Believing

Two days ago, I began a whole different post.

It was about failure and resolutions for a year we’ve now lost. Failed resolutions. I didn’t intend to fail, but then, I didn’t make any real effort to win so technically, failure was assured. Actually, that’s not even technical, that’s logical and I cannot (or should not) lament something I chose.

After Nano Poblemo, I said I would blog more. I haven’t, yet, and I’m not sure why I feel guilty about it. It’s crazy because I’m creating failures for myself.

So, it seems that this post too, is about failure.

It is.

And it isn’t.

Nano Poblano was a resolution. Not one timed with the New Year but one that came at the eleventh hour on the last day of October. I’d procrastinated. I’d thought about it for days previously before I finally committed to it. And then I did it – I blogged everyday for a month.

I won.

I set myself some resolutions for 2015. None of them were unreasonable or unrealistic but I didn’t take them on. I wondered how they were any different from my Nano Poblano challenge.

They weren’t different. Except, there was this little part of my brain that believed I could write a blog post everyday.

I believed.

This post was going to be about lots of things. Instead of resolutions, I’m going to focus on believing.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Whatever you do in 2016, be your best.

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Off the Back of NaBloPoMo

Or as we Tiny Peppers like to call it, Nano Poblano.

Or, as I’ve been calling it lately (today), NaNo Problemo.

So, Day 30. Here I am, I took you on. I won. The only day-fail coming off the back of an ice skating accident and taking my friend to Emergency. Friday the 13th and all. But I caught you up.

IN YOUR FACE, November. IN. YOUR. FACE.

*ahem*

So, where am I at? What will this mean? Has it changed my life?

Meh. Huh? Maybe.

Time will tell. Today, I feel I will blog more often, which honestly, is a stupid thing to say because blogging more often than I did before NoBloPoMo won’t exactly be a stretch. But, irrespective of whether I do or don’t – I know I can. I’ve blogged every day for a month. WOOT! Two years ago I didn’t think I’d ever do that, the very thought would have made me vomit.

Not literally. Obviously.

I’ve been forced to rein in my self editor (who’s normally brutal). And I’ve been posting with mistakes. I been posting without twenty-million re-reads. Without relying on my husband’s proof-reading.

Congratulations to those who took on NaBloPoMo and/or Nano Poblano and won. And congratulation to those who gave NaBloPoMo and/or Nano Poblano a go. There are no losers. You’re all amazing.

And I wish to thank you. All those people who’ve found me here during my thirty day blogging frenzy with special thanks to those who’ve taken the time to leave a comment. I have found new friends here.

And thank you, Ra. You have no idea how much awesome you make.

Truth of Lies

I’m feeling pensive.

As Nano Poblano draws to a close, I find myself looking back.  I used to write blogs and not post them. With Nano Poblano (or NaBloPoMo), I found myself ignoring my normal blog-filters and I wondered if there was one post which should have stayed in drafts. Sticks and Stones.

Over the last month, it was my most ‘silent’ post. Being the self-deprecating, panicking sort, I wondered if it was okay. I am alone in these thoughts? Did I offend people? Was I wrong to mention how I managed bullying at school? I don’t know.

This made me think about truth and lies and how sometimes they’re black and white and other times they’re grey.

In my post, the technique I used to survive bullying at school I related to an Aesop’s Fable. I went with the flow, I acted like I didn’t care, I played situations down. I acted like they didn’t happen.

I handle adult life in a similar way. I play the game. So long as I maintain my moral compass, I tend to be what people want me to be. It’s only when things I vehemently believe in are challenged and when that affects me, do I stand my ground. Everything else, I let go.

I play the game. A friend of mine says it’s not an honest game. I’m lying. By ignoring things that upset me, I’m pretending to be something I’m not.

She right, you know. It is dishonest in its own way.

But I’m me when it matters.

If you know me well, I’m me when I’m with you.

That’s the truth.


nanopoblano2015darkDay 28 of Nano Poblano!

[That’s Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo]

Two days left!!!!

 

Free* Conditions Apply

Free.

It’s such a strange and complex word for something so small and oddly similar to Fee.

Banker: Let’s talk about fees…

Client: How about I give you an ‘R’.

It looks weird too, especially if you stare at it for ten minutes while you  try to write a blog post but your brain has gone off track with random bank scenarios.

Free

I wonder sometimes, if we use the term ‘free‘ too freely. I wonder if we forget what it means.

To be clear, I’m not really talking about the free that is freedom. That is far too deep for Day 7 of Nano Poblano.

*deletes extensive brain tangent about the price some people pay for freedom*

This world offers us heaps of awesome, wondrous stuff that is free. Air is free, nature is free, clouds are free, the sky, water, rivers and wildlife are free, but only while we care for our surroundings.

Catalogues are not free. They cost money to print and the fancier they are, the more they cost to print. Consumers pay for this. We pay for gimmicks and any kind marketing when we buy the company’s products. We pay for ‘free gifts’ in the things we purchase to acquire them because businesses have to cover their costs.  Buying two brocolli to get another free is only free is you can eat three brocolli before you need to compost them.

Maybe I’m just cynical.

Free gifts are called presents, or donations or charity. If you love the ‘free gift’ or bonus thingywhatsit you get when you buy and you’re there for the ride – that’s great.

But it not free – it’s free*

*Conditions apply

New Spectacles

My friend and I were standing at the bus stop. She nudged me and pointed to the house across the road.

‘See that roof?’ she said, ‘Can you make out every tile?’

I nodded.

‘I never could before.’ she adjusted her new glasses on her nose.

It took seventeen years for her to discover she was short sighted. She’d compensated so effectively her poor vision went undetected.

Her new glasses were a revelation.

We only know our own experience, it’s ‘normal’ until we learn otherwise. The catch is, you only ‘learn otherwise’ if you can compare your experiences with something else. Or someone notices you always sit at the front of the classroom. You don’t mention it yourself because it is familiar and wittingly or not, you’ve learnt to work around it.

It’s a fitting analogy for my anxiety.

Firstly, for those not familiar with anxiety, here’s an introduction:

Trigger warning. Those who DO suffer from anxiety may find the following short video* a little too familiar.

 

Anxiety disorders and depression are hereditary in my family. While I grew up in an environment where we discussed this openly and respectfully, I still became aware of the stigma. I knew I couldn’t mention it to just anyone, I couldn’t broach it in casual conversation like it was arthritis or diabetes. I’ve listened to good, kind people confess their own torment in embarrassed whispers. I’ve witnessed others grow uncomfortable in its company and others dismissive of its existence. I’ve seen scorn, intolerance and judgement; treating these mental disorders as choices you could simply get over and medicating against them was a sign of weakness and failure. Fortunately, I think these attitudes are slowly changing.

I’d stopped discussing my anxiety. Not consciously and certainly not because I was ashamed but because I no-longer felt I needed to. I understood it, it would be like constantly mentioning a limp when I could still walk. I managed my anxiety cycles and I created coping strategies and thought patterns to tame them. I didn’t classify myself as someone with an anxiety disorder because I’d learnt to function.

It was my ‘normal’.

About five weeks ago, I worked myself up into such an anxious state I stopped functioning and for the first time in my life I began taking anti-anxiety medication. After about two weeks I began to feel a different ‘normal’.

Someone had handed me glasses with an anxiety filter.

I didn’t know I was missing them.

Once, if you’d asked me how often during the day I felt anxious, I would have said, ‘occasionally’. Now, I see it was ‘often’, a constant background noise. My anxiety had progressed gradually and cumulatively. I’d mentally work through each trigger in automatic and I’d grown numb to the energy this took from me. I’d stopped recognising these events as mini anxiety attacks, and if the trigger was embarrassingly lame, I’d prefer to attribute it to my own stupidity.

I described an anxiety episode in my post, Breaking Sad and it is one of my most visited blog posts. It makes me wonder how many how many other people are searching for understanding. I wonder how many other people are ‘functioning’ with unreasonable levels of anxiety and depression and not even realise it.

There are many ways to control anxiety. Taking medications designed to alter the chemistry of your brain is not a decision anyone should take lightly. It’s really important to seek professional advice before undertaking such a change. My medication took a couple of weeks to ‘settle’ into my system  and during that time I experienced some unpleasant side-effects. I actually felt worse before I felt better. Fortunately, it eventually worked for me, but I’m aware sometimes you may need to try a couple of options before you find one that helps you.

I am obviously not a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. I’m purely analysing my own experience but I do hope that sharing this encourages those who need it to seek professional help. Maybe that is you, and if it is – you are not alone. Everyone experiences anxiety differently with different symptoms and different triggers. Talk about it. Find people you trust and talk about it.

These new glasses are a revelation.

 

 

*The phone number at the end of this video is to Beyond Blue, an Australian national initiative to raise awareness of anxiety and depression. They also provide resources for recovery, management and resilience. Do you have a support network for mental health in your area? Leave a link in the comments, post on your own blog and generally spread the word.

Talk about it.

Baggage Tags

I’m an organisational freak – I’m a huge fan of lists, and labelling, and alphabetical order. Quite honestly, if someone handed me a P-Touch you might not see me for a week. As I dried the dishes the other day, I thought about how easy it is to categorise things when you have multiples of them – like knives, forks and spoons. When I dip into my utensil-drawer however, it all starts to get a little messy. Servers, stirrers, spatulas, mixing tools, basting spoons, brushes and more. I have this huge variety of objects and only three compartments. This lead me to subcategorise them into plastic and wooden and stainless steel – sorted by their manufacture rather than their function. This works most of the time but there are always those things that don’t neatly fit. Like the funnel that’s simply an awkward shape, or the spatula that’s both plastic and wooden and the potato masher that’s plastic and steel-

Wait! Come back. I’ll stop talking about kitchen implements. Promise.

It’s human nature to categorise. We label things daily and seek order in chaos. This is fine when we are talking about forks or buttons or paperclips but a whole deal more complicated when we start labelling people. There are two problems with this. The first is, we often don’t fit exactly into any category so we generalise, create ‘averages’, create statistics that help us find ‘normal’, implying that any deviation from it is abnormal. Even to say it is human nature to categorise is already a generalisation – for some this does not come naturally at all. The second is, we associate those categories with judgements or presumptions on the basis of our experience, upbringing and understanding.

Apart from pondering the organised structure of my kitchen, one big inspiration for this post was the front cover of this book by Tara Moss where she shows us her labels.

As Tara says, we all have labels and some we wear willingly. These are my three most misunderstood labels that have led to negative judgements or feelings of inadequacy.

White. It’s a descriptive word. My skin is white. With my mixture of Irish and English ancestry, I’m as pasty as you can get, except when I’m ill in which case, miraculously, I can go paler. I don’t tan, I burn. I burn and peel back to white. I’m really not designed for an Australian climate. As a child, I was teased about my lack of colour and my peers encouraged me to tan.

Skinny. I’m thin for the same reason I’m white – genetics. I have thin-white genes. I’ve been both mocked for ‘eating whatever I want’ and accused of having an eating disorder. It is sometimes presumed that because I’m thin, shopping for clothes is a doddle. Not so. I’m short and I still lack those ‘ideal’ model-proportions – I struggle to fill clothes out in the right places and I need to shorten most things intended to be ankle length. And I cannot emphasise it enough when I say – thin does not mean I’m healthy. It is still in my interest to make healthy dietary choices and to exercise. I commented once about healthy eating and someone said, ‘But you don’t need to lose weight.’ Who said anything about losing weight? Don’t get thin – get healthy.

Childless. The labels I had before this one were Single and then Unmarried. I am now Married and Childless which appears to be a combination most people cannot relate to. People ask me if I’m having children and expect me to reply ‘yes’. They ask me as though it’s that simple. It’s not. The responsibility of raising a human being is wholly frightening to me and I take the prospect so seriously it has eclipsed any cluckiness. The closest inclination I have is curiosity so when people ask me, my answer is ‘I don’t know’. [And while I’m on this subject, for some women this is not a question of choice, it is a painful reminder of their failed IVF treatment, or their miscarriages or their infertility. Please be thoughtful.]

 

On the flip side, I’ve probably been judged positively for these things too. These judgments can be equally misguided but they can be harder to see. I first witnessed it as I followed my brother through school and teachers formed generous opinions me as his sister. Often without meeting me. Some remembered me as his sister rather than by my own name. Of course, I strove to be as lovely as my dear brother but teachers had to realise we liked different subjects.

What are your labels? How are they misunderstood?

 

Imposter Syndrome

I’m not good with success. It’s a double edged sword. I am capable of that buzz of joy, I know what it is to feel pleased but there’s a tenuous fragility to it. A sarcasm that denounces it. A murmur that feels ever so slightly like a panic attack.

I’ve spoken about by inner critics before. My nasty destructive inner voices that take to my success with a cricket bat. I’ve also spoken how I’m trying to get know them better.

So first, to my little victory against my evil inner critics – I won a little Flash Fiction competition. This is a direct transcript of the text messages I shared with my husband (who was away for work at the time). He discovered my success and text me just as I arrived home from work.

HUSBAND: Hooray!!! You won Flash Friday!!! Congratulations!

ME: !!! April Fools?

HUSBAND: Nope. Check the Flash Friday blog for yourself. Even Remy [that’s my Twitter avatar image] gets his photo on the page.

ME: No. I kinda knew you were serious. But really, it wasn’t that great, was it?

HUSBAND: Course it was.

*logs into computer and checks for myself*

ME: Did you read the comments? Wow. When you read why she picked my story she makes it sound awesome.

HUSBAND: It *is* awesome. Now go and have a drink.

Looking back, I wish I’d made a more concerted effort to write down what my evil inner critics were saying , but I reverted back to my avoidance tactics. I tried blocking the voices instead of listening to them. Not that they had nothing constructive or helpful to say but listening to them helps me recognise the evil they are.

And here are my thought processes re-created:

I felt like a fraud. How could I win when there were ‘real’ writers far more worthy? Why would I win this when other stories were better? I wondered if it was a fluke. I wondered if it was an accident. Maybe the judge took pity on me. In trying to be happy for myself, I devalued it with thoughts like ‘there weren’t many people in the comp’, and ‘ it’s only one person’s opinion’.

***

This was in my drafts folder. I pulled it out when I read this awesome post, and again just now after reading this.

I honestly feel all these inadequacies. Other people don’t see them which does not make them less real to me, it just makes me hide them. I feel stupid. Some people argue with me with the very best of intentions, but I don’t want pity and I don’t want compliments – it’s simply how I feel. Knowing I should feel differently doesn’t really help.

However, knowing other people feel the same, does.

I believed for a long time that giving these negative feelings ‘air’ only let them breathe. That recognising them validated them, but I’ve started to realise avoiding them is more like covering a boiling pot.

If you feel a fraud, you’re not alone. Don’t let it stop you, don’t let it hold you back. Decide what is destructive and what is instructive.

Now all I have to do is take that advice myself.

 

And thank you for listening.

 

 

Next week: Cats