Create First.

I open my iPad in the morning to check up on something and emerge hours later after falling down the rabbit hole of the internet. Again.

I try not to be too hard on myself. Social Media is designed to draw us in, to keep luring us back, to reward us for liking, clicking, scrolling, swiping. It is designed to turn us into addicts.

I take steps to minimize this influence in my life. Notifications are off. I keep my iPad and laptop away from the bedroom. I still don’t own a smartphone.

And I still find myself distracted more often than I’d like.

Starting my day on the computer or tablet is productivity poison. I am swept away by a deluge of bad news, nasty people and comparisonitis.

Checking my email first thing sets me up to be in a reactive mindset for the rest of the day, letting my inboxes dictate my to-do lists for me.

I relied on this so heavily last year that I started to forgot how to create for and from myself. Creative juices and muscles shrivelled away. Finding my way back to my own creativity, bringing something new into the world, fleshing out my own work instead of gorging myself on inspiration porn, has been incredibly hard for me.

 

Right now, I’m trying to raise my standards for myself.

Create First.

Share Second.

Consume Last.

 

Working to build this little mantra and habit is helping.

First thing, before I check my inboxes, I try to create something of my own, no matter how small. Even if it’s just three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness journaling. It might be a small sketch. Or a blogpost draft.

But I create.

 

Second, I share.

I am notoriously crap at sharing and promoting my work even if it’s crucial to my business. I do okay on word of mouth referrals, but I’m crippling my own potential by not putting more of my work out there.

Sharing comes second, whether it’s something I created that day, or something older I want to showcase.

 

Only when I have done those two things do I get to consume.

It’s never perfect.

I still fall down the internet rabbit hole, but now I end more days knowing that at the very least I have taken steps to bring something of my own into this world first.

And that can make all the difference.

Minimalism Game – Wasted

January 2018, I completed a 31 day challenge where you throw out one item on the first day, two on day two, three on the third and so forth.This was inspired by The Minimalism Game, my Mum and I just extended it for an extra day. 496 items later, here’s what I’ve learnt.

*

“It’s a pity though,” she said. “All that food going to waste.”

I’d just told her about helping my parents purge six shopping bags full of food stuff from their kitchen, most of which was past the sell by date.

Way past the sell by date.

 

I absolutely agree with not wasting food, but I’ve come to realize I’m actually wasting more food by hanging on to the old stuff.

Food that is 3, 6, 8 and more years past the sell by date is already wasted.

Keeping it means I can’t see what is in my cupboards that is still usable.

Keeping it means I am buying duplicates because I can’t find things I thought I had.

Keeping it means things get lost behind crap and end up going to waste along with it.

I am wasting more food by not throwing away what is already wasted.

 

However.

Letting go of it I am now able to use up what is actually usable.

I am able to cultivate awareness of what I do and don’t need and am now able to shape my  buying habits accordingly.

I’m buying less.

Using more.

Cooking is more fun, organized and pleasurable.

I’m more likely to cook that fancy pasta because I actually remember it’s there.

I’m using the special sauce because it’s not hidden behind 20 jars of jam I don’t eat.

Meals feel more special every day because I’m actually able to use some of the fun, fancy and exotic ingredients I was previously unaware of.

 

Food waste is a terrible thing and I try my best to keep it to a minimum.

But keeping food that is older than my little brother isn’t going to suddenly make it usable again.

It’s just taking up mental and physical space.

I’m trying to learn from the things I wasted so I don’t have to waste more of the same in future.

And admitting to myself: “No, I probably do not need three pots of shrimp paste.”

Minimalism Game – Fantasy

January 2018 I completed a 31 day challenge where you throw out one item on the first day, two on day two, three on the third and so forth. This was inspired by The Minimalism Game, my Mum and I just extended it for an extra day. 496 items later, here’s what I’ve learnt.

*

Oftentimes what is hardest isn’t letting go of an item itself, but disentangling myself from the identity I have attached to it.

Items I have purchased and kept for an idealized, romanticized version of myself.

I would like to be the kind of person who uses those cute heart shaped silicone shapes to make pralines for her boyfriend (who actually isn’t that into sweets, and would be way more excited about a good steak).

I would like to be the kind of person who romantically sits on the couch leafing through her cookbooks, but the reality is I have better shit to do and there’s an app for that.

I would like to be the kind of person who creates amazing mixed media art with all the wonderful art supplies she has, but the reality is my preferred medium is pencil, paper and some watercolour.

I would like to be the kind of person who fills myriads of beautiful handbound notebooks with prose, but the truth is that fancy notebooks paralyse me, and I’d prefer to just scribble around in a 50ct writing pad rather than risk marring those pristine pages with something mediocre.

I would like to be that person, but the truth is:

I’m.

Just.

Not.

Those things belong to a romanticized vision of the person I would like to be, but can’t be arsed to become.

Letting go was painful, because letting go meant admitting “I am not that person”.

The first time I experienced this I was clearing out my room after finishing school and came across a box of magic tricks for kids. I’d owned it for years and barely used it. I was in love with the idea of being able to do those tricks, but it dawned on me that I didn’t want to spend the days and months and years it would take to actually be moderately proficient at that skill.

I would rather be enchanted myself than spending my life perfecting my sleight of hand to enchant others.

I would rather find joy in actually cooking than in thinking about cooking.

And I would rather have fun making good art on crappy paper than never making any art at all because the paper is too good.

496 items later, I haven’t missed a single thing.

Hold

Love hold my hope
Love hold my dreams
Not too tight
So they may breathe

Just so close
That I may know
That they are safe
And time will show

If they were ever
Meant for me
If not my love
Then set them free

Rising

Hail the Dawnstar, shining bright
Chase out the horrors of the night
Drive out the shadows, ghosts and fears
Heal the nightmares, dry the tears

Sunlight blazing, eyes grow bright
Heart be joyful, kissed by light
Spirits rising, soul take flight
Dawn has come, farewell the night

Cast your flames out far and near
Impale the wraiths upon your spear
Chase out the horrors of the night
Hail the Dawnstar, shining bright

Seeing

Thank you

To the strangers,
Who saw me in the street
And gifted a smile.

Thank you

To the teachers,
For seeing potential and strength,
For shaping body and mind into who I am today.

Thank you

To the healers,
Who saw what was healthy and whole,
When all I saw was brokenness and hurt.

Thank you

To the people who looked into my eyes and saw me,
As I voiced truths and dreams
I couldn’t admit
even to myself.

Thank you

To my family,
For seeing me as I am,
Not how you want me to be,
Always.

Thank you

To the friends who chose me, as I chose them.
For seeing me,
in light, and in shadow,
in weakness and in strength.

Thank you

To my partner, my lover, my other half,
For seeing me and helping me see myself clearer.
To see and to be seen by you,
there can be no greater gift.

Thank you

To that mysterious force that permeates my life and being,
for seeing me when there is no one else to see me,
and no light to see me by.

Thank you

To those who see the good and real and true in this world,
whose hearts see clearer than eyes ever could.

Keep seeing.

For the sake of all those who need to be seen.

I see you.

Dear 2017

Dear 2017,

You were good to me and you were also hard.
Hard when I thought you should have been easy.

You were the wild freedom of motorcycling under the open sky and the feeling of being more trapped and uninspired than ever before.

***

You were love and connection.

Laugh out loud tea parties with best friends. Family. Baking and crocheting with my Mum. Motorcycling and geeking out about motorcycling with my Dad. Deep conversations and big life decisions with my partner.

***

You were disconnection and loss.

Hitting goals I thought meant something to me, but that were probably someone else’s goal to begin with. No fanfares. No fairy glitter. Just a vague sense of loss and mild disappointment.

You were the reluctant and cathartic purging of certain structures, obligations and people from my life and the gentle thrill of subtle new beginnings in their place.

You were stability. You were safety. You were distraction and boredom and yearning for more but feeling too tired and burnt out to do anything about it.

Craving fullness while running on empty.

***

Dear 2017, you were surrender under protest.

Hibernation and the slow, uncomfortable and joyful process of reconnecting to my body and soul after months of disconnect, overwhelm and busyness.

You were funky new hair, freshly pierced ears and the same boring outfit every day.

Embracing the shift while clinging to familiarity.

***

You were doing the work and resisting doing the work.

Taking first tentative steps towards old dreams and being pleasantly surprised.

Resisting the truth harder than ever even while reaching out for it like my life depended on it.

Being utterly broken on the wheel of my own resistance.

***

Dear 2017, you were watching so much coming undone, in my life, the lives of others and the world at large and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

Waiting for someone else to save me, and the painful realization that no one could.

You were the shedding of the skin, an arduous peeling back of the countless, colourless and brittle layers to uncover what is good and real and true.

***

Dear 2017,

You were good. You were hard.
You were amazing. You were uncomfortable.

You were an important year and I hope I will understand you and your role in my journey a little better soon.

Right now I’m mostly confused.

Goodbye 2017.

As uncertain and wobbly as it may be

And as reluctant as I may be to take it

I am ready

For the next step.

Awakening

The day they led me to the water, I saw my mother go mad.

She raved and cried and clawed with all her strength at the men holding her back, her outstretched fingers contorted into talons, reaching desperately for mine. Her eyes bulged, her face so twisted with horror I barely recognized her. “My baby!” she screamed over and over again, her voice shattering, distorted by the blood roaring in my ears. “Not my baby, it’s all a mistake!”

I twisted and flailed in the grip of strong, calloused hands, straining desperately towards her, mad with terror. But the men were strong and I was weak and they hauled me away while others restrained my mother. She fought like a thing possessed, eyes rolling, spittle spraying down her chin.

But they were too many.

People in the mob around us pointed and hissed and spat at us, quickly withdrawing from reach if we came too close, eyes narrowed with hatred or rounded with fear.

I could smell the sweat of the men carrying me away, could smell my own fear oozing from my pores, feel the tears streaming down my face.

I was frightened because mother was frightened, but I didn’t understand what was happening. I knew it was bad, and I knew it was because I hadn’t learned to control what was happening to me.

It was all my fault.

***

Dear Pages,

the wise woman has given a disturbing prophecy regarding my most darling little girl. I dare not repeat it here, but I fear for her future, for what she may become. I desperately hope that what was foreshadowed will not come to pass.

I.

***

The first time it happened, it felt good, like I had swallowed warm tea on a cold day. But mother scolded me something terrible and sent me to bed without my supper. I was sad, because she was making parsley soup, which I love very much. Late that night, as I lay trying to ignore my rumbling tummy and fall asleep, I could hear mother crying quietly in the room next door. I wanted to ask her what was the matter, but I was afraid she would still be angry with me.

***

Dear Pages,

it seems the prophecies are coming true. It has happened. My little one is awakening to what she is. If someone were to find out, I fear for us both.

I.

***

Mother sat me down the next day and brushed my hair and said she was sorry she got angry, but I had frightened her and I must promise never to do it again. I hugged her tightly and kissed her on the cheek and promised I wouldn’t.

I was still thinking of the soup.

The next time I felt it begin to happen I tried so hard to stop it. I felt it change, from light and bubbly to something black and cruel that twisted hotly inside me and it hurt and burned and I cried because mother would be angry but even as I tried to squash it down it rose inside me, tearing at my insides like cold claws and Mother came running at my cries and I was unable to stop it and it happened again, but this time it was so different and it frightened me.

I was feeding the chickens when it happened. When I came to, I had blood on my hands and there were feathers everywhere.

Mother held me tightly as I sobbed. She wasn’t angry this time. She was afraid.

***

Dear Pages,

It has happened again, she is unable to control it. The first time was harmless, even beautiful, but this, I cannot even begin to describe. I am taking her to see the wise woman tomorrow. It will be a long journey, but she is the only one I can turn to.

I.

***

Mother woke me at the crack of dawn. The fields were misty and the air was still clammy and cool. We walked for a long time, mother hurrying me along even when my legs were so tired I would stumble, looking over her shoulder again and again and again.

At last, deep in the forest, we arrived at a strange, moss-covered little hut that leaned so much that I thought it must surely topple over at any moment. Out of the lopsided old hut came a lopsided old woman, with hair like dirty rags and eyes that were yellow like a cat’s.

I didn’t like her very much. She smelt strongly of herbs and rotting soil and she grabbed me by the chin as though I were a goat at the farmer’s market. She looked at my palms and stared into my eyes for a long time muttering under her stinking breath and making me dreadfully uncomfortable. She slathered me with strange smelling salves and smoked sage all over me. In the end she sang a strange song without words. It all made me very sleepy.

Late into the night she sat whispering with my mother as I played by the nearby fire. I watched the flames flicker and saw great battles and dragons dancing and witches burning.

Mother’s eyes looked very red when she came to me, but it may just have been the light of the fire. She took my hand and we began the long way home. When we arrived dawn was already breaking.

***

Dear Pages,

I do not know what to do anymore. The old woman has put a binding spell on my little one, but she says her powers are weak and my girl’s are strong, and she does not know if it will not do more harm than good.

I.

***

I was not allowed to leave the house anymore. Mother said it was because I was very ill and it would be dangerous for me and the other people if I went out. I didn’t feel ill. But mother looked so sick with worry that I promised her I’d be good and stay home until I was better.

***

Dear Pages,

It breaks my heart to keep her cooped up inside like this. Tomorrow I will get some supplies at the market and take her away. There is an old hut in the mountains, perhaps we can find shelter there.

She is a good, kind child and she does not understand what is happening to her. I do not understand what is happening to her. Why it is happening to her. I do not know how to save her. I do not know… I do not know… I do not know…

I.

***

Yesterday I got so bored, that I snuck out of the house when mother was out, to play with my best friend Tommy.

I think we had a fight, I don’t remember about what. I came home with my palms ripped and bloody. Blood on my hands, sticky all over my face, fouling my clothes. I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t speak. My face was wet and salty with blood and tears.

Tommy didn’t come home that day.

I never saw him again.

Later that day, I found a small, purple bite mark on my forearm and scratches on my neck.

***

They came for me that night.

Mother was cleaning up my scratches, hands shaking, tears falling into my lap.

They kicked down our door.

Mother tried to stop them, but they hit her and she fell to the ground, water and herbs spilling all around her.

The men grabbed me and carried me away and my mother rose like fury and ran behind us and beat them with her fists and scratched them bloody, but they shoved her away and hit her again and she fell again, but no matter how often she fell she was up again, pleading, screaming, crying, clutching desperately at my hands, trying to pull me from their grip.

More men came and they held her back. I saw one of them punch her in the gut and she suddenly slumped, lifeless, broken, like an empty sack. Her mouth worked soundlessly, a thread of drool stretching slowly to the floor.

They carried me to the sea and tied me to an old, splintered chair with rough ropes. I fought and they cuffed me around the head leaving me almost senseless and then the salt water was in my ears, my nose, my mouth, stinging my eyes, flooding my lungs. I didn’t know which way was up or down, I struggled feebly against my bonds, but the ropes held and the waves crashed and my lungs screamed for air that wasn’t there, and everything went dark, and then everything went red.

***

I came to my senses to the smell of my whole world burning.

===

This piece was written during Week 1 of Laura Jane Williams’ fabulous writing course “Don’t Be a Writer, Be a Storyteller”. Laura really helped me get over myself and just start writing, as well as providing a fantastic toolkit for improving my work. I would not be posting this stuff without her. #srsummerschool

Let Go

Let go

Their path
Is not your path
Living life in their footsteps
Will not make you happy

***

Let go

Of the empty promises
You made yourself and others
If they tear at the fabric of your soul
Maybe they were never yours to keep

***

Let go

Of what no longer sets you on fire
Let it die gracefully
Rather than trying to rekindle
What is already ash

***

Let go

Of the dreams
That were never yours
To begin with

And let magic breathe life
Into what is left
And what is yet to be

In the spaces between

Mr Wrong, Mr Right

J and I arrive first.

We sit, chatting, in a neat little flat on a dozy warm day in May.

I don’t remember who arrives next.

 

I do remember my first impressions.

Mr Right: Love at first sight.

Mr Wrong: “What a dick.”

Mr Right immediately brightens any room with his presence.

Mr Wrong just gets on everyone’s nerves.

Mr Wrong tells me his sob story.

 

Arrogantly, I decide to save him.

***

After our first cotton-candy sweet kiss after a day at the fair, I come home, collapse on the floor and cry.

Everything feels wrong.

Still.

For two and a half years I fight a fight I never wanted to win.

A fight to keep a relationship alive that was dead before it began.

***

Post-weekend: Relief.

Five days to convince myself I’m happy.

Saturday: Pitching back into despair.

***

Two and a half years of trying to stop thinking about him. Trying to forget someone I deeply care about for someone I alternately loathe and pity.

Sobbing “I’m happy” as my life falls to pieces.

I cheat. An innocent brush of the lips on a sleep warm cheek after a silly, sweaty, breathless tickle fight.

And against everything I believe, that wrong makes everything so right.

 

===

This piece was written during Week 1 of Laura Jane Williams’ fabulous writing course “Don’t Be a Writer, Be a Storyteller”. Laura really helped me get over myself and just start writing, as well as providing a fantastic toolkit for improving my work. I would not be posting this stuff without her. #srsummerschool