This girl listens to trees

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Wherever I go, I always notice trees. I think they are nature’s greatest wonders and we can learn so much about life just by observing trees and their seasonal transformation.
I have discovered some beautiful spots in and around Haarlem where I can go to spend time with trees.
Sometimes I am not alone (often I have my son with me) or I appreciate a beautiful tree through a window while I am indoors. However, I really treasure the moments when I am alone with them.
This ritual has become an important self care activity. Some people go for facials and manicures, I head for the trees.
In this environment I often find it easier to seek inner wisdom about life’s difficult questions and my inner struggles. It is an opportunity to connect with the earth and myself again. I don’t need to engage in articulate conversation. All I have to do is sit quietly, observe the beauty around me and listen to my heart. Trees teach stillness so well.

I think life is like a tyre’s tread. When a tyre hits a few bumps in the road it needs realignment to run smoothly again and prevent damage to the tyre. This also happens to people. When I feel that my soul is restless and things just don’t seem right I like to spend time in nature to find realignment and new perspectives.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. – Hermann Hesse

One of the most significant lessons I’ve learnt from trees is their ability to let go. Have you ever noticed how gracefully trees change colour and lose their leaves? They seem so at ease with embracing change.
Learning to welcome change – whether it is positive, negative or a bit of both – has improved my quality of life. I’ve realized that the universe always brings the change when I am ready for it and need it. Moving to another country is the biggest decision I’ve ever made. Uprooting 17 years of adult life in one place wasn’t easy but it also wasn’t difficult because the time was right to see what else the universe has planned for me.

There is great freedom in letting go. It could be a person, a relationship, a job, a career path, a home country or material possessions – all of these have applied to me at some point in my life. Letting go gives me so much freedom to discover new places, different ways of thinking, new people and ultimately a new life.

If you want to read some of my previous posts on trees, freedom and new beginnings, click on these links:
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We have to talk about suicide

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September is Suicide Prevention Month and I’m wondering why this topic isn’t trending on Twitter. It is such an important subject to talk about. But very few people do. Very few people want to engage with the fact that people kill themselves. How often are victims accused of being selfish, crazy or psycho?

This image sums it up perfectly:

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Suicide is a subject close to my heart  because I almost reached that point a few years ago. I blogged about this in a previous post: Celebrating a year of living.

In South Africa, where I live, there is a suicide nearly every hour. This figure could be higher because many incidents aren’t reported. According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa has the eighth highest suicide rate in the world. Suicide is also the third greatest cause of unnatural death in the country.

 

People should talk about suicide. If someone tells you they are suicidal, believe them. They aren’t joking.

 

 

It only takes one decision

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Don’t be afraid to start over. It’s a brand new opportunity to rebuild what you truly want. – Author unknown

It is good to remember that a different life requires just one decision. Follow your heart. It will never lead you astray. 💛

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Morning view. Blesberg Farm, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa. Photo: Wilma den Hartigh

 

Things you learn on this journey called life

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In the past four and a bit years I’ve learnt so much about life. You might wonder why four? Well, four years ago my son was born.

I went from being a relatively carefree 29-year-old to become an instant mom in about 45 minutes. Matthew has been my greatest teacher in life – he’s showed me how to love and how to feel emotion again.

Mango juice in a jar.

A photo posted by Wilma den Hartigh (@painted_heart_diaries) on Jun 13, 2015 at 12:52am PDT

But there are also a few other truths I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. Do what you love and follow your heart. Always.
  2. Don’t let the noise of the world drown out your inner voice.
  3. Listen to your inner voice. It is always right.
  4. Trust your journey. People might not get it, but that’s okay. It’s not theirs.
  5. Be happy with less. There is freedom in simplicity.
  6. When things get rough, remember how far you’ve come.
  7. Stay close to the things that make you feel alive.
  8. There is unbelievable freedom in not caring what people think about you.
  9. Be badass. Don’t wear boring clothes. Surround yourself with people who get you.

Yes, depression is a legitimate medical condition

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“Telling someone with depression to pull themselves together is about as useful as telling someone with cancer to stop having cancer.” – Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais might be a controversial guy, but I like this quote. At least someone with some influence is speaking out! Society’s negative attitude towards any form of mental illness means that so many people never feel comfortable talking about it. It is such a lonely road for many people and at times I also count myself in. Actually, just about all of us living with these illnesses are still very selective about who we tell.

Yet, if depression were cancer it would be entirely different story. Sad, isn’t it? In this article which talks about research into mental health, the author says that depression has struggled, while studies of cancer have thrived.

Here’s a few highlights from the article:

If the extent of human suffering were used to decide which diseases deserve the most medical attention, then depression would be near the top of the list. More than 350 million people are affected by depression, making it one of the most common disorders in the world. It is the biggest cause of disability, and as many as two-thirds of those who commit suicide have the condition.

In research…depression has failed to keep up with cancer. Cancer research today is a thriving field…Research into depression, meanwhile, seems to have floundered: once-hopeful therapies have failed in clinical trials, genetic studies have come up empty-handed. The field is still struggling to even define the disease — and overcome the stigma associated with it.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Cancer research funding is very important and I’m glad that so many advances have been made towards treating so many cancers. But, can you imagine if research into mental health got the same kind of funding and attention? What if we had the same kind of advances in treating mental health?

…Another major factor is the long-standing stigma associated with depression. Many people still do not acknowledge that it is a legitimate condition, says Nelson Freimer, a psychiatric geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “A large proportion of people believe depression is just something that we all feel,” he says. “They think you should pull your socks up and get back to work.

The article goes on to tell more about advances into genetic research to understand and treat mental illness, but I agree with article – stigma is still a major problem. Depression isn’t just a case of “having the blues”. These are serious things. Those of us who live with it know.

 

 

 

It’s okay – just be sad

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I just love this. I’m realising how important it is to give myself permission to feel what I feel and just “sit” with my emotions. It takes at long as it takes…you don’t owe anyone a performance.

“It’s okay to be sad. You don’t owe anyone a performance of being okay when you feel like you’re falling apart. It isn’t your job to smile or hide your truth to make other people feel more comfortable. If it gets awkward, let it be awkward.

If people try to silence your pain by telling you to get over it and cheer up because you’re no longer fun or you’re ruining the mood, you don’t have to push away your sadness. You have to honor your feelings and trust that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to feel what you feel. You don’t ever have to sacrifice your self care for the sake of people who only want you around when it’s easy and comfortable.

Their discomfort isn’t about you — it’s about them and their own limitations, and no matter what they think or say, you deserve to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel. You’re allowed to show your feelings honestly. You’re allowed to talk about your pain and reach out for support. You’re allowed to scream and wail and cry. You’re allowed to be sad.”

—Daniell Koepke