Last Night I Dreamt would like to welcome, Founder of Feed Me Beautiful, Tamsyn Wood, as our guest blogger this month. Tamsyn is one of those inspiring women who over the years has blown me away with her strength, vulnerability and capacity to love amidst the most extreme tragedy that I hope many of us will never have to endure. From wife to carer overnight, read Tamsyn’s story of loss and finding light in the darkest of times. Soul Food, self care...buzz words we hear allot but for Tamsyn so very very real and life giving. Plus there’s a nourishing plant based recipe by Tamsyn featured within the blog that we can’t wait to try! Read Tamsyn’s story:
Mashing beans, stirring a rich basil and tomato sauce, listening to a podcast, filling my olfactory system with the comforting smells of cooking for my family, I know that I am blessed, I am nurturing my family and myself through this daily act of cooking a meal. Cooking has become very important to me – providing nutritious plant-based meals for my family actually helps me cope with my life. I have learnt that practising my hobbies is self-care, which is integral to coping with life’s stresses. I have had to find ways to cope after my husband suffered a severe traumatic brain injury nine years ago at the young age of 32.
Doubling over with an agonising pain as it sears through me, I can’t compute the fact that my husband may not survive from the emergency brain surgery he was now undergoing. Just a few days before, we had been living the way we had spent years building up to – in the south west of France, our four young children and a veg patch my grandparents would have been proud of (well, pride may be stretching our accomplishments, but it grew vegetables of varying shapes and forms and we were happy!), we had finally managed to lay before and around us the life we had always dreamed of. And now it was over. Suddenly becoming a carer to my once invincible husband, and single mum to my four children, I had to make the heartbreaking decision to move us all back to England when my husband finally came out of a five-month coma. The prognosis was bleak: he was paralysed on his left side, severely brain damaged requiring 24/7 care, couldn’t speak, had to be fed through a tube and he was cortically blind – he would never ever see his children’s faces again.
What happens when life throws something at you when you least expect it? How do you cope? Although there is not a one-size-fits-all method, there are ways in which we can help ourselves. We have to build ourselves back up, from the bottom right the way through, bit by bit, piece by piece, to the top. It takes blood, sweat, grit, tears, coffee, laughter, finding joy in the simplest of things, giving up, getting back up, falling, dancing, shouting, quiet, sugar, gin, celery, kale and, eventually, acceptance – most likely in that order, too.
Coping with the events life throws at you is a very personal challenge – everyone will deal in their own unique way with their particular set of circumstances. However, having had to cope after my husband’s rugby accident and subsequent horrific, grief-stricken fallout of raising four kids on my own and caring for my now completely dependent husband (nine years on he still requires 24/7 care, is in a wheelchair, blind and remains severely brain damaged), I had to find ways to cope. I had no choice but to get through, and I knew that I didn’t want to buckle, end up rocking in a corner, drinking bottles of wine through a straw (although I have probably been found in this position on a few occasions!). I wanted to show our children that despite what had been handed to us, we could live still love, laugh and thrive. But learning to ‘manage’ a transformed way of life, to adapt, has been a huge challenge.
I have by no means nailed it, but I have gained a certain amount of wisdom over the last nine years of the strategies that work, and those which don’t (again, straw in wine bottle: good in the moment; AWFUL the next day!). Looking at yourself as comprising three components: body, mind and soul, is the key to uniting each part of you that requires nurture, healing and looking after, thus making you stronger and more able to cope.
It starts with the small things
To begin with, it is the little things that make all the difference. We sail through life not giving much thought to the fact that we have (for example) running water to make a coffee, clothes to choose from, a body that enables us to get around, and so on. Instead, we just spend our lives ‘doing’ with little conscious thought to the small things. If we become mindful of our every action, we develop a sense of gratitude and we see the abundance in our lives and feel less trapped.
The small actions of taking a shower, getting dressed, putting on an item of jewellery, applying mascara, brushing our teeth, may seem insignificant, but they are routines, and routines provide us with a certain level of control over our hectic lives – they ‘ground’ us.
We have to look out for ourselves
As we move through any adverse circumstance, we can eventually start to look at what interests us. This ‘finding’ of what interests us is imperative to surviving and thriving in any situation. What do we feel passionate about? What are our values? What do we want to do more of, or even begin? What are you interested in? Find your interest, what matters to you.
To me, becoming vegan was extremely important. It took me quite a while to take the plunge, but I was so grateful I did. It fed my sense of self-worth, it meant I was holding true to my values. It was something for me, just me, and I was looking after my needs in making this decision and demonstrating to myself that I was important. In a world where I suddenly had so many dependants, the chaos of looking after their needs meant I couldn’t hear my own. Buried under the debris of to-dos, must-dos and should-dos, how on earth could I reach the I-would-like-to's, I-want-to's? My interest, or a core value of mine, is the environment – I want to be able to turn around and say, ‘I did something’. Exploring ways in which I can reduce single-use plastic, for example, and putting these into action at home are extremely important to who I am and what I believe in. It is a hobby too: I research and implement environmentally friendly options, such as using soy wax wraps for food rather than cling film. For you, it may be baking the best brownie, running, cartwheeling, cleaning, writing, reading, walking, knitting, growing aubergines… Whatever it is, it’s yours.
It only takes five minutes
I discovered my values and interests by setting five minutes aside to write about them each day, then worked around this to find ways in which I could incorporate them into my life. I have reaped the benefits. I feel stronger, more whole, more ‘important’, as it were, and that makes me feel less resentful and more grounded.
Make yourself important
My interests, which have become hobbies, are acts of self-care. While acts such as a spa day (who has the time?!) or physical challenge can provide temporary relief from the pressures, exploring your values are key to longer-term, longer-lasting success in self-care. Embedding self-care into your life is integral to coping with a situation. You ARE important, you need to develop the confidence to decide to look after ‘you,’ too, and this is easier than you think.
By taking five minutes a day to write down what interests you, what doesn’t if you can’t think of anything that does(!), you can go from there. How can you begin to incorporate this into your daily living? If it’s knitting, get knitting needles and wool, find a pattern you like and aim to do a line a day; it doesn’t have to be a giant Christmas jumper in a day! If it’s taking on that 5k you’ve always fancied trying but have shied away from, start by walking and go from there.
Have patience with yourself as you weave your way through any resistance that may come up. If you have spent a long time seeing to others’ needs and not your own, it may feel strange and unfamiliar – guilt may even rise when you start to do things for yourself. But establishing your worth has a ratcheting effect upwards, it spills out into your whole being, nurturing your body, mind and soul. This impacts positively on your relationships as well as your ability to cope.
Find your thing. The thing that cocoons you and becomes a part of who you are as you nurture it. It is you telling yourself you are significant, that you are important, don’t forget about yourself: remember you have to hold yourself first before you can carry others.
If you would like to experiment with a bit of vegan cooking, my recipes are budget friendly, time friendly and as jam-packed with goodness and deliciousness as one dish can hold!
Here is a Saturday night go-to of mine. We love having a TV night with dinner on our laps on a Saturday (we are just SO rock and roll in our house!) and after I gave up drinking 7 months, 2 weeks, 3 days, 8 hours, 17 minutes and 12 seconds ago (despite my children begging me to begin again!), I need a night where I can snuggle with my babies (although they are teenagers who barely let me near them), watch a funny film and spill food down my top and not care.
RECIPE: Prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 30 minutes (depending on rice type), eating time – 17 seconds.
Thai-style refreshing, immune-boosting curry for all the family. Serves 6
1 large bunch parsley
1 large bunch coriander
1 small bunch mint
1 clove garlic
1 chilli – seeds removed
2 inches fresh ginger, skin removed
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp miso paste
Juice 1 lime
4 stalks fresh lemongrass
1 can coconut milk
2 peppers, sliced
1 pak choy, sliced
2 packs augar snap peas
2 cans chickpeas
1 courgette, ribboned for fanciness
1 carrot, ribboned
rice (as much as you’re likely to eat)
extra coriander for serving
Cook the rice according to instructions on packet.
Whilst it cooks - in a food processor, add the oil, chilli, lime juice, ginger, lemongrass, miso paste, ginger, garlic, coriander, parsley and mint.
In a saucepan, heat some oil (1 tbsp should be ok), add the sliced peppers, pak choy, sugar snap peas, courgette and carrot. Stir fry for 5 minutes and add a little water if it starts to catch. Toss frequently.
Add the sauce from the food processor, the coconut milk, the chickpeas and bring to simmer.
Simmer for 5 minutes and take off the heat. Add the soy sauce.
Serve with the rice and sprinkle with extra coriander – absolute yum!
Discover Tamsyn’s website, Feed Me Beautiful here.
Find Tamsyn on instagram here (@feedmebeautiful)