Death, the community and life.

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Yesterday I took my Nana to a funeral, not only because I didn’t want her to attend alone, but because I wanted to do the right thing and pay my respects to both the fallen and her family. Not to compare anyone’s departure from this life as less significant than another’s, but this was a lady whose sudden passing sent shockwaves through the small community we call home. St Francis Xavier Church was packed to capacity in what could only be described as an outpouring of both grief and love, from everyone this woman had touched in her lifetime. From the immediate family and friends, to the students whom she had taught to respect the ivory keys of her first love – piano, to people like my Nana who simply knew her as a lady in her swimming class, the feeling in this house of God was palpable.

As I sat there listening to her children condense their mother’s life story into a heart warming yet brief tale, I felt oddly surreal. Standing before me were clearly devastated people, trying to come to terms with the completely unexpected exit of their mother. How do you go to sleep one day and wake up the next without your parent? How do you put aside all those dreams of introducing your own children one day to your mother? How do you suddenly go from being able to call her for advice from anything to cooking, washing and shitty colleagues, to having to pause for a second and wonder who you can call instead? These children of hers were incredible, having the strength to stand there in front of a packed Church and recount happy memories of times with their mother. Put aside their grief and try, try so hard to focus on the positives. It really made me stop and think about the uncertainty of life, and how important it is to cherish all those small insignificant moments. The nights spent inside cooking, laughing together and sharing a bottle of wine. The moments of frustration when you stub your toe, or your puppy chews another shoe. This is life, every single day that passes we are another step closer to our own exit from the world, and I sure as hell don’t want to miss a thing.

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Happiness, a double-edged sword.

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I’m so happy right now (well not literally right now – I’ve got a mild headache and would rather be in bed), but figuratively, in my life right now – I’m happy. Claps from the audience! You did it girl! Well yes, yes and thank you. But happiness is terrifying! It could all come undone at any moment, life could suddenly turn upside down and then what would I do?

Shhh girl, that’s just the anxiety talking.

This week though I was thrown a curveball by one of my Nana’s friends passing away, a lady who was only in her 60’s with a huge family, massive impact on the community and strong involvement in schools and the music scene in my hometown. It was just so sudden, shocking and final. Death is something I’ve been fairly fortunate to avoid thus far in my life, and I’m so thankful for that. I know I will have my fair share in the future, and it scares the shit out of me. How will I react? Where will I be? Who will I lean on for support? I play these questions out in my mind constantly, like I can somehow control the outcome if I think about it enough. How stupid. If anything, it’s given me a huge kick up the bum to stop worrying about the little things, and spend valuable time with my family.

On a lighter note, would you like to know why I’m happy? It’s because I’m done living in the shadows of fear and worry. I’m done working in a red-tape environment where I can’t be myself or let my talents shine. I feel like I’ve finally found my voice, and I’m so excited. In two weeks I’ll be starting a new role as Marketing and Communications Officer at redhotblue Creative Agency, a role which will allow me to do everything I enjoy – writing, events, brainstorming crazy ideas… the list goes on. I just can’t wait to get started and throw myself into creative projects, where I can finally channel all these wacky ideas in my head into something tangible. The past 12 months have gone so fast, in a series of fantastic holidays with my wonderful boyfriend (and even more fantastic nights in, cooking and drinking red wine). The birth of my beautiful dachshund Charlotte and the chaos of raising a puppy. Family, friends and laughter. I feel like now is my time, and I’ve never been more ready.

Cheers to that 🙂

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On knowing when enough is enough.

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In the past few weeks I’ve developed, shall we say, a ‘backbone’ when it comes to standing up for myself in situations where I’ve felt my self-worth is being questioned, and damn it feels good. We’ve all encountered people who make us feel insignificant – whether that be by making us feel stupid, or not good enough, or easily replaceable. It’s a terrible feeling, thinking that everything you’ve worked for, all of your values and beliefs, and all of your personality traits are being questioned by someone else, someone who has made you feel inferior. But have they actually made you feel this way? 9 times out of 10, the reason we’re left feeling inferior as a reaction to somebody’s actions is because of pre-existing insecurities, which actually have nothing to do with this person at all.

Not to get too specific (because I don’t want to start World War 3), someone recently came into my personal space and it totally rattled me. The first few days were all rosy and sweet, with compliments being thrown and polite chit chat unfolding. And then all of a sudden, the cracks began to appear. Little things here and there were mentioned – nothing direct – and I started feeling completely unworthy of this person’s time. I started feeling like everything I said or did was being analysed, or that I was explaining myself terribly, and it came with the embarrassingly reactive behaviour of then trying to impress this person. Let me get one thing straight with you, it makes me sick to the stomach trying to impress people. I absolutely hate it. I find it awkward, totally unnatural and far from genuine. How people possess the ‘gift of the gab’ is beyond me, my attitude is you either like me or you don’t and I’m not going to work for it. So to find myself in a situation where I felt like I had to try and impress somebody was a total whack to my self-esteem, and I refuse to let that happen again.

Just this past weekend at work I had an irate guest, shouting at me and waving his hands (a full spectacle I assure you), which culminated in him telling me to shut up as I tried to calm him down and assist. Something in me clicked and I said to him (politely of course), that I was trying to help him and he needed to stop being so rude to me. BOOM. It was as if Beyoncé herself had arrived, the curtains had risen and I was alive. Assertiveness is something that never came easily to me – I was always the one who caved to people’s requests, said yes to more than I could handle and let people walk all over me. But not anymore, and let me tell you it felt GOOOOD to assert myself. It felt even better when said guest came down and apologised to me for being so rude, which I accepted graciously of course.

So I’m telling you this – do not let anyone ‘make’ you feel less than you are worth, and have the courage to stand up for yourself. The only person you need to wow is the person standing in your shoes, and the only person you should be analysing is yourself – not to beat yourself down, but to continue to learn and grow from experiences, and be the best version of yourself.

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Finding stillness in the chaos.

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Today I took a moment in time to just sit on a log at the beach, with my dog, and breathe. Soaking in the sunshine, listening to the waves, touching the soft sand with my toes and inhaling that fresh, salty air. I could only steal a moment in time to myself amongst what has been a chaotic few weeks, but that moment was a simple re-fresh for the soul. With our litter of puppies turning 5 weeks old today, it’s an understatement to say things have been absolutely exhausting. You think raising one puppy is enough? Try 5 times the amount of poo and wee to clean up, 5 times the mouths to feed, but I won’t deny it – 5 times the love. It has been tiring, smelly and sleepless, but overall – amazing – and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve been wearing myself pretty thin lately and that strain has shown in my relationships with family, friends and colleagues. I would love to spend all day with my Nana and Pop like I used to, reading the paper, making endless cups of tea and chatting about the weather, but I simply don’t have the time. I would love to actually want to catch up with friends and feel that yearning for a get together, but as it happens now I’m always completely exhausted and running on fumes. I’d also love to be a more present girlfriend, but I’m on a constant cycle of cooking, washing clothes and doing the dishes. SIGH. Do I just sound like every normal person trying to fit their personal life around their work life while still getting enough sleep, exercise and healthy food in? I seriously don’t know how people do it… and I don’t even have children yet!

So from this day onward, I’m going to look at ways of reducing the clutter and chaos in my life so I can have more moments in time like today at the beach. I don’t want to be running around only offering an exhausted and less-than-enthusiastic version of myself to the world. I want to feel energised, excited, and present. I know the simple things often make us the happiest – a home cooked meal with fresh herbs, an afternoon walk through the park, or a good book. Yes, I know this, but am I taking the time to appreciate? I think we can all aim to do a little better and practise the mantra ‘less is more’. Who would agree?

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Look after yourself first, and everything else will fall into place.

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I’ve just ordered what looks to be a fantastic memoir about a lawyer in New York who had a psychotic breakdown, convinced himself his life was being filmed as part of a TV show, and his subsequent journey through mental health rehabilitation (Gorilla and the Bird):

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Why would I order such a book you might ask? Wouldn’t my usual taste for unsolved murder mysteries and espionage be enough? Well, I was incredibly moved by an excerpt from this mans memoir, as it was a startling reminder of how close I had become to being in the same position. When you’re experiencing various stressors in life and not taking control of anything, you very rapidly find yourself going from ‘busy’ to ‘on the brink of crazy’, and only significant changes to your lifestyle will get you back on track.

While I haven’t read the full memoir yet, I did gain an insight into this mans descent into what can only be described as hell on earth. Trying to reason with yourself when you’re not mentally healthy is hard enough, let alone trying to explain how you’re feeling to family and friends. All you want to do is hide in bed in a dark room, close your eyes and never have to face the world again. Every single thing – whether it’s cooking a meal, going for a drive or walking into an appointment, gives you anxiety and seems like a mammoth effort. I remember trying to stay calm in the middle of a shopping centre, focusing on moving one leg at a time until I was out in the fresh air. When you’re in the beginning stages of a panic attack, every single sound is amplified and makes the whole experience 10 times worse. Imagine you’re inside a water bottle, being tossed around a violent ocean… you’re dizzy, disorientated and terrified. Yep, I never want to go back to the dark place I was in for months – but what I do know is that change is possible, and you can regain your footing on the earth.

Hoping you all have a great week and find something to smile about 🙂

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Getting back on track when you just want to hide.

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Sometimes in life everything just gets a bit too much. Work commitments start building up, the usual family disagreements start frustrating you, and catching up with friends is the last thing on your mind. You just want to run into a secluded forest, set up a little tee-pee and spend the rest of your days wandering the river bank looking for flowers. Am I right, or am I right?

This last week I’ve had an excruciating neck injury which has prevented me from doing the simplest of tasks without stabbing pain. I’ve held back tears, said yes to things I knew would hurt, and smiled through the pain. Being unable to move your neck is certainly a slap in the face when you realise all the thing you’d taken for granted in the past, like bending over to pat your dog, or nodding in agreement with someone during a conversation. I’ve literally felt completely useless and quite honestly, like crying in bed with a heat pack all day long. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to be responsible for anything or held accountable for things, and I certainly haven’t felt like functioning in the real world. To put it simply, I’ve wanted to fast forward through the pain and recovery of this injury and get back to living my life. But things don’t always go to plan do they?

So how do we get back on track when shit hits the fan? How do we get up and go in the morning, put on a brave face and tackle the day to day duties of Life As An Adult (that thing we were all warned of in our more youthful times)? To be honest I’m still looking for that answer, that light bulb moment where everything falls into a place and I’m suddenly one of those super-humans who can conquer any adversity with class and charisma. What I do know however, is that we gotta keep trying. Sure – take some time out if you need it. Take a day off work, listen to what your body needs and don’t fight your gut instincts. But at the end of the day, pick yourself up again and remember that there is always sunshine after the rain. Storms will pass, skies will clear and you will smile again with authenticity 🙂

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Puppies, chocolate and red wine. And so this is Easter…

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Well how on earth did we make it through a quarter of the year in what seemed like the blink of an eye? I don’t even think I’ve gotten over my hangover from New Year’s yet and I’ve managed to fly down to Brisbane and Byron Bay, squeeze in a night or 2 in the Whitsunday’s, move in with the boyfriend, break my little toe, watch my herb garden blossom, and most importantly help my beautiful Dachshund give birth to 5 new puppies just in time for Easter! BREATHE. JUST BREATHE.

Or should I say more red wine please? No seriously, ever since returning from the Margaret River wine region in November it’s all I can drink. I won’t even look at whites, spirits, liqueurs, or cocktails. Red, Red Wine, thank you and good night.

Okay back to the puppies… Because seriously, what’s more ‘Easter’ appropriate than celebrating new life? In what was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had thus far, I had the privilege of assisting our darling Audrey push out 3 baby girls, and 2 handsome boys from 1am to 5am on Sunday March 25th. And in even more important news, I’m keeping one! After seeing little Charlotte hanging out of her mum in the birthing sac for an hour, worrying that all the blood pooling in this sac was surely going to result in a stillborn, I finally got to see her take those first breaths and felt an immediate connection. Holding something so precious and fragile in your bare hand, watching it squeak, wriggle and stretch is just incredible. This is what it’s all about. Birth, love and life.

Time has honestly just flown by these past 3 months, and I’m suddenly finding myself asking ‘What am I doing?’. I’ve been living in my hometown now for nearly 18 months surrounded by family, I’ve got a lovely boyfriend who has let me into his home (with all of my candles, shells and Balinese hangers), and I’ve made some new friends through work. I couldn’t be more happier, and it’s such a vast comparison to this time a year ago when I was just starting a new job, filled with daily anxiety and depression, struggling to forgive myself for packing it in and moving home. I now know there’s absolutely no shame in saying enough is enough, and when one door closes… well you know the rest. The one thing I’m looking forward to this year is working on my writing and creative outlets, as I’ve definitely let this slide lately. Things like doing the dishes and catching up on sleep have taken precedence over the things I enjoy, and there’s no time like the present to get back on track.

Hoping you all have a wonderful Easter filled with family, loved ones and a little indulgence 🙂

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