Hi LTC #quirkylikelani fam!
I hope you are all having a great week!
I am just at the back of almost a week of interstate travel where all three of my kids competed in dance comps across three days back to back. Dance motherhood is by no means for the faint hearted haha! Especially since all our flights were substantially late (resulting in ridiculously late nights), I had technical difficulties online, I am fine tuning my summer range and preparing to shoot it and really, pretending to look like I actually know what I am doing 🤣 I guess this is just normal adulting right?
The funny thing is, that none of this was planned. Like literally none. Aside from the fact that my husband (bless him) was egging me on, Lani the Carni wouldn’t exist without complete ADHD impulsivity and hyperfocus – And I am having a great time! Never in a gazillion years would I have imagined sitting at my study desk and exerting my passion and voice for the world to hear but I feel so incredibly privileged to be able to do so and share with you all how, just over a year ago this was only a passing thought about how annoying it was to not be able to source a cute looking unitard, to having a full blown fashion brand explode from my brain into a physical reality in just a few months.
I wrote the following on a long haul flight in April this year. I was overwhelmed with the changes that had rapidly occurred and the adjustments in my self perception that had been made over recent months. Occasionally when I am overwhelmed with stuff, I word vomit in writing as a way to process it all. It was never my intention to share this (I never share my word vomit with anyone ever) but my gut feeling says that this is important….
One year ago I would never have imagined that I would be globe trotting on the basis of a self inflicted adventure. To the day, one year before I boarded the flight to China with my family, our house finally sold after months of pressure and stress that made me physically ill and a nervous wreck. It was literally April 7. I even took the girls to see the nutcracker that night – I remember the date and the relief so clearly. At the time I was facilitating the therapy of two kids with adhd and autism and embarking on the path of diagnosis for a third while taking on a part time teaching job and trying to sell our house.
On top of this, I had a series of health issues which resulted in me needing to have iron infusions, minor investigative procedures and eventually a major surgery. I had no help, my job was taking up several hours of my personal time and I needed to navigate NDIS for Lani (don’t even get me started on that 🤣) and catch up on the general things that just need to be done.
My doctor became increasingly worried about my anxiety levels and suggested anti anxiety medication for me, where I revealed that I actually thought I have ADHD. Querying me why I thought this, I explained that when Lani was diagnosed, the inattentive profile more than resonated with me.
Externally, throughout my life people have outwardly and unashamedly labeled me as either completely incompetent and/or lazy. I have either been perceived as weird or a nobody. I never had a skill that aided me in social success, and I never ever was capable of division, fractions or multiplication let alone anything more complex. Some people attributed my oddness to the fact that I am damaged goods – parents divorced as a kid, absent father and a mother who died young.
Internally, my perception of myself was what I had been continuously told my whole life – incompetent, dumb, lazy. On top of that I believed I was uncoordinated and tone deaf and therefore never had so much as the baseline confidence to give anything a go so my l interest in music got so suppressed that I almost forgot it was there at all.
Deep down though, I knew I wasn’t any of those things. I knew that I thought differently and had different ideas and saw things differently to other people. I just never had the balls to say so, or the attention span to even remember what those deep, philosophical thoughts in the shower were or what my perspective on world issues were because honestly, I would forget them. So in a conversation where these ideas could and would have been relevant, I just stood there blankly with absolutely nothing intelligent to contribute. Or the words were there in my brain, I just couldn’t articulate them in a way that sounded intelligible.
My ability to articulate on the spot was compromised. When faced with conflict I was completely passive and submissive, unless I was able to write a response. This allowed me processing time and to draw on my stronger written literacy abilities.
It wasn’t that I didn’t actually know what I liked, but I certainly never attached strengths or potential to any of my interests and interpreted that as having absolutely no idea what I liked and enjoyed. My interests have consistently been around travel, photography and fashion but they never extended in brain beyond what I choose to wear everyday, what holiday to book next and posting on my personal instagram page. I always did really love clothes and spent a lot of time seeking out styles that looked nice and were also super duper comfy (hello sensory processing difficulties – as an adult I still can’t wear denim or anything with buttons). And when I could get my hands on a camera, I liked to take photos but never thought of it in any artistic manner and my attention span would never have allowed me to invest time to learn a non-vital skill. Even if I had tried to pursue photography, it would have collided with one of adhd’s biggest roadblocks- Impatience!
I never meant to out myself to my doctor that day. Seeking a diagnosis for the adhd I knew I had from the day I read about it for Lani was not a priority because I was taking care of my kids. What mother, let alone a special needs mother can ever get to themselves? I saw how wonderfully life changing medication was for Lani and I knew there was help available but like most people who discover things about themselves as grown “functional” adults, I thought that because I was married with kids, have a degree, friends and a job I surely had gotten by fine.
My doctor didn’t think I was fine. I was stressed as hell and having persistent night sweats and insomnia. So she sent me off to see a psychiatrist who did a profile on me and on the spot told me that I am a classic undiagnosed woman with adhd. He wrote me a script for Ritalin then and there.
Walking out of the doctors office I was almost laughing in disbelief – it was that simple! My life in a nutshell profiled and now everything officially making just so much sense. Maybe I can finally get my shit together! Maybe that is why I have all these strategies for not being “lazy” or “messy”. Maybe that is why I dedicate hours of my life to eliminating or preventing chaos?!!!
Honestly, I was terrified of taking my first Ritalin even though I was initially on a lower dose that my daughter. But once I did it, nothing could have prepared me for the revelations of my life-long impairments and dysfunctions. I knew they were there, but I had no idea the severity.
It was a Saturday morning and I took my littlest to ballet. We walked there. When I picked her up, her ballet teacher told me she had been upset and told me what exactly had taken place. For the first time in my life, I heard the entire dialogue. Every single word. And I walked away completely in shock that I wasn’t continuing for the next 10 minutes to try and remember what she had said. The conversation happened and I was able to proceed with the next sequence of events. I did not know how, when the ballet teacher had suggested that maybe Seychelle had been hungry, how I then didn’t drift off thinking about all the groceries I need to buy at the supermarket and miss everything she had said.
This was a pivotal realisation that “normal people must hear whole conversations” and that must be why I have always been slow to grasp concepts and constantly make careless mistakes (hello to that incompetent label)
One day I had this crazy idea when I visited my physio – I, who despises any form of physical activity due to my pathetic athletic abilities (and of course laziness) suggested that instead of me just coming in for adjustments when my joints get angry, I should probably take a more preventive approach and do clinical Pilates to strengthen my muscles and joints. I was actually voluntarily suggesting exercise! I did so with a warning to my physio about how much I suck and that I would likely embarrass myself greatly. And bless my physio, in the evening pilates classes when the Ritalin has worn off she uses visuals for instructions, avoids multi steps and finds it hilarious when I cannot follow a task 🤣
To my surprise, aside from my stubborn hip joints not liking to move sideways (thanks physio for making me nearly kill myself doing “scooter”), I actually found that I was more capable that I had expected (scooter aside 🤣). Sure I wasn’t about to join any Olympic ice skating teams or take up artistic gymnastics but I found I was more balanced and controlled than I expected, especially because of my compromised ability to tell my left from right
One day, just for fun I pulled out my old SLR camera that Rob bought when the kids were born. I took the kids to a nearby urban space and started taking dance photos. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone but I had spent an agonising amount of time over my adult life scanning scenes and painting photographs in my brain. I never had a fusion of an attention span and a good camera so I could never make it happen. People told me my photos on my iPhone that I posted on instagram were good, and I had people tell me I had a good eye but to me I was snapping on my phone and my ideas for artistic photos fizzled away quicker than I could ever file them and turn into a reality unless it was on the spot. I also didn’t know it wasn’t normal to see pictures like that in your brain – but maybe because the ideas disappeared just as quick as they came and they never converted to anything physical.
The day I decided to pull out my SLR was based on a stupid idea I had that I was totally never going to do (but the husband was encouraging me) Apparently I was was about to start a tween clothing range because I spent copious amounts of time hyperfocusing on buying Lani a nice unitard for aerial and the kids needed new shrugs and I couldn’t find any. Knowing If I was to ever actually pursue this, I needed to generate my own content for social media so I better learn to take photos.
So I dressed the kids up in some dance clothing and took my camera down to the railway station. What happened that day changed my entire perception of myself. I became completely conscious and aware of what I was visualising and knew exactly how to execute it.
I would walk or drive past scenery and be compelled to shoot there. I would imagine the types and colours of the clothing – I would imagine an overcast day at the beach in a moody black and white dance dress blowing in the wind. The day I made it happen was a sense of achievement I have never in my life felt. When I completed my uni degree, I didn’t feel much. I had chosen to study something that made sense. But to take these shots gave me the satisfaction I was expecting to feel when I submitted my final assignment for Uni. This was something I had never experienced – motivation based on passion, not expectations or deadlines. And finishing wasn’t a relief, it was exciting.
Meanwhile, between my photography obsession I developed a concept for my “ridiculous” kids clothing range idea. (I was constantly saying this whole idea is ridiculous and my husband kept on gently pushing). I decided it needed to be called Lani the Carni and that it was going to be quirky circus/dance themed, soft comfortable clothing that is suitable for street and activewear. This authentically represents myself, my kids and our lives and tells a story of who we are and our journey. I also decided that the brand need be representative of as many kinds of people as possible – race, ethnicity, neurology, abilities and to encourage authenticity and embrace anything that sets you apart as an individual. I always tell my daughters that without people in the world that think differently, we cannot progress as a human race. Lani is a gifted artist, and she’s a good little ballet dancer and aerialist (and we had no idea until she began taking her adhd medication), Malia too is a gifted artist and has constant choreography circulating in her brain from the second she was born. Miss Squishy while she is still very young seems to be much like her big sisters.
In our house we do our best to emphasise our strengths, find humour in our quirks (my favourite is when they are literal) and their challenges are seen as nothing more than that – challenges. We don’t define ourselves by our limitations, they just are a part of what makes us unique. What makes us extraordinary is what we are able to overcome to reach our potential. Without accepting our limitations, this is completely impossible.
I began drawing up my concepts and with help from my immensely talented father in law, he digitised them for me and they are the prints on the first quirky circus range. My equally talented brother in law (who funnily enough is a fashion photographer) showed me some basic functions on illustrator and now I am fully drawing the images myself and designing my prints and fabrics. I never thought I could ever teach myself how to use crazily complex software or knew that I had ideas spilling out of my head that I can turn into a real physical drawing or item of clothing.
Meanwhile, I have spent lots of time experimenting with photography and graphic imaging and am keen to learn more but I legitimately have no time as my business ventures are consuming more hours in the day than what exists. One day hopefully soon I can take it up to study.
I have also gained the ability to articulate verbally clearly on the spot. This has been a gift that I never in my wildest dreams would have ever imagined I would ever have the ability to do. I have successfully challenged seemingly untouchable people who needed to be challenged without so much as stumbling. I never knew I was a firecracker.
I have gained the confidence to take risks and as I write this, I am in the air crossing the Pacific Ocean – all in a mission that came from a vision of shooting my clothing range in the Canadian wilderness and now jetting over to Shanghai with my husband and three girls to overlook production of my clothing range – with a concept I developed on my own. Combining travel with my work was a subconscious dream I didn’t dare bring to the forefront.
One of the only books I had the attention span to read as a child was called “Just as Long as We’re Together” by Judy Blume. I think I liked it because it explained complexities of friendships (which as a child wasn’t my forte but I did get better at it as over time I learned the art of social masking – maybe with the help of books such as this and perhaps sweet valley high 😆). The other reason I believe I liked it, was that the main character, Stephanie Hirsch was described as an “eternal optimist” and for the most part always was able to see the silver lining until it all got too much. This is me completely.
I have had a lot of challenges to overcome and very little guidance in life and I have always been able to just keep swimming, even if I am just afloat. But I am always at least ok. The only time I think I drowned a little was as a 19 year old when my mother, grandfather and grandmother all died within a 3-4 month period. I am not a victim and have always refused to be one. I didn’t grieve when my children got diagnosed with autism. I only saw hope and answers. I didn’t regret my life or get angry about nobody diagnosing me with adhd as a child – I just was grateful that I am not dumb and lazy. I got a little sad that my perception of myself was false but that is all. But one thing that did make me briefly very sad was that my sister in law, after viewing my Instagram page recently called me up to say “You are really good at this”.
The disbelief in hearing those words was super confronting as I realised that nobody has ever said this to me, and if they have it has definitely not been in a context that matters to me so much – that compliment my vision, ideas and passion. Therefore If I could help every single child realise they are good at something they love, I would feel complete. As a child nobody ever told me that I was capable, that I was doing well, that I had good ideas, that I was creative. Not even my mother – (god rest her soul I am certain by her space invaders and Tetris addiction that she had adhd herself) ever saw potential in me. But how could she? She herself was probably clouded by an adhd brain – between her and I that is very thick fog to see through without any self awareness.
Since the day I was diagnosed, I have consistently been met with people encouraging, supporting me, cheering me on, offering legitimate help, advice and guidance and I couldn’t be more grateful. I had some very unexpected (and beautiful people) offer generously their time, their guidance and wealth of knowledge. I am so incredibly grateful and I am just thrilled that I have a voice and a vision and didn’t continue to just exist as I thought I was expected to.
The moral of my story is that I encourage anyone who lives with a challenge or point of difference to wholeheartedly embrace it, quirks, challenges and all. Stigma surrounded by labels are created by societies false perceptions. And the less we care, the happier we will be. Your race, your level of ability, your sexuality, your gender, your neurology, your likes/dislikes, your physical appearance, your interests, your income, your past, your upbringing, your education – they are all just factors – just penlines within a bigger picture that draws up who you are. Some of those lines may be thicker, there may be rougher lines or curlier lines that are more complex. Most other people may have consistency in their lines and they may be smoother and easier to understand. These lines are a specific formula created by your own unique DNA that ideally will one day make a whole lot of sense. It explains you. The difficulties are arrows to your strengths. Life was meant to be a challenge, and we learn as we take time to overcome them and at the very least understand them.
Quirks in anyone to me are endearing and different is interesting – unashamedly tell your story, speak your truth and tell the world why you are #quirkylikelani