Life has slowed down. But it is not quiet. It is filled with a plethora of activity, both old and new. Some of it is useful, a lot of it – undecided, and a fair portion; utterly useless. The full-time sabbatical has come to a halt but the transformation from it, still very much underway.
I have come to enjoy my own company so much more in these past few months. Perhaps, too much. Who can be sure? What is the ‘right’ amount? I struggle to remember mundane memories from the past but I’m quite sure that I was never fully relaxed for days on end with only myself for entertainment. It turns out when alone, I am a multitude of the human experience. I am frequently lethargic and sloth like, creeping from room to room searching for motivation and action but more often finding pacifiers for my monkey mind. But I have this clarity over that time like never before. In fact, it has come to my recent attention that this constant fatigue I face may not be within the realms of acceptable. And so, with this extra time – I have been able to spend more time with the experts to try to understand what it is I have done to my body. Or, what in fact, it is doing to me.
For the first time in the longest time I can remember, I am starting to have a positive relationship with my body. No, not that heebie jeebie body love stuff. We are a long way from that. More so; a foundational awareness of its capabilities, downfalls and underlying connection to everything else that I identify as myself. I’ve come across a fascinating amount of research that supports my recent discovery that the body carries more of our mental scars that we give it credit for. The physical scars are obvious; weight, immune system, digestives, physical marks/aches/pains from wars past. But the mental scars on the body are not as obvious. In fact, mine were so well hidden under a busy job, largely intoxicated social life, and sheets of depression – that I never considered the symptoms that now seem blindingly obvious.
Just like those of us who suffer from stress or trauma-related bruxism (excessive grinding or jaw clenching), it turns out this unconscious and unrelenting muscular grip can appear across many places in the body. I’m sure many of you can relate to excessive tightness in your neck or upper back when you’ve had a particularly stressful week. Now imagine this pain all over your body, for years on end. It’s exhausting. This ‘muscle-armoring’ puts your body in a permanent state of fight or flight. This may come as a surprise to those who know me. I am usually found in a constant state of chill. But Bessel Van Der Kolk was bang on when he said that ‘the body keeps score’. Consciously and unconsciously; it most certainly does. Have a go. Clench any of your muscle groups as tight as you can for five minutes and tell me how you feel. Tired, exhausted, in pain. That’s just the short-term stuff. The unbelievable part is that I have been in physical pain for so long but the mental and emotional pain was so intense that I disregarded the aches in my body for an unbelievable amount of time. They just became a part of everyday life, albeit a skewed one.
Ah, the body. An amazing organism that needs much more credit than we ever care to give it. So I have found a yoga studio that is unlike the many I have been to before. To be honest, I’ve practiced yoga very infrequently over the past 10+ years. It never really ‘grabbed me’, so to speak. I mean, not much exercise did. I wavered through many rough battles of a hate-hate relationship with the category. It didn’t come natural. I didn’t enjoy it. I was too far into my own mental anguish to care enough about the physical benefits. Then I layered on every other excuse on top; no time, no money, no motivation, no hope. But life is not black and white, and although I am not even halfway on my journey, I have learnt that it is possible to have a different relationship with something other than love or hate. I no longer hate exercise but nor do I love it either.
Like all habits, growth, movements, progress – the change occurs in the grey space. We must adapt and evolve, or sadly; die. My money, motivation and time has come and gone but now I work with what works for me. I sweat the small stuff that leads to the big changes. I do my strength training with a trainer. And now, I do my yoga in a community and friend who are supportive and nourishing for my being. Also, it’s heated, and it turns out – these bones NEED warmth. I look forward to going on a winters morning. Who says that about winter, morning exercise?! I never thought I would. So anyway, this practice is good for me. It is fast and sweaty, and I am fully in my body during class. And then, it is peaceful and purposeful because the teachers and the community make the mundane memorable.
I have a new-found appreciation for meditation. And no, I am not ‘there yet’ either. Yes, I would like to practice it more, be better, sit stiller. But that is not the only point to be made. Meditation isn’t some Everest-type climb where you get a gold star at once you reach the top. It is becoming comfortable with your practice today. In whatever state it is in. It is a perfect reminder to get our heads out of a future that has not occurred yet. I think it would be beneficial for me to create a daily habit here but again, I am only but a human on a continual journey not a leaper of peaks and pinnacles.
One of the other things I do now is learn more. Unstructured, informal learning. I used to feel so guilty about this. Like I was wasting my time. And I can see how many people would still see it that way. I am not learning to achieve a certificate or a qualification (and lord knows, I could do with a few more). There is no real goal or end state. It is just learning for learnings sake. That is, to grow as a human being and expand my mind and perceptions of myself and the world around me. I am not forced into specialisation or specification. Nor am I bound in a fruitless game of memory against those advantaged and disadvantaged so. For me, structured and academic learning has predominantly taken the ‘fun’ out of learning. The one size fits all methodology enables these foundational teachings to hit the widest audience but unfortunately it has then stunted, in a perpetual cycle of box ticking and slow progress.
Yes, I am still completing my Masters but I made the right decision to sit this current unit out. I completed the unit’s content across two undergrad subjects I did last year but the powers that be will not credit a postgrad unit with two very recent and well scored undergrad subs. Don’t even get me started on the practical workplace skills I have to cover this unit either. Let’s just say, I dodged a bullet anyway. This unit got more than half the enrolled students up in arms about its excessive workload, lack of any real learning, and complete cluster-fuck of responses from the University in question. Seriously guys, if you’re gonna keep charging people in this country $40,000+ for a two-year postgrad degree – you sure as hell better make it worthwhile.
I digress. Back to the elephant in the room. Yes! I went back to paid employment. Why? Because I wanted a new challenge, I wanted to work for someone great, I wanted to try a new, smaller company environment, I wanted to work with great products, I wanted to interact more with customers, I wanted to create some structure in what had become a very unstructured lifestyle. It took time to find the right place. If I told you some of the things I got rejected for on the way, you’d laugh…in horror. But my heart wasn’t in a lot of them and it showed – in my multiple failings. All for a reason though, right? Absolutely. I have landed a role that is sufficiently challenging, fast-paced, freeing, rewarding and opportunistic. And it is quite possibly the last direction I thought I’d find myself in. But that is exactly where I need to be. The obstacle is the way. To growth, pain, progress, discomfort, joy, fulfilment and oh, it’s PART TIME.
I have this unbelievable balance in my life at the moment. In an average week, I:
- Work in the office a few days
- Do some work from home
- Study formally or learn twice as much informally
- Move in my body through yoga and strength training
- Eat out and socialise with new friends and old
- Listen to copious amount of music which I have learnt is a MUST for my soul
- Slowly chip away at my future ventures – a coworking space, media plans, boutique accommodation ownership, becoming an ethics teacher…and so much more
- Spend quality time with my husband; cuddling (yep), talking, eating naughty things, living, laughing and loving the shit out of each other
- Go to cheap and free appointments at student clinics – I’ve had some serious wins
- Explore my local neighbourhood and all it has to offer; who knew these places existed on weekdays also
- Sleep like a mofo – many hours, many days
- The biggest thing of all, is a lot of the time – I DO NOTHING.
Yep. Sweet-fuck-all. And it is GLORIOUS. So I’m totally not quite there yet with the guilt-free aspect on this one but that hasn’t really stopped me anyhow. I walk around the house with messy hair, in my pyjamas or gym clothes and pause for an impromptu one-woman dance party. I sing really, really loudly, often. I even have a karaoke mix which gets a fortnightly belting. I sometimes Marie Kondo (excessively organise and minimise) stuff that has been sitting there for years. I roll the skateboard under my feet while sitting at my desk looking at pictures of dogs. I water the household plants far too infrequently. I talk to the fish. I cried when one died this week. I hadn’t cried in so long.
I connect with people across the world despite spending much less time on social media. I have never turned the TV on during the day in 6 months and I am a better person for it. I read. I sometimes find this unbounded motivation to do great things with my mind and my body. I think, a lot. I also don’t think, a lot. I do crosswords. I plan ahead. I miss trams and trains. But I don’t rush. I am conscious and polite in public. I have this magnified awareness. I feel sad for the state of the world then positive for the state of the youth whose relationship to the world and people is much better than previous generations. I’ve learnt so much about international politics. And not through biased news channels. I am an open mind. I sit in the sunshine as often as I can. I buy less things. I don’t cook very much still. I enjoy vacuuming. I’m learning to be a better sober friend. I’m fairly new to this. I still drink. If that’s what you were wondering. Sometimes it’s awesome. Sometime’s it’s not as awesome anymore. But that’s ok. Seasons change. Thanks Future Islands. Great song that.
I’ve obviously reached the limit of my logical thought (really?). Basically life is currently both up and down with a shitload of middle-ground spread in between it’s thick and juicy slices. I am not entirely comfortable at the moment nor am I in any discomfort. Which is nice. I would like to write more. And talk more. I really need to start that podcast or doco. One day.
Until next time. It’s just you and me kid. Not the world or the politics or the bullshit. It’s just you and me. So be kind to yourself and each other. Let’s show those ‘cants’ that we’ve got this. Good will prevail.