22 June 2012

On Belonging...

Upon recent reflection I've realised that one of the things that is most important in my life is belonging to something.

The times I've been happiest, felt most alive, most confident and when life just seems to whirl by with joy and energy are all associated with belonging to something. Whether that's AFS as an exchange student, a cohort of engineering students (and the engineering revue), the SCA, more specifically a college or a household, or to a group of people referred to as "RKoL DJs".

To be able to say "I'm part of [organisation]" either privately, or publicly gives me security and confidence.

When I don't belong to something I go looking for something to belong to, trying to fill that gap (building lego houses anyone?). When I can't find something that fits I end up in a strange fuzzy-headed space filled with long days on the couch doing not much.

As I've re-integrated back into life in Australia the SCA has been a strong reminder of this dichotomy for me. Attending my first full festival since 2007 I was reminded of why I used to be so integrated into the Society and volunteered my time and effort to it. I was reminded of what it meant to give service to others simply because you wanted to, and what it felt like to have a place and to belong.

So, as of last night I am Rowany's A&S officer, and I've spent today thinking about Bunch o' Classes (September 8-9, stick it in your diaries!), how to revive dance in the Barony (a 12 week beginner's class will be coming your way soon), and composing a survey to see what is currently happening across the Barony and what people would like to see happening.

I also spent today humming part of the Cutt Bransles, which led me onto the Newcastle, and hence I present you with this clip of a man and an accordion and a familiar refrain (I love the gusto)

14 February 2012

Some Afternoon Observations

One of the myths in my family is that I don't notice stuff. Or if I do I don't appreciate or enjoy it.

Which is not accurate.

I remembered this as I was gazing out of my train this afternoon, listening to music and reflecting on my work day.

So here are some things that caught my eye on my train trip home this afternoon, all of which made me smile, pause and appreciate being here in this time and place.

1. All the wild fennel in flower along train lines, roadside and other abandoned land.

2. Middle aged men carrying large bouquets if flowers on the train.

3. Clouds that bump along in the sky, looking like they've floated over from the opening credits of The Simpsons.

13 February 2012

Exhausted. I blame DrNik

Messing about in boats, photo by Laela
This weekend we went for a short paddle in a lake... No wait, wrong story...

This weekend we went for a long canoe trip (approx. 25kms) in a river leading into a dam, with 10 other people to celebrate DrNik's birthday.

There was canoe-based shenanigans, lots of trees, some wildlife (including the first goannas I'd seen in 15 years), champagne and lobster.

It was good fun. Nice to get outdoors, to get out of my comfortable non-camping rut, and watch the world go by at the pace of a paddled canoe. I'd like to report:
  • no sun-burn, except possibly on my lower lip, 
  • that lobster cooked over a campfire is tasty, as are sausages made by Laela, and
  • that apparently I have canoeing shoulders, as there's very little muscle ache.
All of which leads to a continued thought that we should really own a sea-kayak, since we live so close to that flat piece of water known as the Parramatta river.

10 February 2012

Something to be mad about

I've decided to refer to 2011 as the year of the fuzzy bubble - as in, I was in one. Mostly in recovery mode from the emotional exhaustion that hit (I finally acknowledged??) in January 2011.

One of the manifestations of emotional exhaustion is complete numbness, an inability/fear of emotion and an inability to care about stuff. It's horrible. Especially as I could remember some intense and welcome emotions that helped to define who I was and remind me that I was alive, engaged, connected, belonged and had a purpose. oh, and the worst writer's block I've ever had - the words were there, they just wou;dn't connect with my fingers.

Over the last month those emotions have returned. Yay! I'm a lot happy, lighter, more playful and able to consider the "what next?" questions in my life.

Also, it seems I am able to get mad about things that appall me, like the implications in this article by David Horton.

Whilst in the UK I had forgotten about the insidiousness of the IPA (Institute for Public Affairs), or perhaps I wanted to hope that we weren't an entire nation of gullible/wool-pulled-over-our-eyes idiots. It seems I was naive, and instead they have received massive funding from the mining industry, and have, through dint of being well-written, prolific and accessible to over-worked journalists, made their way into more mainstream media...

David's post then led me to the desmogblog, with their book (now high on my list of books to read), and their manifesto Slamming the Climate Sceptic Skam. It's a great analysis of what some elements of the PR industry are doing REALLY WELL to ensure that oil and energy companies don't have to change anything or have their enormous profits threatened.

Can you say the word propaganda?? It's not just something that was used in the second world war.

Time to get grumpy again.

What am I going to do about it? Well, my current job is one avenue for action. As is the website I built (with Geoff's help) over Christmas. It's in it's baby steps stage at the moment, but if you feel like listening into less ranty, more constructive posts then head over to Sustainably Literate.

19 September 2011

All a bit of bad timing, really.

Glades Bay mangroves

Back in June I was all optimistic about my ability to blog, to record life and get out of my head.

That clearly hasn't happened, for a number of reasons, which can be summed up as "a bit of bad timing".
  1. I've been studying 2 nights a week at TAFE. While this has done wonders for my confidence in my knowledge on sustainability in business, it's wreaked havoc on my social interactions
  2. Gladesville is lovely, but so far away from those I hold near and dear. Visiting friends involves two trips on a form of public tranport, as we do not yet have a car that can be used for such activities. Score 1 for environmental sustainability, score 0 for social sustainability.
  3. Work is... intense. There has been little time to pause and regroup since I started back in February. This has included managing a needlessly stressful project with a tight monthyl deadline. All of this combined with a construction site beside my office window means I come home tired and vague and unable to connect with anything.
Sometime back in January I realised I was suffering from emotional burnout:
"Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring."
"Symptoms include low self-esteem, self-doubt, insecurity, compulsive worrying, self-induced stress and a general sense of helplessness. Together, these symptoms needlessly consume the individual’s emotional power at a rate that, many times, exceeds the psyche’s ability to replenish it."
"Emotional exhaustion is the experience of feeling drained of all energy or all used up. When people begin to experience emotional exhaustion they may try to reduce the emotional stress of working with other people by detaching from others. They commonly begin to maintain an emotional distance from others."
Which has compounded the above bad timing. Or perhaps the bad timing has compounded my seeming inability to recover from the burn-out. It's taking all my energy to deal with work and TAFE, with any remainder being put into home and relationship. Leaving no energy time and energy to do the things that will help heal the burnout (relaxed social gatherings with good friends, for instance)

The good news is that TAFE classes will soon be over, which means I can resume my regular Tuesday night sewing and chat circle. The weather has warmed up and there's more daylight in general which always improves my mood.

And I am giving myself permission to be a bit more relaxed at work. Sometimes my sanity and work life will imporve if I take a little time to contemplate life and reach out to friends.

11 July 2011

A Rather Lovely Weekend

(which I am recording, so the subsequent back to work crash is somewhat dissipated).

My, what a lovely weekend, possibly the best I've had in MONTHS!

Friday night became unexpected date night. An impromptu "let's have a drink" fell through, leaving Geoff and I in the situation of not yet eating no dinner at 8pm and no groceries in the house. We went up to our (increasingly favouritest) Italian restaurant on the main street (Vespa on Victoria Road, it's lovely). We ate lovely home-made pasta. We shared a bottle of wine and a creme brulee. We canoodled in the corner.

I can't actually remember an evening together like that in a very long time, which I think is possibly the result of the stop-start long-distance thing we've had to put up with since November last year. Now he lives down here, and we're in the same house, the routines and sense of security means we're both happy and able to be more open and relaxed.

Saturday I acted on last weekend's decision to make sure I was out of the house by 1pm. I realised that sunlight, fresh air and walking makes me happy (surprise!). This was following an episode the previous weekend where we didn't leave the house until 3pm and I became a bit resentful.

There is a park at the end of our street that leads onto Glades Bay, with a lovely walk through the remnant bushland, mangroves and local creeks. I suspect this will become a favourite track, as it allows me to be in trees, smelling the smells of a Sydney coastal creek system, watching the local birds (mostly crows), and clambering around sandstone rocks. Must remember to take the camera next time. The weather was gorgeous - sunny, warm-ish for winter, not too windy. Perfectly pleasant for a walk around a bay.

Saturday night we headed into town for birthday drinks with Geoff's good mate at the Opera Bar. Deciding that a cocktail was my preferred drink of the evening I decided to try the Honey Amaretto Sour. YUM! Refreshing, as a mojito is, but balanced through the honey and amaretto sweetness. Could have guzzled them all evening, apart from the price...

Sunday we (again) headed into town for Yum Cha with DrNik and his Italian friend. LOTS of tasty tasty chinese dim sum and tea. Only downside is yum cha in Sydney seems to have become quite expensive, at around $30-$40 a head the last two places we've been to. This now makes it a nice-special-occasion option, rather than a random how-about-it? option. Oh well.

Again the weather was lovely, so Geoff and I then wandered though Pitt St mall nosing around for things we needed for the house. This lead to a side trip to Top Ryde shopping centre to order some chairs (so we don't always have to sit on the couch, and guests don't have to sit on the floor - bonus!), and the discovery that Top Ryde has a HUGE chinese grocery and and Aldi. Our level of enjoyment/excitement is perhaps sad [1], or perhaps and indication of the happy domesticity that's occurring. I'd like to think it's the second. Certainly the second option makes me smile.

After an emotionally choppy year (or two), it's nice to finally have some stability and to be happy-comfortable again. The ability to go for walks, enjoy date nights, and be excited by Chinese groceries stores is, to me, and indication that stuff is getting better. The effects of the emotional burn-out have not completely disappeared, but these are all good signs.

[1]One of the second "dates" that Geoff took me on, was a walk from his place in London to the local HUGE chinese grocery warehouse for the purchasing of ingredients for dinners in future. This was a great sign of compatibility, as a chinese grocery store is one of my favourite places to be.

15 June 2011

Last week: Moving house

It was a long weekend, it poured down for most of it. We had belongings to be collected from 4 different places. It was the longest and dampest move I've ever done, but also amongst the least stressful and least emotionally draining.

New place is a two bedroom flat, which Geoff owns, in the old Sydney suburb of Gladesville.

It's on a ridge above the river, so there's a view of water as I walk home, and views of neighbouring ridges. It's reminded me how much I feel more settles and hopeful when I can see into the distance. I grew up with a view of the Blue Mountains, which mostly explains this desire to be under open skies.

Probably the word that best describes it is 'cosy'. It has enough space for two people, with not much surplus. But you don't feel crowded, probably because of the layout. The internal window between the ktichen nd the living room helps with this, giving a sense of a larger space without the emptiness that can come from open-plan

Storage! omg, the storage. I'm in heaven. There's a pantry(!), a linen press (!) and a garage (!!). I don't think I've had any of those since moving out of home in 2000, except at one place for 1.5 years. Geoff redesigned the kitchen in the flat when he first moved in, and so it also has many useful sized cupboards, and a decent amount of benchspace.

Finally, what surprised me the most about the move was the unpacking. Much of my stuff has been in storage for a year. I moved into a fully furnished place in London for my final 5 months there, and then into a friend's place in Sydney for the past 6 months, and hence didn't require furniture or most of my kitchen items, books, etc. Taking the kitchen things out of a box and placing into cupboards was quite cathartic, like greeting an old part of myself that I'd forgotten about.

Given the amount that I have moved in the last 11 years, my sense of being at home and grounded has always related to the familiar objects around me. Perhaps part of the reason I've been feeling so grey and lacklustre for all these months is because part of me was in a box in a storage unit, not being used.