Category: Thoughts

Why I’ve been gone

Why I’ve been gone

It’s been quite a long time since I wrote my last post, and I wanted to make a quick update today to explain!

Back in May last year, my house got flooded during an unusual storm event. We’ve had water flood into the lower part of the house before, and have been working on lots of different methods to solve our drainage issues. We thought we had it pretty much covered.

But nature is a powerful entity and water is particularly insidious and tends to find its way in, no matter how many drains, pits, pumps and overflows you put in its way.

So not only were we bailing and pushing water out of our under-house and garage for hours, we discovered water had gotten into our laundry and rumpus room at the back of the house. This was an area we’d never had water in before, and it was what really caused the most disruption and damage.

We still aren’t sure how it happened, as there is a roof over our back deck, but somehow the water came down through/over the guttering, between where the two roofs join, and made its way through the sliding glass door into the house. I suspect it was due to a combination of poorly sealed roofing and glass door, capillary action from roofing iron not being angled correctly, and extremely strong gale force winds from a direction we don’t normally experience.

There were several thunderstorms and a huge amount of rain that night, so we were actually quite lucky it didn’t end up worse. Many people had far more negative impacts than we did, so we count ourselves fortunate in that regard.

So flash forward some six months to early November. We are still living with mildewed carpet, the threat of mould, partially demolished walls, and our entire video game collection stacked on every available surface across the rest of the house. I had also started a new job that year, and it wasn’t working out how I had hoped.

Then I found a lump on my cat’s chin and there came a very real fear of her having cancer (she’d had a couple of lumps removed in the past two years). All this was happening about two weeks before we a planned holiday, and we were very worried the house would not be repaired in time for our trip, leaving our housesitter needing to live in a tip for a month.

Thankfully the repairs got done, and the new carpets/tiling laid just in time (but not without some hiccups, of course!) We had barely a few days to get the place in order, before we were abandoning our cats to a stranger and jetting off to a foreign country (which comes with its own stresses, especially with anxious travellers and special dietary needs).

And just to add a little more stress in the mix, I was handling a heap of intense stuff at work for an international meeting of nearly 300 delegates, interviewing for a new job (while keeping that on the down-low!) and negotiating a start date for said new job. Oh, and the day we arrived overseas for our trip, we saw the forecast for back home – several days of heavy rain expected and a potential for similar conditions to the May flood.

The first few days of the holiday were not a lot of fun as we worried about what would happen back home. Thankfully – as people do in a crisis (or potential one) – our friends offered to help if needed, and our housesitter kept watch. The forecast changed, the rain came but didn’t turn into anything much, and we could get on with enjoying our trip.

The second last day before we were due to come home, I fell ill and I am only just recovering. We also got to experience our first Japanese earthquake, something I’m keen to not do again.

We got back home, and in the throes of my chest infection, two days later, our foyer flooded again, even with the new overflow pipe we’d had installed. At this point I started to research “water curses on houses” and wonder if I needed to do some kind of emotional cleansing. Water is meant to signify emotion, so perhaps there was some bad energy in the house!

The next day, I was due to start my new job but I was so sick I could barely function. I ended up dragging myself to the doctor, who said I had a fever, laryngitis and a serious chest infection. Suffice to say, I didn’t start my new job that week, and the next was Xmas break.

So here we are in the new year, and I’ve finally started my new job, albeit whilst still sick, meaning I only managed a half day on the first day. Nevertheless, things are looking up, maybe?

The point of this long description of my shitty 2018 is to say that it took it out of me. Living in my house in that state didn’t feel like home. Every time I looked around, and saw the stuff piled up where it shouldn’t be, just reinforced how I was no longer in my sanctuary. I felt sad and stressed much of the time, and, on reflection, it really chipped away at my mental health.

The house is back to normal now (except for a bit of carpet downstairs needing to be cleaned from the minor flood before Xmas), and I’m starting to feel normal again too.

Sometimes you just need to let yourself lean into these stressful events and just let them happen. Time tempers the stress and reminds you that all things end, both good and bad, so weather the storm (no pun intended) and enjoy the rainbow.

Here’s to what I hope will be an amazing 2019.

Novelty equals longevity (or, try new things)

Novelty equals longevity (or, try new things)

About a year back, I had an interesting conversation with a friend who told me about this idea of how if you fill your life with new experiences (novelty) – things you’ve never done before, places you’ve never been – time will seem to go more slowly (longevity). It’s something to do with how the brain processes new information, and it’s why our childhood feels so full at the time, and why adulthood seems to rush by in a routine of sameness.

This concept really inspired me, as I’ve been facing the odd existential crisis now and then, since turning 40. Can we really make our lives feel longer by experiencing new things? Does novelty equal longevity? I think it does, and I want to give you an example from my own life.

Some background: up until this revelation, I’d seen the years zip by, and I’d listened to my parents bemoan how fast the time goes as you get older. I’d felt like there was no time in the day and that life was already spinning towards its inevitable end. But, after having this conversation with my friend, I set out to see if I could change that.

Last year, with the idea of novelty equalling longevity forefront in my mind, I did a LOT. I saw concerts and shows, went aurora chasing, learned some new languages (well enough to get by anyway), went on an action-packed holiday in Croatia and Greece, started this blog, caught up with old friends and made new ones, went ice skating, started point hacking, did a couple of timed book editing challenges, made lots of sauces and preserves, dyed my hair crazy colours a bunch of times, played D&D and board games, saw a heap of movies at the cinema (including rescreenings of old ones), danced in a flash mob, gave blood for the first time, turned 40 and had a unicorn party, undertook my annual PAX sojourn, and embarked on a program to reduce my plastic usage. And then there were all the games I played and TV shows I watched, and just general having a good time with friends and family. I really tried to pursue adventures even if I couldn’t be bothered, or was a bit tired, or it was a work night. I stuffed a lot in to the year, and what a great year it was!

Guess what happened. For once, I found myself looking back and NOT thinking “where did all that time go” because I can absolutely see where it went – in adventures and activities and living life. All those new experiences really did make the year seem longer and more full!

My 2018 is looking good for new experiences too. So far, I’ve met my new niece, started a new job, went up the coast with friends I’d never travelled with before, ticked off a bucket list bushwalk, started an Instagram for my cats (don’t judge me haha), donated blood again, went on a lunar eclipse photo expedition, visited my Dad’s property, got a new camera lens to try out, and experienced the Qantas lounge for the first time. I also have lots of adventures still on the horizon to look forward to: a trip to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island (never been before), Celine Dion in concert, another book editing challenge (or two), PAX (now combined with EB Expo!), and a fancy business class trip to Japan to see some regions I’ve not seen (courtesy of last year’s point hacking efforts). There will be plenty of other activities to slot in on weekends too as I want to get back into bushwalking and photographing waterfalls. Some of these are things I have experienced before but they are not my usual day-to-day activities, so I can consider them novel.

And so, if you feel life rushing by and you don’t want that to keep happening, I put this challenge to you: fill your days with new and novel things and see how that makes you feel. Try something you’ve not done before – even something small, like a new craft project, or making bread for the first time, or learning a swear word in another language. Now, go somewhere new – a new walk in the wilderness, a shop you haven’t visited, a holiday to a different state or country. Make plans for new things and enjoy the feeling of a full and long year. I’ll be sure to check back in with you come January.

Perpetually tired? It’s okay to take a break

Perpetually tired? It’s okay to take a break

You may have noticed it’s been about three months since my last blog post. This is, in fact, my first for the year. What happened to my amazing scheduling, ideas on the perspective of time,  enthusiastic life administration, and all that jazz?! Well, I’ve been tired. I don’t know if this is just a perpetual state of affairs post-40, or if I need to get more sleep or vitamins or whatever, but the truth of the matter is my energy has been low, and I’ve not had the motivation to do much of anything. No book editing, no gardening, no blog posts, nothing much at all except house work and playing video games.

Coming off the Christmas/New Year period, I gave myself leave to slow down a bit and just chill out (which is an important thing to do), but then I started a new job soon after. The job is full-time – which I’ve not done for over a year – and it’s super busy, with lots of new information to take in, and people/personalities to deal with. I expected there to be an adjustment period, but right now I’m emotionally a bit exhausted and this feeling of being perpetually tired sucks. Can you relate?

Today I’ve been pondering this sorry state of affairs, and despite my guilty creativity conscience, have come to the conclusion that it’s actually okay. We do so much. All the time! Work, study, family, friends, hobbies, housework, gardening, hobbies – that’s a huge investment. Whilst I believe you can make more time, in truth it does take effort and planning, and maybe right now, your energy levels are low enough that you really can’t face sitting down and organising your life.

I wanted to write this post tonight* and just take a moment to say this to you (and myself!): if you are struggling with being productive, with doing all the things, with getting even the basics done – it’s okay. You don’t have to be on all the time. Have a rest. Take a break. That break could last a week, a month, or even a year. Take the time you need. Don’t feel bad for taking care of yourself.

When you are ready to come out of it, you’ll know. There will be a moment where you feel like you are getting a handle on things again, and then off you go. Tell me about it when you do. I’m here to encourage you, and I hope you can encourage me too. We’ve got this!


*This blog post took me an hour to write because I’m so tired, I struggled to put words together. How’s that for irony!

Don’t feel guilty for doing nothing

Don’t feel guilty for doing nothing

In this fast-paced, ‘must be productive’ world,  we are assailed with suggestions that we are lazy or not as good, because we aren’t constantly doing: cooking, traveling, crafting, writing, making… It’s easy to forget that down-time is an important activity to reboot and reset. You can’t be on the go all the time – if you did, you’ll burn out in no time, and that’s never good. Take time to experience the pleasure of “doing nothing”.

Don’t feel guilty if you take time to just chill. Watch some TV on the couch. Play a video game. Listen to music. Read a book or browse the internet. Sit in the garden and stare at the sky. These are all activities that are ascribed by armchair critics as “doing nothing”. But you aren’t doing nothing, are you? You are being entertained, you are recharging, you are consuming media, you are learning.

And, if you are a creative person, it’s incredibly important for your own work to consume the work of others. If you are a writer, read. If you want to write a screenplay, watch movies. If you are a musician, listen to a wide variety of music. How better to learn the skills and techniques to hone your craft, than to watch and learn from the best (or worst) in your chosen field? You will find out what you like and admire, what works and what doesn’t, and you will develop your own style – all from “doing nothing”.

And if you aren’t a creative, but just enjoy those things, equally good. You enrich your life, expand your world view and gain topics for conversation. You learn about new trends and things happening in the world. You find escape from a bad day. You get lost in a good story. These are all great experiences and will do wonders to recharge you from the heaviness of the daily grind.

So don’t feel guilty about “doing nothing”. La dolce far niente.

Reboot your social media envy

Reboot your social media envy

Last week a friend asked me how she could reboot her feelings of envy of other people’s lives, and importantly, how to escape the trap of comparing her life to theirs as a measure of happiness. I had some advice for her about social media which I’d like to share and expand on with you.

The main thing to try to remember is that your life is not in any way the same as someone else’s. Your life is how it is due to a distinct set of circumstances that not one other person on this planet has exactly experienced. Your life has been shaped by the many highs and lows, skills, situations, loves, hobbies, and feelings you have lived through. You and your life are absolutely unique. If you look at your life and compare it to someone else’s and somehow feel yourself lacking, remember you are trying to compare the proverbial apples and oranges. They are not the same thing!

My friend suggested spending less time on social media as a way of rebooting how she was feeling. She was jealous of her friends with their wonderful gardens, delicious meals, happy families, and amazing trips. I often see that as suggestion on web articles, saying you should unplug or go offline, but I don’t think she (or you or I) necessarily needs to spend less time on social media. It’s a great way to stay connected, but it’s necessary to view it in the right light.

Social media life

This leads to a vital point: we need to acknowledge that almost everyone’s life on social media is cultivated. It is a “best life” situation.

Think about what you post on social media yourself. With the exception of some, most people probably post exciting photos of holidays or events, lovely family situations, perfectly created meals or crafts, and fantastic selfies… all carefully checked and filtered to show the best of the best. If you don’t like how it looks (or how you think it would look to someone else!), you probably retake the photo, adjust the lighting, apply a nice filter… I know I certainly do!

And you know what? This is absolutely fine! It’s fun to play with photographs and post things you are proud or happy about. But it’s crucial to remember that most everyone else is doing the same. They are proof reading and editing their social media lives to craft you the best of the best, the things they want people to see. This is personal branding, and completely okay! Social media (like all media) is there to enjoy and consume rather than be a template for life.

Reboot your FOMO*

So bearing all this in mind, what you can do about those envious feelings?

I suggest really thinking about what you feel beneath that jealousy. Does it stem from regret, sadness, guilt? Is it because of something from your past, present or a yearning for the future?

Once you can identify the root causes of your envy, pick one thing and make a commitment to trying it yourself. For example, maybe you see photos of people’s gardens and wish you could have that but you’ve never had a green thumb, and don’t have time to make a garden anyway, plus it costs money to set up, and then you have to maintain it, and, and, and… Write down what you want. Now write down some steps to get there. Now identify who can help you – friends who might like to help you dig up your existing backyard, workmates who can share seeds and cuttings with you, forum members who can offer free advice. Then project manage that task!

As much as you might want to be amazing at everything all at once, just pick one thing at a time. We can get to multi-tasking later! I’d also like you to go back to your life accomplishments list and remember your awesomeness and how if you had that all documented on social media right now, other people would be super envious!

Defrag your life

My friend said “I think my life might need a reformat rather than just a 5 minute reboot”. If you’ll allow me to continue the computing analogy, I think a defrag is all she needs. When your computer slows down and doesn’t respond like it used to, you can run a tool to clean it up. It finds old fragmented gaps in the hard drive and pushes all the newer data up the line to make a nice tidy series of blocks. You end up with better performance because the computer isn’t trying to read those old blank spots any more.

Apply that concept to your life. Change how you look at things. Instead of focusing on those old, useless gaps in the hard drive of your life, do some maintenance and get life back to the way you want it. Now, reboot!

* “Fear of missing out”

Dealing with setbacks: positive opposites

Dealing with setbacks: positive opposites

The heavy stuff

I’ve had plenty of setbacks in my life, as I’m sure you have too. Generally speaking, I’m a pretty positive person, and I like to see the good in any situation, but there have been times where it’s been really difficult to maintain that optimistic outlook. I lost my brother when I was in my early 20s at a time where I was only just learning who I was as an adult. Losing a close friend or family member is nothing you can really understand unless you’ve experienced it. My mother referred to it today as an almost literal tearing of the heart. That grief is so powerful it really does feel like your heart will pull itself apart; it is a thick and heavy weight like someone is pushing your chest in, and your breath just won’t come. Even though it’s been nearly 18 years, it still feels that way if I let my guard down. The grief remains ever-present, threatening to well over at any moment, but I’ve learned to keep it at bay (most of the time). Since that day, I’ve experienced other losses but that is the one that really that defined my attitude towards life.

How I deal with the ups and downs of life involves an attitude that is a mixture of plan-oriented and spontaneous. As you can imagine, this can make for an interesting inner dialogue! I am a sensitive person and I am comfortable talking openly about my emotions. Despite my losses over the course of my life, I’ve kept up a pretty good emotional resilience. But there was a period of time that really threw me a curveball. In the larger scheme of life, perhaps it shouldn’t have hit me so hard, but that’s how things sometimes go. And once you’ve had a big hit, it can take a long time to feel you have that emotional fitness back. I’m only now starting to feel like myself again.

During that time, you may find that comparatively-less traumatic setbacks can be really tough to deal with. Things like not getting that job you wanted, a relationship breakdown, projects stalling or getting caught up in red tape… these can feel overwhelming when your resilience is low. If that’s you, don’t wait until you are at rock bottom, speak up and get some help. Depression is a real risk when your defenses are down, and it’s okay to not be okay. Talk to your family, friends, doctor or psychologist. There are lots of great support services that can help. Here are just a few good Australian ones:

Okay, so that’s the heavy stuff. Now I want to talk about how to deal with those sorts of setbacks when you are doing okay (mostly). If you have a planner personality – someone who thrives off lists and following a decided path – these things can really hit you for six.

Some home truths

First things first, know this: you can’t control everything. In fact, a lot of what happens to us is completely beyond our control. Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably kidding themselves! So be kind to yourself. Do your best, and know you have given it your best shot, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s not your fault.

Next you need to listen. Really listen. Listen to your friends, your partner, your manager – hear them when they say ‘You did a great job! You gave it your best! I still think you are awesome!’ This is the time to ignore your own inner critic. Sure, it helps you be a high achiever, and work hard and aim high, but when your plans don’t go your way, it can be an absolute confidence killer. In this case, tell it to shut up.

When life gives you lemons…

Get some tequila!

Don’t let these setbacks define you. See them as an opportunity: an opportunity for something you may not have considered or expected.

Take those setbacks and turn them into positive opposites! Didn’t get that job? Something else will come up (maybe it would’ve been an awful place to work!) Girlfriend broke up with you? She wasn’t the right one for you anyway (horrible taste in music!) Home renovation project has been delayed again? Oh well, don’t need to pay that deposit yet!

Maybe these seem a bit cliché and trite, but the more you can teach yourself to do this, the easier it will become to deal with setbacks of this nature. I challenge you to give it a go next time something doesn’t go to plan. Instead of getting caught up in a whirlwind of negativity, try this five minute reboot:

  • Take a minute or two to feel and acknowledge your annoyance (or sadness, anger, other emotion). It’s okay to cry, or yell, or scream internally
  • Take a long breath in, and let it out slowly
  • Now spend another minute or two to look for some kind of positive opposite to the situation (no matter how much of a stretch it might seem!)
  • Write it down or say it out loud
  • Now try a five by five exercise to reinforce that positive feeling

Tell me in the comments if this technique works for you! It does for me – I missed out on a job this week that I really wanted, and while I was sad initially, I took on board the feedback I was given, and then thought that perhaps I’m where I need to be right now. Opportunity presents in odd ways, and it’s important to being open to that – even if in this instance,  it means an opportunity to stay where I am now. Positive opposite!

Time is relative

Time is relative

Do you have a spare five minutes? I guess you do, as here you are, and you know what? You won’t even need that long to read this.

In our increasingly busy lives, it feels impossible to do the things we need to do, let alone those we really want to.

“I’d love to write, but I don’t have time…”

“I used to enjoy playing the piano, but I just don’t have time these days…”

“I remember when it felt like I had all the time in the world, but now I barely have time to think…”

Does this sound like you? I can relate!

For a long while, I agonised over wanting to do it all, but never feeling like I had the time to dedicate to anything.

Well, reality check: that’s a big pile of rubbish because there is the exactly the same amount of time as there always was. The governments of the world didn’t all spontaneously agree to make a day last any less. There are still 24 hours every single day, and each of those 24 hours still has 60 minutes. The universe didn’t suddenly change.

What did change was my perspective.

And perspective, like time, is relative.

You can do those things. You can find the time. Stick around, and I’ll show you how.

You only need five minutes.