CHAPTER 89: THE STRUGGLE ENDS WHEN THE GRATITUDE BEGINS

I’ve yearned to write a new post the past few days.  The struggle is getting real, the hurdles aplenty and the pain bodies continue to call out my ego despite my efforts to muffle them.  But it is not in my being to write another post about the strain.  I will not feed it or humour it, I will not give in to the easy route.  On the occasions that my mind is still, I am reminded that the overwhelming driver of the past three months has been a place of peace.

There has been a new baseline of living.  Completely separate from the physical realms of things like financial wellbeing, my overall presence has been, well; better.  I am conscious not to use the word ‘happier’ because I don’t think it’s accurate.  Happiness is a state that I aspire to as much as the next person but it is just that; a conscious awareness of such.  This place I have been spending more time in is different because it occurs mostly unbeknownst.

In this place of unconsciousness, of being, I have been free.  Free to breathe deeper breaths.  To sleep in a few more minutes after a restless night. To read pages of a random book.  To take in the colours and smells and sounds of my neighbourhood.  To take longer showers.  To sometimes, not shower at all.  To eat less.  To feel the sunshine on my body more.  To undertake an intense period of learning.  To make mistakes and have the space to understand how not to make them again.  To cook a meal.  To do laundry and vacuum and dust – and enjoy it!

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Literally a picture of me studying in the sun last week.

Surprisingly, and perhaps to the concern of my therapist, I have thoroughly enjoyed the absence of routine.  It’s a double edge sword because I know routine keeps me at my ‘most polished’.  But, for the most part, I have really loved – not being polished.  There will come a time when the pendulum must find an equilibrium but until then – it’s a natural-faced, messy bun, Birkenstocks; kind of life.  Which is quite freeing in itself.  There is a good reason why Obama and that-Facebook-guy wear the same thing every day.   It’s so their decision-making muscle is reserved for more important things throughout their waking hours.  How great is this.  What an effortless way to contribute to stemming fast-fashion.  Minimalism at its’ best.

So you know, after my loose morning routine, I start proceedings by working on the things that I feel most closely to that day.  Deadlines influence, as does weather, and funds – but besides that, the day’s to-do-list is what I make of it.  My life has slowed, dramatically.  There is no rushing or missing out or clashes.  I was even early for a meetup with friends the other day; I had to call my husband to share the moment.  I now look at events on weekday evenings, and consider them instead of instant dismissal.  It has opened up this whole other world of activity.  None of which is obligatory.  So I attend some and not others.  It is no big issue.  But it is fulfilling.  Like I am seeing more of my city and its possibilities.  Feeding more time into my interests.  Even the insignificant ones.  Like visual feasting on Pinterest.  Or wasting time but not mind on suduko and arrowwords.

I am grateful for the people in my life.  They provide support and understanding, friendship, growth, and fun.  There are those whom without their presence; the journey of life, would not be so enjoyable.  There is an ease that is unexplainable.  It provides an unconscious inner comfort that could never be brought or inorganically manifested.  And for reasons I am yet to understand, our communication stays active despite my conscious fear of answering the friendship phone (yep, sprung).  They fill in the gaps that I create and our time together is none the wiser when we are in each other’s presence.  They make life worth living and I couldn’t recommend a better bunch of people to any soul in search for a soothing song.

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Who could not love this mad bunch?!

Which brings me to the Unicorn.  I find this one the most difficult to describe because our time together has provided a somewhat rebirth for me.  Combined with the long and hard hours I spent bettering myself prior, it was by the grace of the universe, that this human and I were brought together after many years of distant acquaintance.  This was to both of our surprise. And once seen, it could not be unseen.  So, it was with dreamy hearts that we began our journey together.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, for the most part, we have spent the last six and a half years together being very stupidly, madly and happily in love.  Do we have a secret?  Is there such a thing?  I think it helps to marry someone open-minded who loves you more than you love them – both ways.  Together your selflessness will continue to burn bright no matter how big the hurdles that make tracks in front of you.

But it is not without reason that I have left the big picture till last.  Sometimes I forget it’s significance and importance but mainly, it’s presence never leaves my side.  It is my purpose.  My ikigai.  My reason for being.  I am grateful that this current time in my life is an uncomfortable push.  A shove.  A hard boot up the ass.  To find a closer pathway that is my calling.  It is in the discomfort of the past few months that I have had to dig deeper and continue to unearth the new road on this lifelong journey.  It has twisted and contorted.  Sometimes feeling ugly and uncomfortable, it has risen again shedding the heaviness and beholding bigger and better places of beauty.  It is through this process that I have come to lose a few balls, a few marbles and a few unstable paths.  But all for reason.

So as I continue to search for that role that fits like a glove, I push on with my side projects and passions which may inevitably be that match.  I am not in control of very much these days but I do have assets.  And seeing as I cannot seem to get rid of them (despite my best efforts in some cases), it is time to take my lemons and make the best damn limoncello that this town has ever seen.  I am literally in the process of selling all the old shitty furniture in my apartment and swinging in some jazzy new stuff (thanks interest-free).  I am turning this unused, light filled, open-aired hunk of a space into my next chapter.  Insert ‘Ontwerp Huis’.

Meaning ‘design house’ in Dutch, this space in inner city Melbourne, will become the new permanent home to eight designers or ‘ontwerpers’ as they will be known.  I really do love working from home but feck me, it can get lonely, boring, isolating, distracting and on some days – a little bit loco!  What I truly miss about the corporate world is a team to bounce ideas off, to share the lows and celebrate the highs with.  I’m not gonna lie, I’ve already brought the Friday-night-drinks trolley – it’s the tits.  This permanent workspace won’t be like any others you’ve heard of or been too.  For it would be remiss of me to open a workspace that reverted to the old rules of the game.  Practice what you preach, right?

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Ok, so maybe not this fancy – but close!

A governing set of ‘Huis Principes’ will guide the family.  Productivity is king and the pomodoro technique will be a daily fixture.  The office will be paper-free for the most part, coffee will be offsite, and the biggest advancement is that we will only be open 4 days a week.  Because progress. For you; the individual, the business owner, the entrepreneur, the ontwerper.  And for society; your families, your friendships, and your community.  It is a forced day out of the office and into your clients world, your places of inspiration, your home without weekenders or your ‘third space’ – a café or library or local place that completes your (scientifically proven) productive triangle.

Holy crap, that feels good to share.  Like the rest of my life, the website is ‘under construction’ but I will share the love as soon as it’s complete.  In the meantime, if you know any absolute-fucking-legends (no more, no less) who own their own business, are designers, or entrepreneurs, or just need to work outside of their corporate office a bit more (but still get shit done) – then please send me a message, text me, or call me (I’ll pick up, promise).  I’m looking for an all-star cast; no egos, no bullshit, such a bunch of rippers looking to shred through their own next chapters in epic form.  Introverts, extroverts, feelers, thinkers, black, white, LGBTQFD, whatever the fuck you are – if you are someone who works hard, respects the people and places that surround you, and doesn’t mind a cheeky Friday night vino – then,  this one’s for you kid!

Yours in eternal gratitude,
Zig B x

Chapter 31: A New Dream

And so it came to pass, that the aspirational lifestyle no longer served its purpose.  It was time to move on.  To regroup together as mind, body and soul – and ask ourselves what was giving us energy and what was draining us so.  Together we twisted and contorted, turned left and then right.  We got angry and frustrated.  We got depressed and empty. We did our very best to squeeze our square little selves into the roundest of round holes.  Although the roles began as somewhat fulfilling, the long-term sticking point came from the people.  There were laughs and banter.  A collective common as we fought to utilise our greatest strengths and squash the bits that strayed outside of the lines.  We rode the highs together and we bonded strongly during the lows.  We flowed together as a pool of conflicting personalities – all heading in the same direction but crashing and rebuilding through our own personal rapids.  We worked hard, we were accountable.  There was a pride in our work, our product.  There was an openness of speech and humility in response.  There were people driven by ego and there were lots that were not.  I enjoyed it for the most part but it was time for growth, autonomy and new connections.  It was time for the next chapter.

I never wanted to work in “corporate” growing up.  I never dreamt that I would spend 5 days a week sitting on my ass in front of a machine that would dominate my every waking hour.  I never dreamt that life would become a chore – a never-ending day of the same routine.  Wake up tired, drag myself to some sort of physical activity, transit amongst other sick and depressed looking people, work passionately and longingly to build someone else’s dream – usually Shareholders of some sort – go home exhausted, not effectively communicate with my husband, drown out the pain with low functioning TV or aspirational personal work till the wee hours, toss and turn through the night with ghosts of lives past, rinse, cycle, repeat.
 
God.  When you put it like that, it’s a wonder I ever made it out of bed at all.  And to be honest, most days I barely did.  I was a walking zombie.  One for whom coffee was not an option.  I couldn’t even drug myself to function on the required level.  So one day I decided to sleep when I could, in the morning.  And so I started a bit later and my productivity levels and serotonin drastically lifted.  Once I got past the judging looks of those early risers and at worse, my own inner demons – I didn’t look back.  Feeling more balanced that I had in years.  It was a credit to my final managers that this change in routine was never questioned.  Finally an evolution in perception, where the quantity and quality of work completed at last outweighed the insignificance of hours in the chair.

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My corporate alter ego – Zombie Rob.

So if this was never the dream, then why was I here so many years later?  Well, why do you think?  Remuneration was not a desire but a survival factor.  I was out on my own, paying to put a roof over my head at 17 and food on the table which no longer magically appeared each time I sat down.  I had started in different industries but a series of unfortunate events had led me to the environmental and financial stability of the modern working office.  I was lucky enough to work for some fun brands, national and international icons but at the end of the day, once you have spent enough time anywhere – it is no longer about the sport, the art, or the fun – it becomes about the bottom line.  Or sometimes the poor management.  Or the archaic patriarchal structures that has served these companies for generations past.  I dug my heels in occasionally, speaking up for change and fairness.  I was met with looks of shock or admiration depending on the evolution of the individual.  It was often empowering.  Often disheartening.  Often frustrating.  Efficiency, workplace progression, fairness – these were all things that the machine did not have room for.  Unless you had a fancy title, then suddenly these words had more power.  Or at the very least, the person’s hearing them, heard them with more intensity.

I can hear the chip on my shoulder as my thoughts spill out.  I would be lying if I said there was no damage done.  But it is not for me to blame an individual, a team, a company, or the social and business structures that have allowed our world to revolve around an economic model that has left us modern slaves to high salaries.  The perfect picture has been painted in this lucky country we call Australia and it involves coming home late to your children and losing contact with your friends because you no longer have the time or energy to give back to yourself.  We put so much of our energy and effort keeping the beast turning over.  We feed it our blood, sweat and tears so that it can continue to grow year on year.  For it can never be big enough.  It can never stop growing.  It will never grow so large that it self implodes, spilling out expired executives and oozing out the skeletons of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed people that entered so long ago.

Or will it?  We are at the start of a global revolution where the user-generated economy is taking an axe to previously dominated industries.  This wave of startups and change makers finally have the technology to harness a scale that was never before possible.  And as it does, not only will there be a somewhat re-balancing act of the ants and elephants…but it will allow the next wave of workplace robots to evaluate what they value most and hedge their bets accordingly.

I hedged some great bets.  I was gifted safety, security, stability.  I had some truly great workplaces, worked with more capable people than I care to remember, attended some great events, led some big projects, and made many people feel supported directly or not. But with every action comes a reaction and so it has come that my actions and reactions are screaming for change.  It is time to try something different.  I walked out full of beans.  With big plans and a full agenda of extra curricula activities to maintain momentum and continue on the path of saving the world from itself through education and evolution of the mind.

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The new dream – how good are burritos!

It is less than a week into this new life before the first hurdle strikes.  The reality that an overly ambitious deadline has been long missed is accompanied by a hasty reminder that hopes-and-dreams are no match for execution-and-action.  So after a few days of mixed emotion and energy resetting, I find a present moment where I can be grateful for the space to do this.  To allow the natural timeline needed for the ups and downs of life is but the greatest gift of all.  There is time for healing, energy for physical and mental exertion where only you are the beneficiary, there is an openness and a longing for awe – something large in scale and nature to take our breath away and remind us that our problems are not so but thinking makes them this way.

In a “normal” set of events, we would rush through these moments – parking them in the back closet along with those elusive “stress” responses, our deepest fears, and our greatest ambitions.  There is no time to consider these things as real and unique to us.  There are presentations to build, children to feed and idiots in the traffic to yell at.  Our energy is great in its form but it is constantly projected out to those we work for, those we love, and those we love to hate.  We give this energy willingly because it feels normal.  But it is us who have normalised it.  We have chosen paths and words and responsibilities that mean we will forever be tied to offloading our energy for the benefit and detriment of those around us.

But this energy is ours.  It can be harnessed and utilised.  It can be focused and channeled, and streamlined for our benefit.  And when this happens, guess what?  We benefit those around us so much more.  It is an old sentiment.  We know it to be true.  But who has time to implement it, let alone give it the head space for implementation?  It is much easier to agree and then walk away.  Until the next article or study comes out and we nod in agreement again and walk away all the same.  Without this time and energy to strategically think about our own lives, we will always continue on the same trajectory.  A comfortable path that cocoons us in paid bills, the odd “escape”, and the nice feeling we get when we know that we are colouring in between the lines.

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Me post-corporate; not colouring in the lines with my “new addition” (sorry Mum).

So I cannot stay in this openness forever.  Or can I?  The day will come when I too have bills to pay, where the safety net I have placed below will no longer carry the weight of my living costs and when my husband decides that my old mentality of “spending” is not catching up fast enough with my current lifestyle budgeted for “minimalism”.  Maybe on this day, I will be moved to find an intermediate space.  One where I do not re-enter the beast and its temptations nor give into a life of debt and social isolation.  I have many balls in the air, and am hoping that one or all of them land in a place that brings reward – be it personal, spiritual, financial or inspirational.  I would ask you to wish me luck but if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that you have to make your own luck.  But I’m superstitious so go on, wish me luck anyway!

Zig x

Childlike Wonder

I have been thinking a lot lately about childlike wonder.  Not so much its occurrence in the young but more so its absence in the old…er.

To me, childlike wonder encompasses so many wonderful things.  It is first and foremost an insatiable curiosity and interest.  It is expressed in questions and found down rabbit-holes.  It does not care for your preconceptions nor expectations.  Childlike wonder quite often sets its own rules yet surprisingly, never blurs its boundaries into hurt or pain.  For childlike wonder is born out of love and purity.  It is honest and creative,  allowing itself to be expressed in both rainbows and rainclouds.  It does not pretend to be pretty yet it is not afraid to be pretty either.

My childhood wonder had unbelievable artistic merit.  It scribbled and painted, and got messy often.  It wore things in the wrong order in the wrong sizes in the wrong patterns; it was a trend forecaster.  It asked a lot of questions, read a lot of books and at times; made lots of silly jokes.  My childhood wonder was a performer but it did not always perform.  It would sing and dance and pull faces.  It would burp out loud and laugh hysterically for minutes after.  My childhood wonder was hilarious.  And confident.  And stupidly happy.

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So where the fuck did it go?

Did I lose it in the sleepy coma that was my middle teens?  Did I lend it to a friend drunkenly at some party and forget to get it back?  Did it slowly seep away from me over the course of 20 years when I stopped making time for it and acknowledging its presence?  I mean, that’s where yours went right?  It got left in our former chapters prior to corporate jobs and mortgages and parenthood planning?

The process has been so long and unconscious that mostly I think, we do not realise it.  I mean, every three months we fill in half a page in a colouring in book – so we must still have it, right?  Or last year, when we spent six months on that project at work coming up with the next “big thing” – I mean, that was pretty spontaneous?  No matter that we were beaten to market twice, we were just unlucky.  Or how about the other day when we spent a whole 20 minutes making things out of dough with the kids….a whole 20 minutes!!

We often try to reach into this mythical bag of ‘wonder’ as adults for more often than not, we find the bag is empty.  Or it is hard to find in our busy schedule.  Or perhaps we have just put it down for a while but we have every intention of picking it up tomorrow, or the next day, or just once this busy period at work is over.

But in doing so, in not finding or utilising our Wonder – we miss out.

We miss out on the messiness and the joy and the fulfillment that our Wonder brings us.  We miss out of the effects of our Wonder’s flow, how it seems to make time stop altogether.  Wonder is immersive and welcoming.  Wonder doesn’t worry about deadlines or schedules.  It doesn’t care if you’ve done your make up or had a shave that day.  Wonder is accepting and all-consuming, and Wonder really hopes you wear your gumboots or neon tutu or whatever the heck else you want to wear that day.  Because Wonder doesn’t care for material things.  Wonder just wants you to be happy in whatever sparkly outfit allows you and your Wonder to function best in.

I haven’t made any hard or fast goals for 2017 (yet) but I have made a conscious commitment to bring more childlike wonder back into my life.  I want to be more creative, more ‘artsy’, I want to write more, I want to get messy, pick up a paintbrush and maybe wear some sparkly bits on my face one day.  I want to get lost in fun activities and I don’t want to feel guilty about spending time with my Wonder.  I don’t want to be thinking about emails or deadlines or to do lists or chores or tomorrow.  I want to get absorbed in the moments spent with my Wonder where time has no meaning and we ebb and flow through works that we love, or kinda love, or don’t love at all; a time where we don’t give up on each other.

Of course I am fearful.  My material brain fears time spent on things that don’t make money.  Not for indulgence but as a basic survival instinct.  But I must train my brain to see the intangible value offered in watercolour, or the connection that 1000 words may bring, or the personal fulfilment and satisfaction found in a completed creative project.  And who knows; maybe the two are not diametrically opposed.  Maybe in fully giving in to my childlike wonder and creativity, something entrepreneurial may be born.  Lord knows of the many that have gone before and the many that are still to join the industries of freedom and spirit and letting their Wonder’s loose.

I hope I have the courage to not second guess my Wonder.  For whilst my Wonder is a brave soul, I am not so.   Together, we will sail the high waters of expectation and judgement, and crash heavily through waves of instability and self doubt; finally surpassing the storms of social expectation and magnification.  Together, we will transition into the calmer waters of childlike wonder – where we will charter all obstacles together; arm in spaghetti-bracelet arm.  For we both know that when we arrive on the other side, there will be boundless amounts of purpose leaving us with nothing but feelings of overwhelming joy and fulfilment.

Love Ziggy + her Wonder  x