I first heard this phrase more than 15 years ago from a SAHM (she eventually had 4 boys), a wife of a pastor. This lovely woman, I shall call her L, has a sparkling, warm personality and is blessed with a beautiful singing voice. I had the privilege of having her as one of my mentors in my teenaged years, and there have been many times in my life where I still draw on the words of wisdom that she has shared with me.
In the past couple of months, I have been humbled and brought to my knees. I have had no choice but to learn to Eliminate and Concentrate just to survive. I am fighting pregnancy blues that are bluer than they should be, enough for my doctors to express concern on more than one occasion. We discussed medication but decided that it was better to use natural means to help myself. Many women would have experienced bouts of crying or feelings of despair during pregnancy, and I was telling myself that things are normal. But when these dark feelings were prolonged, and crying episodes started to happen daily, some lasting for more than an hour, I instinctively knew that I had a problem, even if not yet a serious one.
After one particularly emptying crying episode, I had a long talk with Roboman, and it that conversation, I managed to clarify some of the fuzz in my head and come to terms with all the things that caused this downturn in my well-being. One can always blame pregnancy hormones of course, and they are definitely part of the equation. However, I wanted to acknowledge all the other things that happened as well, and understand in a clearer way how they have impacted me. I needed to be clear so that I could finally grasp these issues by the horns and work through them as best as I can.
The difficult start in this pregnancy coincided with major changes in my workplace. I had a new boss, and my team was merged with some others. There were serious challenges and responsibilities that emerged. At my seniority, I keenly felt the weight on my shoulders and just as with every task that I put my mind to, I wanted to give the team-building effort my best shot. I didn’t realise then that my body could no longer take the usual stresses I put on it, and the busy seasons of Christmas and Chinese New Year took an additional toll on me. I was managing home and work on my own, with a part-time cleaning team coming in only once a week.
Somewhere between Christmas and Chinese New Year was when Bubbles started pre-school. I suddenly had to wake up even earlier to prep her breakfasts and morning snacks, and ferry her to school. On the days I work, I was making 5 trips every morning. Home-School, School-Office, Office-School, School-Home/Mum’s place, Back to office. I still cooked and cleaned on the days I was at home, and had to manage important projects at work. I had very little sleep and persistent family crisis issues pushed me into a sobbing mess several times. My personal life became non-existent, and as I struggled to come to terms with it, I constantly reminded myself that perhaps it is a season to Eliminate and Concentrate. I stopped online activities that kept me busy (and happy) for most of the last couple of years. I no longer wrote or read blogs, and even gradually stopped responding to blog-related emails (I’m sorry). I just couldn’t. I also stopped initiating socials although I did my best to meet up with people who mattered most.
I found it increasingly difficult to be positive, and at the same time felt guilty many times towards friends and family for being a downer when sharing my thoughts and comments. I made an effort not to talk about the real issues that were bothering me, glossing over them when I couldn’t help myself. As a result, no one person knew about all the struggles I was facing. Snippets of issues perhaps, but not as a whole.
There were the occasional sparks of course. On the days I felt brighter and more energetic, some of my old self peeked through. I put on a brave front (to most), immersed myself in new recipes and pretty things, and made some effort to work on the relationships that matter to me. But somehow things were not meant to be. Stomach flu hit the family one after another. I found myself cleaning up puke and poop for days, and retching non-stop myself. I felt so lousy and desperate to get out of the situation I was in. Even Roboman was floored by what was happening to me, and said I really needed to get out of this funk that has lasted for months.
Through the horrendous stomach flu episode, I was also acutely aware that I needed to prep for our new domestic helper that was coming in, and had to meet looming work deadlines. There was so much to be done on top of what was already happening. Everyone was saying get help for goodness’ sake, but let me share that when circumstances do not allow one to ask for help, there is simply no choice but to do things yourself. At my 27th week of pregnancy, my doctor put her foot down when she found that I lost 2kg. I was asked to rest for the week at home. I was shaken because I hadn’t realised just how much I weight I was losing, and felt so guilty when the doctor, being careful, did an additional scan to make sure Bun was growing well and that water levels in me are alright. I’m so thankful Bun is alright despite me.
So here I am now.
I’m not out of it yet.
I’m still embracing the Eliminate and Concentrate mantra just so that what I focus on the most important things. Those that cannot be dropped no matter what:
1. My relationship with God (a struggle perhaps, but an essential one)
2. My marriage
3. My relationship with Bubbles
4. My pregnancy, and Bun
5. My word. All that I’ve said I would do, I would. No more perhaps, but also no less.
The part of me that used to be full of multi-tasking energy reminds me to make time for exercise, and I try to swim regularly. It helps, this exercise thing, although finding time is a real challenge.
I allow myself to find pleasure in beauty. Dressing up and looking nice makes me feel better.
I choose Nature whenever I can. Walks in parks, meals by the sea.
I still have crying episodes, in fact, just one before I wrote this.
I am sorely disappointed that we will not be going on a much-needed babymoon break.
There are still major stressors in my life that I haven’t found solutions for.
I still have a whole lot to achieve and complete in the next couple of months.
I know that with the blues I am now experiencing there is a higher chance of me getting post-natal depression. And I will have to prepare for and fight against that.
I am more aware. I am more centred. I have analysed the issues that brought me to where I am today. I know where I should stop short of pushing my limits. I recognise and believe that this is a phase I will ride out. I will get back to my old self at some point.
I’ve written all these down to further clarify my thinking (as fuzzy as it might still seem to be!), to apologise to all who have been affected by how I have been the last couple of months, and to reach out to others who understand how I am feeling because of similar personal experiences. It is ok to Eliminate and Concentrate if we need to.
This is my song for now:
God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and moulding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness He giveth a song.
I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came and tears fled away.
Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit I will bear.
O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake,
He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried
I shall come forth as gold.
- Ron Hamilton