Meet Lisa Sutherland.
This is her story.
I believe that my story is very much a work in progress. I feel as though I have lived a few different lives already. My labels include daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend; but I’m so much more. I’m still trying to figure out who I want to be when I grow up. In brief I believe my story is… actually, I can’t even begin to explain the twists and turns briefly. I’m sure it will all come out over the next few paragraphs.
When I walk down the street, I believe that people see someone who is confident, organized, has her shit together, and that’s exactly what I want them to think. People don’t realise that I have the dirtiest, smuttiest, most immature sense of humour. If it’s politically incorrect and vulgar, I love it. I say that my sense of humour stopped developing at “15 year old boy”. They also wouldn’t realise that I cry at the drop of a hat; when I’m proud of my girls, get a card from my husband that he took the time to write, or watch one of those dog rescue videos on Facebook. I cry over sad animal movies, romance movies and even animated movies. Get me in the dark with some popcorn and all the emotions are flowing.
I try to always have a smile on my face, if not because I feel like smiling, because it may be the first, last or only smile someone else gets that day. I’ve been told that I can come across as a bit cold when people have first met me (obviously not smiling that day); that would be if I’m feeling a bit unsure of myself.
I am an Olympic level chatterbox, and I am conscious of not talking too much if I’m meeting someone for the first time. I like to ask lots of questions. Not because I’m being nosy, but because I’m genuinely interested in people and what they have to say. I love hearing people’s stories and I learn so much from talking to a multitude of different people. I have a background in hairdressing, so I’m really good at extracting lots of personal details in a short space of time.
After getting to know me, people often tell I’m much more relaxed, funny and kind than they first thought I would be. I’ve realised that I take a while to show the real me to people. This is both a self-protection mechanism and a learned behaviour from being a child that moved a lot. From the age of 5-12 I went to 5 different schools. I was always the new kid. I think this is where I learnt to not share too much too soon, because I wasn’t sure how long I would be there. I also have the ability to walk away and not look back. I’m not sure this is a great skill to have, but I find it takes me a while to emotionally connect to people or situations.
I believe that some of my biggest battles in life have led to some of my biggest achievements. One of my biggest battles was infertility.I was told at 19 that I had polycystic ovaries, endometriosis and my periods had stopped altogether. I was given hormone tablets to try and get my cycle back on track but it wasn’t working. A rather scary, old school doctor, told me that I had a 3 year window to conceive and after that it would be very difficult. My mum had gone through menopause at the age of 35 so they felt the odds weren’t great. Well, isn’t that a wonderful conversation to have with your boyfriend of 1 year as you start having all these tests done and becoming an emotional wreck from the hormones?! He was, and still is, an absolute trooper.
I decided that the doctor was just trying to scare me and there would be lots of advances made in medicine, so I would do nothing and just wait until I was ready. Long story short, things got worse. I was now engaged to my then boyfriend, and we saw another doctor who gave us the same outlook. He recommended going on a series of fertility tablets and it would probably take about 18 months to fall pregnant. I was 21. I was still unsure, but Scott was the voice of reason. He told me he wanted children, with me, and he would rather it be sooner than we had planned than not at all. I’ve got to tell you, he talks a good game. It was August 1994. We welcomed our gorgeous baby girl Morgan into the world on July 16 1995. Yep, that’s right, 11 months later. Oh, and we also found out we were pregnant about 5 weeks before our wedding in January. It was a busy year. Two years later, on the 2nd of September we welcomed our second beautiful daughter named Paige into our family. No fertility treatments required! Go figure. I was now 24 and the mother of a 2 year old and a new born. Parenting my strong, determined and hysterically funny girls has been a challenge at times and I have definitely fluked most of it. I feel that they parented me at certain stages, and I have learnt so much from them.
My wins are definitely linked to raising a family at a young age with very little planning, financial resources, and no idea of what I was doing. All I knew was that I loved them, I loved their Dad and the rest would sort itself out. We were lucky enough to have an amazing support network of family and friends. My girls are now 21 and 19. To say I’m proud of them is the most massive understatement. I’m proud to say they are my kids, but I’m prouder still to say that I would like them as humans even if they weren’t.
My biggest personal achievements have come through pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I have completed 2 half marathons, walked the Oxfam 100km challenge 4 times and joined a hiking group to experience snow camping, cross country skiing and hiking through challenging terrain. I’m so proud that I pushed myself and I had the experiences as a reward. I also love seeing my daughters’ faces as I crossed the finish line; to let them know that no matter how old you are, or what fitness level you are starting from, you can always get a PB.
These experiences also coincided with me making my first real “adult” friends. The friends that haven’t known you since childhood (too much moving = no long term friends) and aren’t family friends who had to play with you whether they wanted to or not. These were the women I connected with because we either had things in common or we just clicked. Two are girls I’ve known since high school but we’ve connected much more on an adult level, bonded by history, being pregnant together and knowing so much about the other person it’s dangerous. Women who are strong, vulnerable, loyal, generous and encouraging, have transformed my life. They know my secrets, they know what to tell my kids about me if something were to happen to me (and what not to tell them), they know which photo to release to the press if I go missing and they have my back. They are some of the true loves of my life and my life would be so much less without them in it. It was through connecting with these women that I felt brave enough to try things I never thought I would or could. We have run, hiked and cycled together. We have attended meditation retreats, shows and weekends away. They encouraged me when I just didn’t think I could do whatever it was we decided to attempt. They made me realise that I was a much better mother when I was doing things that fulfilled me. This helped me so much as the “mother guilt” kicked in.
I once read a quote and it became my mantra, as I doubted my need for time away from the family. “An empty jug can’t fill the glasses”. This really resonated with me and I knew I needed to be fulfilled to allow me to be the kind of wife and mother I wanted to be.
I wouldn’t say that any dreams have really passed me by. I mean, I know I won’t be doing things that I probably would’ve done in my 20’s like excessive partying or back packing around Europe, but I also think it shows growth and evolution that I’m more than ok with it. I still want to work and live overseas, learn to ballroom dance, hike on every continent and be able to sing one song really well. In a perfect world it would be something by Whitney Houston, but I’m open to suggestions.
When I think about my ten year old self I think about a very open, friendly positive little girl. She was shy to begin with and had been raised to believe she could give anything a go. At 10, I wanted to own a cafe with a book shop attached to it. Then I expanded it to also have a hairdressing salon. I loved the idea of being able to go to work with all my favourite things there. Books, custard tarts and doing hair.
I had convinced my sister that I was going to be a hairdresser and she let me cut her hair. So I did, with pinking sheers (big zig zag scissors). Back story, my sister has the most amazing thick hair and at the time it was cut into the perfect long bob. I may as well have let the dog chew her hair, it looked so bad. Apart from the bad hair, I also nearly cut the top of her ear off. She still has the scar. Even once I was a qualified hairdresser it took a while for her not to flinch when I was near her ears.
My fears in life have not ever really been of things (although I wouldn’t like be buried alive with snakes); my fears have been of what I wouldn’t get to do or experience. When my children were little, my fear was of something bad happening to me, and my children never really knowing me. I worried that if they were little that they would never have known my personality, how unconditionally I loved them, their Dad’s and my love story (I made it into a book, yep, think The Notebook!). I no longer fear this. My girls know so much (too much according to them) about me, and they know I’ve got their back matter what. My fear now as an adult slowly approaching 50, is that fear itself will stop me from doing and experiencing all I want my life to be. I read the book “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway”. And I promised myself I would.
I started a blog (The Genuine Article) which is something I’d always wanted to do but I was worried about what people would think. What if they don’t like what I write? Well, who cares? I don’t. One of my biggest accomplishments is letting go of the fear of what others might think. I now write my stories, because I enjoy doing it, not because someone else might decide they like it. I like the thought of doing something each day that scares you and putting yourself out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. I did a year of Improvisation training in 2015. I had been at a conference, seen them perform and they were having more fun than anyone else in the room, I wanted a piece of that. So I joined up. How terrifying is it as an adult to walk into a room where you don’t know anyone and have to make friends? Bloody terrifying! But, awesome. Over time, you are in a new situation you get to choose how much of yourself you expose to others, or which you, you want them to see. Empowering!
I am a positive person a majority of the time, we all have our days, but I am very protective of my down time. I know I need it and I know I need to disconnect to re-charge. I suffered from post-natal depression after my second pregnancy. I worked hard in therapy and made life changes to try to ensure that this was something that would not define my experience of motherhood or me as a woman going forward.
I saw this therapist on and off for over 10 years. Not just about the post-natal depression but about life. Being a young mother who’s 20’s had been spent raising children, I suddenly had to re-establish my own identity. I had no idea who or what I was. I was contacted about 2 years ago to let me know that she had passed away. I hadn’t seen her for 5 years. I was saddened by the news on a much deeper level than I expected to be. She was a lovely lady and I was sad for her family and their loss. As I thought about it on a deeper level, I was sad that a person who knew more about me than anyone else was now no longer on this earth. She had seen and monitored my transition from a scared and confused young mother in her 20’s, to a less scared but even more confused women in her 30’s. She saw me out the other side. She was slightly unconventional and I will always remember her telling me you have to walk through the shit to come out clean at the other side. I always wondered if she forgot to tell me about the clean water that would wash the shit off; it always confused me, but I like the sentiment. This relationship taught me how important it is to have someone you can talk to who is neutral and can never throw your own words back at you over breakfast. I found therapy empowering and I urge anyone who needs to talk to someone to do it. It takes strength to admit you need help and to seek it out.
Meditation was a transition for me from therapy. It actually felt like a really naturally next step. I found it was a great way to relax, clear my mind and re-focus my thoughts. I believe our thoughts have energy and what we put out is what we attract back. I try to focus on the positive in situations and am always looking for the silver lining. I am not a religious person but I would say that I am spiritual. I believe that there are things that happen that we can’t explain and I believe that the spirits of our loved ones stay with us if we remember them and honour their memory.
If I am feeling frustrated or unable to make a decision I can often be heard “throwing it out into the universe,” and letting it fall the way it’s meant to. My gut is a big decision maker for me. Not to be confused with any sign of a muffin top, I’m talking about the gut feeling you get when you just know something is, or isn’t right. I have turned down jobs, bought houses and made parenting decisions based on the flow of the situation. If there are too many road blocks or the situation doesn’t flow then I don’t keep pushing. On the flip side, if it feels right, if I’ve been looking for it or there is a flow to the situation then I will go for it.
I am the person I am today because of the influence of my parents when I was growing up. My mum and dad were ahead of their time when it came to the way they parented; roles and jobs were shared, and we were told we could do anything we set our minds to. Dad’s mantra is “the only place reward comes before work is in the dictionary”, and that’s what we were taught. Work hard, enjoy life and be happy with who you are. You are no better and certainly no worse than anyone else. Mum was the disciplinarian; she would yell first and ask questions later. Dad was the talker, the problem solver; he also did all the ironing.
When I was 11, we were living in Tasmania, and my dad had moved back to Melbourne ahead of us to take a job and set up the house. He would write to me every week. He told me he missed our talks and the way I would sit next to him on the couch every night. I cried every time I got a letter, because it meant he was still away, but I would read it daily until the next one came. He set the bar so high for how women should be treated, and how to raise girls.
When I had my girls, my husband travelled a lot for work. If not for the unconditional love and support of my parents, I would not have coped as well as I did; my mum was the one who arrived at my house one day and told me I needed some help. She had been watching and knew I had signs of post-natal. Dad would sit for hours and just talk, or have a cuppa; they nurtured me and my girls when we needed it the most. Of course there are things that your parents do that annoy you, and you swear you will never be like them, but they are the ones I modelled myself on as a parent and they have been the most amazing grandparents. I know how lucky I’ve been and I am so glad they were chosen to be my parents.
When I’m old and grey (greyer and not colouring it) I want to look back on my life and have a fabulous movie playing through my mind. I want it to be filled with laughter, my loved ones and experiences I had. I don’t want regrets, and I want to know that if I do wish I hadn’t said or done something, that I can at least know that I did it with passion.