, otherwise?

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