It’s a reflex

I’ve just been reflecting on the three nights I spent in Hoi An on my month-long exploration of Cambodia and Vietnam. It was an interesting experience, although not my favourite place in Vietnam. Everything was so centred on selling and buying things.

The old town was full of shops with similar leather goods, tailoring shops and holiday nicknacks that I’d have wanted to buy once upon a time. But instead, probably fresh from my shopping ban, it made me feel a bit sad.

Sure, it was a beautiful place at night, strewn with lanterns and with lit-up rowboats gliding up and down the river, but it didn’t seem to have much of a soul as a city. It seemed like a huge marketplace when it was once a place of worship, of traditional Vietnamese life.

But it still didn’t stop me from feeling the reflex to buy. A beautiful lantern for our house, an inflatable toy for Jenson to use in the water, some new underwear because it’d be so much cheaper over here, some insect repellent just in case our near-full bottle was finished before the end of our holidays.

Each time I felt the urge, I would remind myself of all the reasons why I wanted to not buy stuff (there are so many reasons!) and the urge would slowly dissipate. I imagine over time that these urges will come and go, just like the tide.

And this experience made me think about the various other reflexes that I have which I hate but haven’t been able to shake off.

  • The way I instinctively turn sideways to look in the mirror daily for a view of how slim my stomach is
  • The judgement I make on myself based on how I look instead of all that I want to hold as important – my personality, my brain, my capacity to love, the inner strength I possess.
  • How I catch myself doing what I think I should do, even if it’s not what I really want to do

And part of me knows that the fact I’m conscious about these things is the tide changing in my life.

But I’ve taken heart from this shopping ban too that these areas in my life that I’m not satisfied with are the culmination of many different reflexes and daily actions.

And these are moveable, changeable, not who I am.

And with that I take heart. I believe that I can instead tell my stomach and body how glad I am for it’s strength and power, I can spend time appreciating all that I am, I can ask myself “what do you really want to do”.

They’re just reflexes that I have the ability to change.

His best interest

I’m just leaving Derbyshire after a long weekend of family celebrations and time with friends. If I’m honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the time up here before we came because it was my first big trip away from home with our son and it was quite a busy time with lots of plans in the diary.

We would being seeing people who would be so excited to see my little newborn son that they would want to hold and cuddle and cherish him. It’s normal for them to want to do this and, as a baby, it’s normal for Jenson to sometimes be happy to get their attention and to sometimes be in a bit of a cranky mood and just want to be left alone or to be nestled close to me or his dad.

I think of myself as a kind person – generally happy to oblige others and go with the flow. But when it comes to my son, it isn’t a case of obliging others and making exceptions. I have to act in his best interests. And this makes for a different dynamic, one that I was slightly apprehensive about:

  • Saying ‘you can’t hold him at the moment‘ to those who I usually would make exceptions for and sitting with the discomfort of having disappointed them
  • Leaving dinner halfway through with friends to comfort a cantankerous baby
  • Turning down offers of help to rock a crying baby because I’m trying to learn Jenson’s language to respond to what he needs when he’s upset (different temperature, nappy change, food, time alone, cuddles, being played with…)

And with the slight apprehension I felt, I also wanted to be able to cuddle him and hold him close if I wanted to without feeling obliged to always pass him around to other people when he was in a good mood.

It felt a bit rude sometimes and it felt a bit uncomfortable but I think that these feelings were a remnant from my people pleasing days. And my role as his mum isn’t to be polite and put the needs of others before Jenson, it’s to, as his mum, put him first.

I know there will come a time when I need to model sharing and generosity and kindness to him. But at 6 weeks old, this was not the time. This was the time to put him first and that’s exactly what I did.