Leaving the Plateau

As I mentioned, this blog space has languished this year, not intentionally but it’s been a big year for me personally and inwardly. I haven’t had a lot to say externally. 2019 and my theme Plateau has been good for me, from where I started and what I put out there as my hopes and intentions for the year, to now where I have ended up. I have continued with moving forward, but at a gentle pace (mostly) that focused on recovery from burnout and heartbreak. If I am honest, I’m still in progress for these aims – there are parts of me that still feel so very broken and I struggle to put myself first in my life. And yet, it’s been a gentle kind of constant self work that I’ve persisted in and will continue into the new year.

I didn’t set specific goals, I rarely do because they can easily become a source of hypervigilance and perfectionism for me that feeds unhealthy habits that I’m working to shift into a healthier space. But there were focus areas that I listed some loose ideas of what I wanted and hoped for. I really did embrace the idea of a Plateau for rest, with some forward momentum but with less pressure and prioritising myself. Not pushing or being too far outside my comfort zone, taking time to be where I am now and shore up and improve my foundations.

A view of Ha Giang, on the border of China and Vietnam. Green mountains in the background with blue sky and clouds. IN the foreground a winding mountain pathway but right in front, a daisy in hyper focus.

Also, my process here can look distinctly like a lack of process and intentionality. However, that’s not actually true. Instead, the process is deliberately subtle and speaks to background thought processes, letting things work in the background. As someone grappling with fairly profound anxiety, overthinking, perfectionism, always-on-productivity, always putting others first, I’ve worked hard to create a way to know that I’m doing self-work and growth but not to be using it as another stick to beat myself with. For me that’s why having a theme is so useful to me, it’s a guiding central concept and then I let my brain mull over it throughout the year. The concept and related ideas ebb and flow toward the front and back of my mind. I always learn things, I always grow in unexpected ways. I always find that moving forward and putting to rest one theme in preparation for a new one, that there was a unique journey and that in all honesty the process allows me to get the best of that introspection and reflection that I do as an ordinary part of being in the world. This process also allows  me to set goals when and where I actually find them useful, whether it’s a goal for the day, or the month or just because there’s a thing I want to undertake. I’m not beholden to decisions made back in the beginning of this process… it’s a guide, and then the actuality is the always amazing vast difference and where all the learning and growing happens.

Where am I at now at the end of 2019?

Midwifery

I’m growing into my sense of self as a midwife. My theory and training are starting to merge with my practice and experience. I am recognising how I am a trained professional, I’m not pretending and I don’t feel unworthy, unqualified. I feel like I can provide an amazing connection and support to families during a momentous time in their lives. I am grateful to those midwives I look to for mentorship and as examples for how I want to grow. Their generosity and kindness is deeply appreciated. Similarly, I already notice how important it is for me to spend time with students and graduates and provide support, kindness and mentorship to them.

White banner with intersecting circles Hands, Heart and Mind and the kind of midwife you will be. Midwife is in the centre of the intersecting circles.

I started studying my Master of Primary Maternity Care this year. It’s a transformative program and designed in such a way to train graduants in skills to create change in how maternity care is delivered in Australia, improving models of care and outcomes both for those we care for, and for midwives ourselves. It’s designed not to deliver a qualification for the sake of it, but something that can be utilised to generate a more powerful midwifery force in Australia – something sorely needed. The program is rich in detail and engages deeply with current literature, and it seems to appeal to people similar to me, who are equally passionate about change, improving things, making a difference. It feeds into my desire to leave my profession better than when I came to it. It helps to keep me centred on the midwife I want to be and how I want to practice. It’s hard work, but I am loving it.

Also, it provides a measure of self-care because the state of maternity care in Australia is that fragmented and medicalised care is the standard. It leaves the families we care for often feeling worse for wear, and those of us working as midwives in this system, it can be so disheartening and anger-inducing. I’m not the kind of person to shut down and ignore and just get on with things. I want to make things better. I want women to come through their experience of maternity feeling powerful and amazing, not hollow, or worse, traumatised. I’m so glad I started Masters as it allows me to pour that desire for improvement, my anger, sense of powerlessness and helplessness into trying to develop the skills, experience and acumen that may mean I really can change things for the better.

I continued to support the Australian College of Midwives, both on a national level and as part of the Victorian committee. I value being involved and learning. I am invested in this profession and this is another avenue for supporting myself, supporting others and improving things generally.

 

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How do you know you’re at a midwifery conference? Well the giant placenta is a great hint…. So amazing and knitted! #acm2019

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I also again went to the National Conference, this year in Canberra. It was glorious. I refilled my bucket so much! I got a lot out of the program, but more importantly just getting to be in a room full of midwives who care. Who all come together and care. I’m excited to consider how the conference may grow and change into the future to be perhaps less academic in focus and more focused on ways people can improve things in practice that may be relevant to midwives working in broader settings. Starting my Masters this year was also good for going to conference, the director of my Masters made a point of finding me at several intervals and introducing me to so many other people as one of ‘hers’ (I definitely felt the love and wibbling associated with my deep desire to ‘belong’ and it’s definitely something I rarely experience so fully). I met so many people and the fact that she took the time to introduce me and put me in conversation with other leaders of our profession, other amazing midwives and women who are determined and powerful and seeking change, like me. It was humbling and inspiring.

Self Care

I’ve maintained everything I started in this area of focus. I’ve consistently sought to maintain balance, prioritise good sleep and enabling opportunities to practice having down time, doing fun things for the sake of it, genuine leisure time. I’ve seen movies, spent time with friends. I’ve said ‘no’ to so many things, and ‘yes’ to so many others. I’m still wrestling with prioritising myself and putting myself first, but I am no longer feeling anxiety when I do this at least. That’s progress. I’ve grown more accustomed to prioritising my own time for myself, which has meant not cooking when I didn’t want to, getting a car home from work when I didn’t want to wait for the next train. I’ve also determinedly worked on putting in requests for my rosters to try and have them work better for me and mess with  my timelines less.

I also had some profound experiences with connection this year, one particular encounter provided a singular and powerful opportunity for me to heal, reconnect with my intimate self and the ability to connect with others on that level. I’m not back to myself in this sphere  yet, but I have a doorway thanks to this dear friend’s time, energy and care. It’s like I met myself for the first time again, that’s how profound it was. I realised how much I’d cut myself off from physical touch, and given it’s an area that has strong importance for me, I’m still sad about how much I’d suppressed that need. The rawness of how skin hungry I am, hungry for touch intimacy comes with profound sadness, and I’m treating myself gently here. But I’m also trying to give myself  more of what I had denied myself through fear and the kind of broken coming out of my heartbreak and relationship breakdown from 2018. Twelve months is too little time to have made more progress here, but these small leaps were so hard won, they’re so important to me and I hope they make it easier to continue healing in this area.

Also, it bears mentioning that undertaking self care in a context where it literally feels like the world is burning down around you and the worst aspects of society and civilisation are running rampant is… a challenge. So I recognise that there’s only so much that self care can do in the wake of what is an entirely reasonable response from my brain to what is going on around me. It is horrifying, and that does have an impact. It sucks, but it is reality and I’m trying to do the best I can to stand for what is right and the kindness and humanity I want to see into the future. It’s hard. It’s not perfect. And to be honest a lot of my activism is in my daily job, it takes a lot out of me and there’s not a lot leftover afterwards, I have to hope it still counts. I hope I’ll grow  more energy and be able to do and fight for more.

Reading

At the time of writing, I’ve surpassed my minimum goal for reading and I’ve read some magnificent books. I set a goal of 50 books for this year, so far I’ve read 73. I also participated in the Sara Douglass Book Series Award, which was awarded in March. I love series, I love the extended storyline and the possiblities conferred by having an epic scale to play with. There were some amazing books that I read and discovered, several had been on my to-read list for ages! I discovered new authors and read books I may otherwise not have prioritised.

Australian Women Writers Challenge badge for 2019, forest green background with black silhouette of a woman in a hat in a frock with an umbrella. White text overlaying with the title of the challenge.I participated in a very low key way in some reading challenges, namely The Australian Women Writers Challenge – I’m sure I’ve completed that although I’ve not finalised anything so that’s another task for this week (maybe I’ll even post my short reviews from Goodreads here as a round up). I also participated in Beat The Backlist which was a lot of fun and a reason to focus on books published prior to 2019 and to try and reduce the to-read list a little. Not sure I succeeded much in reality if only because the list of books to read, is ever growing. It was a nice area to focus on and that’s another administration thing I need to finalise this week so everything is counted.

I had a loose intention to read more diversely and I don’t think I really had much success here. I just didn’t have enough brain left over to work harder in my reading. So I’m sure I’ve read some books that include authors and protagonists that come from a range of different areas of diversity, but I didn’t track it and I think I’d have noticed if I’d wildly succeeded at this.

Dining Out and Cooking

Letting myself enjoy going out to dinner as a hobby was a wild success. I did a lot of this and enjoyed it massively. I delight in amazing food experiences and I revelled in it this year. I plan to continue, up to and including moving house so that we can be in an area that more facilitates this. I ate at casual restaurants, takeaway, food courts, fine dining restaurants and pretty much every permeatation in between. I loved all of it. I didn’t get to a degustation event, but given I am a picky eater I am often worried I’ll arrive and not be able to eat anything so I’d still love to do this, if I can find suitably flexible ones. I did get to eat homemade tagliatelle in Heidelberg, Germany that was tossed in a wheel of parmesan with cognac and finished with truffle, it was one of the best things I ate in 2019 and the photo doesn’t do it justice:

Cooking was less successful in how much I did, but I did focus on doing it pretty much only when I wanted to. That made a huge difference and I can feel my sense of burnout in this area wearing off. I also bought a new fancy food processor that makes short work of things that used to take forever which is marvellous. I made scones start to finish in less than 15 minutes a couple of weeks ago.  Fox has done some cooking but not much, he’s just as much recovering from burnout as I am, and cooking has always been stressful for him, so we’ve taken that gently this year. He’s still managed several things and in certain areas has maintained confidence even if not advancing. It’s enough, the point is great food and enjoying things not beating ourselves up. And if we ate a lot of takeaway this year… who cares, it’s not the end of the world. When I cooked, I wanted to and I meant it. I did make at least one recipe that I’ve been wanting to make for years. 

It’s definitely a year where I started to upgrade my kitchen machinery, buying a rice and grain cooker, an air fryer along with the aforementioned food processor. Each has already earned it’s keep. The sodastream that Fox got us for Xmas has already earned it’s keep! Bench real estate is definitely at a premium, but the tech has made saying yes to cooking easier more often. So there’s been less sense of ‘have to’ and unsustainable effort involved. Honestly I think we just need to move so that I can have a kitchen that is not down the back out of the way and cut off. I want to cook and socialise, listen to media and watch media while I potter. It’s not really possible right now. Still, I made the best of it I think and I’m happy with how this ended up.

I didn’t end up participating in the Food 52 Cookbook Club, but it’s something I’d try for again – there was at least no sense of failure or stress around this. It was something I hoped to manage – and mainly as a away of hooking into ways to enjoy cooking and feel joy and delight in it. I didn’t get there and it’s fine, it’s still there for whenever I want to try again (probably next year).

Travel

Fox and I had a magnificent trip to Germany, I loved it – despite the challenge of blisters in vastly uncomfortable places and ongoing difficulty with foot pain. It was magnificent, I loved getting to spend so much quality time with my live-in partner and I’m excited to travel more. We’re tentatively planning several trips now… and I want to travel with other friends and partners too. We didn’t manage any Victorian escapes but we still love the idea and maybe I’ll have a better handle on my roster in the coming year that might make it possible.

The best thing about travelling is that I’m out of my routine, there’s a lot of disruption to my productivity cycle and anxiety cycle in this that I noticed. Also, I still really like staying in interesting hotels and I’m definitely a 4 stars and up kind of person. I think I converted Fox to that too. I learned a lot going overseas for the first time, both about myself and how I am in the world,  how Australia is in the world and it was valuable and rewarding and opened up a new experience of myself.

 

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The Alte National Gallery isn’t open today, but the building and statue in front are impressive!

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2 thoughts on “Leaving the Plateau

    • Ju says:

      Thank you! I feel a bit rusty, but it felt good to reflect out loud again. And it opens up space and thoughts for what I want for 2020. Plus, I feel like my theme has already become apparent which is nice to just mull over before I’m ready to write about it.

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