Before 30: A year in review

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As words are hitting this fresh blank page, it is a mere two and a half weeks until the day I meet the much anticipated age of three-zero, expectedly triggering rather considerable amounts of reflection.

For most, myself included, 2016 has admittedly not been the best year. Today those reflective thoughts find me circling many things. On one hand, my successes, my means of creativity, my further experimentation and self-education of all things tea and sewing and other passionate pastimes. On the other, memories of people who have passed on their own tragic terms, reminders of failure, and thoughts of health setbacks my body constantly fluctuates with and often succumbs to.

In the past, those heavier thoughts have sometimes been all too easy to dwell on and to allow their weight to pull me down. Thankfully, one thing I have learned to implement more effectively this year is to allow myself to be more positive and accepting, letting those negative thoughts pass. Due to the state of my physical health I have more (sometimes unwanted) time for my thoughts than most, and so I have no choice but to learn to live with my own racing consciousness without distraction and to love my own company. This feat in itself, has me feeling that this year is not one that has been wasted.

These personal parameters have almost unwittingly directed me to endure an intensive, albeit mostly positive personal journey this year. Though I have been given many great opportunities of growth, writing with a focus on my health and other troubling life obstacles is something that no longer gives me satisfaction. I have become decidedly more introspective around these particular matters, and as a result am considering closing my rather mixed personal blog – perhaps in exchange for a fresh new one where I feel more compelled to only talk about things that I love. I imagine being mostly motivated to share excited words entailing creative clothing endeavours and some personal tea reviews and exploration, as I feel there are buckets of knowledge inside me and years of ongoing passion within these areas that is simply craving to be shared with others who will listen.

Supposing anyone who is reading this is also aware of my Before 30 post I made at the beginning of the year, you would know that through 2016 I have been working towards goals I had hoped to achieve before my next birthday. This list was created with large expectations for improvement of my physical health. Those closer to me will know this hasn’t quite been the case, however perseverance has given me some great successes to celebrate, and a few still to look forward to in the near future. Below notes which achievements were checked off my list, and which are still pending.

success

Successes:

  • See a Cirque du Soleil performance – Went to the Quidam show in February.
  • Find out if I am eligible to donate blood while taking my medication and if possible, give blood. Unfortunately I was told I am not able to donate due to my medication.
  • Make a piece of furniture – made a low table.
  • Go snorkeling at Goat Island. Went just this week!
  • Pay off credit card. Yes, I paid it off, only having to quickly max it out again. It still counts, right!?
  • Go stargazing, find star I bought for my manthing last year in the sky.
  • Write an anonymous pay-it-forward style note, leave 5 copies in various places to be found.
  • Live 3 consecutive days in silence (and technology free) – originally, going to a 10 day silent retreat to learn Vipassana was my objective, but unfortunately restrictions due to health have left me choosing to adjust this one to something achievable.
  • Swear off technology for at least a week – I’ve become too attached, it was definitely time for a technology detox.

Pending:

  • Officially register my seamstress and design business. Have been working towards opening my own little Etsy store, just a few more things before it’s live, and this should be before my birthday!!! Will be updating this list once my shop is open.
  • Exhibit some of my own creative works – at this stage it is undecided whether it will be fashion works, art or a combination of the two, but I’m making progress on both.
  • Investigate, trial and complete a corset with waist training that aids my back issues and improves my posture, while being comfortable enough to sleep in. Still a work in progress due to a couple of setbacks with my industrial plain sewer. On the plus side, I learned a great deal more about my machine.
  • Buy a car. Other monetary commitments have set back the expected time frame for this, will be getting one in 2017.
  • Travel the South Island of New Zealand. Planning a big trip for 2018!

So although not everything was a success just yet, I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge and awareness of myself, my values, my little place in the world and those who I choose to share it with. What has been achieved given my personal parameters through the year is so incredibly satisfying, knowing for sure that the journey through into next year will gain even more momentum.

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Retrospection from a techno-free week

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teachnology

Recently I spent a week living without my phone or computer. The following are a few of my personal observations from enduring those seven days:

  • I call my family a lot. This was the first thing that I noticed, as unsettling feelings of detachment emerged on the first day.
  • My most effective distractions and coping mechanisms for pain management revolve around using technology. This made my week extremely difficult to enjoy and much more challenging.
  • I should use social media less. Often compulsions to check Facebook and Instagram and the like were all too apparent and it doesn’t feel healthy at all feeling so dependent on them. I am deleting my Facebook for iPhone app as of today, expecting this to help me set better habits.
  • Technology is used in my world day to day as a means for accessing most things. From news and Ted talks, design inspiration, obtaining my medical information, to baking recipes and being able to order material and tools for creative ambition. As a result I felt incredibly detached to my reality as I knew it and was not able to be as productive as anticipated.
  • I didn’t anticipate how it would impact my quality time with my partner – they enjoy that we watch television together and my week of being techno-free was a bit frustrating to them in some ways relating to that.

Achievements over this 7 day period include loosely setting myself in the habit of a small daily yoga routine, cleaning and fine tuning my sewing machine, designing and making a personal pattern for a custom fit semi-medical corset for myself,  designing and (nearly finishing) making a wiggle dress – also for yours truly, squeezing in some more beach time while summer is around, allowing more time for silent meditation and learning to be more patient with myself.

It was an interesting experience and gave me more perspective on how I spend my personal time and shed light on how I can be a better and more productive me.

More love letters …and one for me

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Sometimes hiding myself away for a hundred years feels more than right. Sometimes my body or mind becomes difficult and I literally forget to breathe. Sometimes admitting defeat feels like the only possible option. Sometimes I secretly hate myself… Just a little bit.

Most days, I know better. I know that I am loved, and that I am incredibly lucky to have wonderful, loyal people in my life that help me to stay positive. I remind myself that life is precious and my moments of peace, of fleeting love, of remembering to breathe, are worth – well, everything. Difficult days are still happy and good intentions are pushed in to anything my hands can reach. Today, my hands reached for a pen.

A particular letter that had been carefully considered a long while finally came to life. The words flooded out, simple and honest. Half a dozen were written and prepared for meeting their surely unsuspecting readers.

Indulging in one’s own work, a page was tucked away in case I ever have another one of those gray days where I secretly hate myself… Just a little bit. Something to remind myself just for a moment, that things are better than they seem and life is still beautiful. Because the world needs more love letters …so I’ll take one for me.

 

Back to the dark ages with a techno-detox

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With a busy mind and the chaotic world we are enveloped in, one must find a way to slow down every once in a while. A promise was made to myself this year, that I would get by for a week straight without the use of technology – that’s no phone, computer, internet/wifi, television or radio.

Becoming uncomfortably attached to technology and its conveniences, setbacks and distractions, the impending change will be refreshing and welcomed – despite the nightly Ted talk binges and connection through social media being a usually enjoyable part of my day.

The ‘right’ time may never come. So, feeling pragmatic, after some quick planning and a phone call to the folks, tomorrow marks the first day of my tech-free week.

Hopeful that it may help me find more grounding in routine and productivity, and perhaps encourage some more creative direction, expectations see that this week will be far from wasted and another accomplishment looks set to be crossed off my ‘before 30’ bucket list.

no wifi

 

A little something

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Being a believer in the Pay It Forward movement, it was about time again that I did something to contribute. So, some time today was spent drawing up these wonderful “Please take what you need” fliers. Taking them to the printers tomorrow, then will have copies posted around Auckland. Keep an eye out, folks. Really hoping this makes someone’s day.img_1045-1

Blood work

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need blood

After a brief phone call with a nurse from NZ Blood, spirits are somewhat low.

Today I decided to phone the ‘Give Blood’ helpline to discuss my eligibility as a donor while taking my medications, as I am likely to be on them indefinitely. The conversation was to the point and the ruling was given quickly: Ineligible. And that’s a hard pill for me to swallow.

Thoughts are still circling regarding what I can do for the NZ blood service, because you know it’s a noble cause. Blood is life and blood donors can mean just that to some. So while I figure out how I can help, if you happen to be a reader who came across my little post about my little idea, perhaps I can plant a seed of thought for you to consider: Pay it forward and please, become a donor yourself?

The website for NZ Blood Service is really user friendly and has lots of information for donors. There’s also a free-call 0800 number (0800 448 325) where, if you’re like me and need to clarify being eligible, or have other questions about donating, you can talk to someone friendly who knows pretty much everything about it. There are a number of mobile blood drives to keep an eye out for too.

In the mean time, I’ll keep on keeping on and work on impending wins in my Before 30 bucket list.

blood drop words

Before 30

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Life goals, accomplishments and setting ourselves on the right intertwining paths. Being somewhat both retrospective and introspective lately, the all too real cliche of realising my age as I’m approaching 30 is now looming closer than ever. The idea of hitting that aged milestone seemed daunting and, given a few setbacks – the major one being my roller coaster ride and plethora of health issues relating to chronic pain – I felt pretty defeated. Revisiting my bucket list and other written (and until now, extremely quiet) personal goals over the last week or two has thankfully changed my perspective entirely.

A handful of accomplishments are waiting to be crossed off this ‘Before 30’ bucket list I’ve devised for myself. Feeling ambitious and wanting to make each step carefully to ensure my success, I’m compelled to share this list with my fellow readers. So here goes, what follows is my personal checklist for the year – hold me to it!

Before 30:

  • See a Cirque du Soleil performance – this is actually pending, tickets have been bought just tonight for a show in town next month!
  • Exhibit some of my own creative works – at this stage it is undecided whether it will be fashion works, art or a combination of the two, but I’m making progress on both.
  • Find out if I am eligible to donate blood while taking my medication and if possible, give blood.
  • Investigate, trial and complete a corset with waist training that aids my back issues and improves my posture, while being comfortable enough to sleep in – already pretty close to finishing.
  • Officially register my seamstress and design business.
  • Make a piece of furniture
  • Go snorkeling at Goat Island.
  • Pay off credit card.
  • Buy a car.
  • Travel the South Island of New Zealand.
  • Go stargazing, find star I bought for my manthing last year in the sky.
  • Write an anonymous pay-it-forward style note, leave 5 copies in various places to be found.
  • Swear off technology for at least a week – I’ve become too attached, it’s definitely time for a technology detox.
  • Live 3 consecutive days in silence (and technology free) – originally, going to a 10 day silent retreat to learn Vipassana was my objective, but unfortunately restrictions due to health have left me choosing to adjust this one to something achievable.

So there you have it folks, one jam-packed year of challenges just waiting to be won. So far, it’s feeling like perhaps there is a little too much on my plate. But learning to pace myself and live functionally and successfully with my body the way it is, is just another thing I need to master.


There are a number of things that have already been crossed off, in which reviewing these has left me with much more vigor and fire in my belly to keep on keeping on. Initially I felt a bit uncomfortable about sharing that too, but then decided that the pending list above was probably leaving me much more exposed than writing out my personal achievements for the public eye. So, if you are interested, here are the things in life that have me feeling good about myself…

  • Quit smoking
  • Live overseas
  • Live alone for a year or more
  • Learn to be the first person to apologise
  • Learn to love myself
  • Learn to make (grow and cure) my own tea
  • Successfully grow an edible garden
  • Dye my hair an unnatural colour (or all of the colours)
  • Learn to play the guitar – sort of a never ending work in progress, but I can play a few songs, made a couple of my own songs and know most chords etc.
  • Attend a protest for something I strongly believe in
  • Go skinny dipping
  • Do some volunteer work
  • Try out fire poi
  • Shoot an air rifle
  • Ride a horse
  • Feed a hippopotamus
  • Get a tattoo (and then some)
  • See my favourite band live in concert
  • Attend a multi day festival
  • Attend Wacken Open Air (2011!)
  • Make amends with an old friend
  • Gain a creative qualification (Fashion design/construction/pattern making)
  • Design and make my own clothes
  • Get paid to design and create clothes for someone else
  • Take part in a stage play
  • Go on a multi day road trip
  • Work in the not-for-profit sector
  • See healthcare specialist for pain issues
  • Climb Rangitoto Island – I grew up looking at the damned thing, it had to be conquered one day!
  • Complete 60 day Bikram yoga challenge (x2!)
  • Travel alone
  • Backpack/train line through Europe
  • Visit H R Giger’s museum and bar in Switzerland
  • Have dinner at the Eiffel Tower in Paris
  • Spend a day at the Louvre in Paris
  • Visit the Musee d’Orsay in Paris
  • Go on a boat ride down the Seine River in Paris
  • Visit the East Side Art Gallery and put my hands on the remains of the Berlin Wall
  • Walk though Vatican City, visiting St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel inside
  • Walk through the Coliseum in Rome
  • Visit Duomo Cathedral in Milan
  • Consume tea and scones with a British friend in England
  • Sit on a pebblestone beach in Brighton
  • Walk through St Peter’s Cathedral in London
  • Walk through Westminster Abbey and burial grounds, light a candle
  • Visit Camden Markets in London, buy something
  • Visit Bruges and climb the bell tower – just like a fucking fairytale!
  • Eat Belgian waffles and Belgian chocolates in Belgium
  • Visit Amsterdam, go to smoking cafe and live sex show
  • Attend Oktoberfest in Munich
  • Visit Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
  • Dabble in acrobatics – I went to a few classes and learned the basics
  • Visit Kawau Island
  • Swim in bio-luminescent water (glowing blue waves)
  • Get my teeth straightened
  • Get license
  • See Portishead live in London
  • Hold a koala
  • Learn to meditate

Perhaps not the most exhaustive list, but it’s mine and I love it. I intend to make the most of each day and take less for granted. Curious to know other reader’s/writer’s intentions for the year too, if you feel brave enough to share with me.

Productivity wins and new year warfare

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After a roaring start to 2016 making fast progress on my ‘before 30’ bucket list, the last few days have been somewhat difficult. 

I am proud of my progress – lots of research and ideas resulted so far in two patterns and toiles for a special waist training corset design have been made from scratch and completed, which will ultimately help with improving my back issues and be comfortable enough to sleep in(!!!). Drawings, painting and plans for an impending art collection are under way. My CV has even been polished for new work in the new year. Movement, improvement and production are my key words for this year.

The last couple of days however, have involved stress, my computer no longer working(I’ve found out the WordPress app for iPhone is a bit glitchy), a flooded laundry and hallway – rectified now, phew! – and this afternoon topped it all off with falling through a missing wooden plank in a wharf, giving my beautiful black and grey leg ink this brand new, rather concerning red and purple hued colour palette. 

  
Perhaps I am a little battered and bruised, but 2016 you are hella exciting! Here’s hoping this pace keeps up. So long as my coordination perhaps improves…

Oh, Happy day?

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Being human. We must acknowledge that we are imperfect. This includes accepting those days where we feel an urge to snap at friends, or throttle some sense in to those around who are mindlessly making avoidable, destructive mistakes. Accepting those days where we want to throttle ourselves for those same reasons. Accepting that sometimes, we can’t help but react. A short response, a quiet or cold brushing off, the obvious yet unspoken issues creating unwanted space, is sometimes the last thing that you need and those small things can hurt and chip away on that trigger for one to act negatively or sometimes even spitefully. But what if, instead of reacting, or absorbing what others dish out, we turned to a happy mantra? A positive intent? A bit of love?

Festivities! Happy New Year. Happy Birthday. Happy Easter. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Thanksgiving. Happy July 4th. The happy list goes on…

These special days are named for celebration. As different as each of these celebrations may be, they all have one thing in common – the word we start with when wishing someone well on said dedicated special day: Happy.

This is a word of importance. It holds good intentions, integrity and power. To stop for only a few seconds and consider the meaning of it, would you agree that it is significant?

What is the first word most of us say in those first precious seconds of the new year? Happy. We begin the year with positive, headlong resolve. Now I know that many of us are well meaning, but usually somewhere in those first couple of months in the new year, the get-going in your metaphorical step for your new year’s resolution takes a step to the side and fizzles out.

Happiness is something that we all strive for in life, in one way or another.

Perhaps it’s the focus on wanting instead of the mantra/result that keeps us from achieving . Words can be very powerful things, and a short, thought provoking example was once shared with me that I’d like to echo:

Man: I want happiness.
Buddha: First remove ‘I’, this is the ego, then remove ‘want’, this is desire. All that remains is happiness.

I want happiness

I want happiness vs. Happiness

For those who may be unsure of using mantras due to their frequent use in religion and spirituality, it doesn’t need to be complicated. A mantra can be seen simply as an affirmation. It can be as simple as a single kind word you tell yourself. This link shows simple mantras you can use to encourage happiness in everyday life. You can say the aloud or to yourself in your own mind at any time.

Things that can diffuse tension for me are usually like a cup of extra milky tea, playing my guitar, listening to softer music, or if I’m really caught in a moment, as simple as taking my tongue off the roof of my mouth.

There are plenty of other pick-me-ups we can implement that don’t take any extra time out of your day. See what happens when you smile at a stranger. When you grab an extra coffee for that quiet guy at work. When you compliment someone who seems down. When you offer a hug instead of a handshake. When you offer patience along with your persistence.

At the risk of feeling judged and somewhat vulnerable, I wish to share my set affirmation that I say to myself in the mirror each day: I see you. I know you. I accept you and you are loved. You are seen. You are known. You are accepted and loved. You are a good person with good intentions.

Here’s a thought. If we could start each day with simply naming that initial ‘happy’ word to ourselves, wouldn’t that be something? Could that hold the tipping power for a good day? Could that be enough to get you thinking about the right things? Could it invoke a personal revolution? Could it change your world? After all, if I’ve learned anything from my own pursuit of happiness, it’s that small things are often the things that make for big change.

correct-your-mind

But why won’t it stop?

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Here we go: Prepare for some brutal honesty. Some days I feel ripped off. The last couple of days I’ve spent stuck in bed, unable to do anything more than stream TV shows while wanting to simply make a good meal for myself, and/or be able to type, speak or understand more than a handful of words at a time. I feel like I’m worth more than this. Like I should be able to do more valuable things on my worse days. Like the nauseating pain sensations are nothing more than trickery, but I’m yet to see behind the facade of it all to find the off switch for my nerves.

Some days I’m not positive or grateful. I feel like I got a lazy diagnosis and have been pushed through this public health system that I continually remind myself that we are lucky to have, but somehow it’s cheated me. Somehow I’ve been talking to the right people, the right departments, but I’ve not been heard.

Why does it still hurt? Why won’t it stop? Why don’t ‘they’ understand? It’s like my own body has been built as a torture chamber for my consciousness.

It’s gotten to a point where I’ve begun to seriously consider going back on medication that caused me significant memory loss, tremors, headaches, limbs sporadically collapsing, and was left being unable to feel any sensation whatsoever(but at least the pain was reduced, right?). It’s not exactly my first choice. More accurately, it’s my last.  And I’m terrified of the thought of surrendering my body to those particular chemicals again. But what terrifies me more, is if I don’t. It leaves me with few other options.  My goal over the last six months has primarily been to eventually, gradually come off all medication and develop other coping mechanisms within my life to remain functional and get by. For a small period of time, that’s worked for me. I persevered and I miraculously came off my opiate medication and have been getting by on a very careful diet and specially prescribed anti inflammatories. But the last few weeks have been grueling. I couldn’t have survived without my wonderful partner’s assistance and support, both physically and emotionally. The toll is too great for me.

Today, I admit defeat. Tomorrow, I must review my other options. Today is not a good day. It is filled with sadness, frustration, and exhaustion. Today, I want to rip my fucking nerves right out of my body.

*The best visual depiction of how my body feels is in the first 60 seconds:
WARNING: Graphic violence. Do not watch if you have a weak stomach.