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Embrace Your Demons

The Bell

The Bell (Photo credit: johnwilliamsphd)

“Life is too important to be taken seriously” – Oscar Wilde.

Earlier this year I was given an article to read called “Embracing Your Demons: an Overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” by Australian psycotherapist Russell Harris.   Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness based form of therapy and looks at teaching Acceptance of ones feelings (wanted and unwanted), situation etc and Commitment and action towards living a valued life.  I’m not going to try to explain the article or the practice here, I’m not a therapist, if you’re interested in it Google it and check it out.  It was only about 7 or 9 pages long.
I have never been afraid of facing my demons in fact strangely I prefer to.  I am more uncomfortable with what my imagination does to icky situations left unattended in my head than I am of confronting them and ‘getting it over with’.  It’s never as bad in reality as my head makes it out to be so I’d rather just deal with it and get on with it.  That and I hate drama and those situations that go on and on and on with no one making the first move or everyone misunderstanding everyone and everything in a situation because nobody will actually talk about it and sort it out.

But Embracing your demons!  I realised I wasn’t so good at and if you read the above paragraph closely I’ve pretty much spelt that out.  By looking at myself and my behaviours and reactions I learnt that my ‘confront it, sort it out, get it over with, and move on’ approach is in itself a form of avoidance.  Whilst, no it could not be said that I avoided the situation, what I have been avoiding is “Feeling”.  By confronting and moving on I don’t have to sit with my feelings and emotions and process them.  I have to tell you it was a bit of a revelation and a rather uncomfortable one to begin with.  Learning how to ‘sit with my emotions’ and feel them and accept them and do nothing about them has been a tough lesson this year.  Rewarding yes, harrowing at times yes, uncomfortable good god yes! but ultimately rewarding.  I think I have found yet another level of understanding of the saying “This too shall pass”.
All of this also brought back to the foreground for me the reminder that we are all in this alone together.  Life is a solo journey, whether you share it with a partner, family, friends whoever, ultimately whether we like it or not we are all alone.  No one else can experience what you experience, no one else can see the world and your experiences the way that you do, no one else can live your life or feel your feelings but you.  To me it is our avoidance, acceptance or denial of this unavoidable truth that brings us together.  Be it in a desperate bid to make it not so or in a bid to compare experiences or under any other circumstances.

Earlier this year I was discussing the ‘We’re all ultimately alone in this life’ conundrum with a dear friend.  She told me how when she realised and accepted this piece of knowledge about life, she found it very liberating and freeing and she then asked me how it made me feel.  Being the honest to a fault person that I am I answered her “I find it terrifying at present.” I said.  I have since that conversation tried to find the liberation and freedom in it that she found.  I can say that I know where she is coming from and that I think at times in the past I have found it that way,  I am not always terrified by it is I guess what I’m saying.  At times I try to rebel against it and deny it but the problem with undeniable truths is just that – their undeniability.

So where am I going with this?  It’s about time you asked!  Truthfully?!  I have no idea but I’m working on it,  I’ve made a lot of ground but I still have so far to go.  I do agree with the very wise Mr Wilde though and his quote that I opened with.  Life IS too important to be taken seriously.

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Beautiful strangers


Storey (Photo credit: [Sir]Bali)

I haven’t written anything in so long, mostly because I haven’t felt that I’ve had anything to write about but also because I’ve been working and so haven’t had as much time to myself.  I have had 4 weeks office temp work through a friend in a State Government department in the city, filling in for someone while they were on holidays.

I have to say I’ve had a great time working there and working somewhere with so many people again.  For so long I’ve worked in a very small business and it’s been refreshing to work with so many people again about 60 on our floor alone.  Being a government department there is always a certain level of uncertainty surrounding job security and the other side of that being that there are, I think, 5 people on the floor who finish up at the end of next week because they are taking voluntary redundancies.  Last week while taking around the envelope to collect donations towards a farewell gift for one of those people leaving I met so many more of the people working on the floor.

One of them, Mark, was another of the people taking a voluntary redundancy and his work station was wallpapered in A4 print outs of photos of him and his wife on their overseas travels.  I couldn’t help but ask about one photo in particular in which he was on the deck of a ship with upturned icebergs in the background.  “Have you been to Antarctica” I asked with admiration and awe.  No he hadn’t but the photos were taken off the southern coast of South America and he proceeded to tell me that he and his wife are going back there in September this year.  He is very excited about his trip and what for him is now the beginning of his retirement.  He shared his maths with me explaining how many weeks pay out he will received and when he can access his super and how at 59 he can continue working for another year and leave with no payout or leave now with his voluntary redundancy and have 52 weeks full pay and take the next year and start enjoying himself and travel which is precisely what he is going to do.  He is such a  beautiful, happy enthusiastic man on the edge of a great change in his life ready to face it with a sense of adventure in his heart and excited about all the possibilities it offers.  I couldn’t help but catch some of his excitement and enthusiasm for life.  Mark and I chatted for some time sharing tales of travels, I got some great tips and even managed to give a couple.  I am so excited for him and the adventures he is about to embark on, and I’m sure he will have ‘the time of his life’ as he is prepared to do just that.

English: Controversial continents/subcontinent...

At the other end of the floor I’ve been working on is Bill, another man taking a voluntary redundancy (VR) and about the same age as Mark, around 60.  Bill is also taking his VR and retiring, he plans to spend more time with his grandkids, whose photos wallpaper his work station.  Bill doesn’t seem happy at all, nor wonderous or excited.  I’d like to think that it is just that Bill is a much more private person not so willing to share his enthusiasm with complete strangers.  I’d also like to think of Bill laughing and having fun with and enjoying his grandchildren and not as the gruff, dour faced old man who I’ve seen the past few weeks.

What an amazing precipice to be standing on the edge of!  I can only imagine the feelings of uncertainty, fear, wonder, excitement, possibility, anticipation, expectations, potential emptiness, fullness, fulfilment of lifelong dreams, disappointment and so many other potential outcomes of such a life change, so much room to get it so right or so wrong.  I admire all of them for their bravery in making the decision to make such great changes and I truly hope that all of them find the space to have the time of their lives, having their time to themselves again after so many years of working hard.

I know Mark has plans to not sit still till he’s around 70 and ‘not so spritely’.


“enthusiasm” (Photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³)

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What motivates you to get out of bed?

Uluru, (Ayers Rock) one of the best known imag...

I haven’t posted anything here for ages and WordPress keep telling me to “post regularly”, well actually I did post something but I took it down as it was too negative. Anyway my blockage to posting is not feeling like I have anything to post about. My life is pretty uneventful at present, I’m still unemployed, still back in Sydney.

Ironically somebody emailed me a job in Christchurch last week that a friend of their’s had posted – a Theatre company looking for an administrator!  Same industry and even more so the same boutique corner of that industry that I’ve worked in for the past eight years. They person who emailed it to me also made comment that they may have a property for me to rent too.   I did think about it seriously for several days but my stomach tightened and I felt isolated, lonely and had that manic screaming unsettled voice in my head again at the thought of going back there so soon.   I took all of those as not good signs.

But I am so bored with not working!   Yes I know I’m going to suck when it comes to retirement.   The applications for the job in Christchurch don’t close until tomorrow?!   Seriously though job hunting is hard work, it’s hard to keep your spirits up and a smile on your face against so much rejection.   Most jobs I apply for don’t even offer the most basic of courtesies of a simple ‘Thanks but no thanks’ response leaving you to have to guess that after ‘x’ amount of time since applying and not having heard anything that they’re not interested in your application.   Come on people how hard is it to write one three or four line email and copy and paste it and send it to all unsuccessful applicants?   Or simpler still, you know I for one really am so over the moon at getting to know for sure what’s going on that I received a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email recently that said straight up “please excuse the bulk email we’ve had a lot of applications” I thought ‘you can bulk email all you like, you’ve actually had the courtesy to let people know!’.

After the no communication from say 90% of applications there is the job interview minefield!  I have once again realised that I don’t do well at stroking people’s egos (probably why I did so badly at my last job considering I was working with so many actors/performers), I’m not a gushing “oh my god you’re soooooo good and I soooo want to work for you and Oh My God you do what? You’re soooooo good, let me work for you” kind of person.  Add to that when you get thrown questions like “What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning” in a job interview.  I kid you not that was one recently and the first things that came to my mind was ‘The alarm clock, my bladder needing to be emptied, thirst, the cat threatening to sit on my head if I don’t get up and feed her.’.  Yeah those would be the top ones.  Then my brain came back to the interview room and thought oh you don’t REALLY want to know what motivates me to get out of bed in the morning at all you want some particular answer that will tell you that I’m THE person for the job. Then the brain came back with a big – “I got nothin for ya on this one, you’re on your own” – gee thanks brain!  If anyone has the correct answer to that question in a job interview please do leave me a comment with it as I’m curious.

Come on people let’s all get real!  It’s a JOB!  It’s not my whole flippin life, it’s something I do to earn enough money to do all the other things I want to do like travel and yes I do tend to choose a job that sits well with my moral principles and I can bear to go to on a daily basis but hell it is not what is going to motivate me to get out of bed every morning.  The pay cheque will, the cat definitely will, the alternative of mind-numbing boredom if I don’t have a job will, but the job itself, no, not when it’s co-ordinating meetings and training sessions for local government employees.

Maybe if it was something like the volunteer position in Vanuatu helping to build up a cultural centre for the locals, yes that would motivate me to get out of bed in the mornings purely for the work, sadly none of the lottery tickets I bought recently netted me anymore that about $20AU and that won’t pay for my daydream of running off to volunteer to work at a cultural centre in Vanuatu or one of the others in outback Northern Territory.

So to the woman interviewing me for the job recently who asked me “What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning” (coincidentally she was from Christchurch!), the answer I wanted to give you was along the lines of “A lot of things but none of them are relevant to this job, nor are they things that you want to hear, so why don’t you just tell me what it is that you actually want to know and I’ll answer that question for you. Or did you just Google search interview questions and threw this one in to fill in time?” .   The answer I did give however probably wasn’t much better as I told her “I’m used to being the one in your position in interviews and I know that you’ve come up with these questions to illicit certain answers and information and I’m wracking my brains to figure out what you want to know by asking that one?”.   All she gave me was raised eyebrows.   No I didn’t get the job.   Yes I’m willing to admit that I think I suck at job interviews.  Hopefully I am a quick learner and can learn how to shoot the breeze better very soon because I am so over being unemployed. I want a reason to look forward to time off again!

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Beauty within dysfunction

Hyde Park

Hyde Park (Photo credit: sjiong)

Without going into too much of the gory harps and violins details of it all my relationship with my father is precarious at best, toxic and damaging at its worst.  My father is a capitalist through and through and where most people would offer sympathy, compassion, understanding or just plain familial non-judgemental acceptance to their daughter he is out of his league on all of those and instead offers what he knows, criticism, money, anger, judgement, money, opinions that aren’t to be refused or refuted and frustration at human imperfections oh and did I mention money.

I don’t have a relationship with my father where I can discuss emotions or ask for advice or understanding on issues in my life.  I want more than anything to be able to have that relationship with my father where we can as two adults with different life experiences, talk about those life experiences and be accepting of and even admiring of each other but I’ve learnt the hard way more than once that anything personal divulged to him is later used against me as proof of my weakness, frailty and not being a perfect human being.  There has even been occasion where my personal and private business has been the topic of discussion, merriment and ridicule at the dinner table on Christmas Eve in a foreign country with people who were complete strangers to me.  On that occasion when I confronted him, in private, with having crossed my boundaries he went on the attack and blamed me for wanting to have ‘secrets’ in the first place.  Suffice to say I no longer divulge any personal detail to my father as he doesn’t hold the respect I require for such information.  This makes me sad as I realise that my father will never ‘know’ me and sadder still when I try to accept that he doesn’t want to, at least not in the accepting, non-judgemental way that I want him to.

All of that said he is one hell of a charismatic man when he turns it on and at times, when I can forgive him, that can be fun to be around.  Just this past weekend for example we were at a family friend’s house for a dinner party that we’d both been invited to when he spontaneously lead the table in an a capella, round robin version of ‘Going to the Chapel’.  It was one of those beautiful moments where I looked around the table as the six of us there sang and thought to myself ‘not many people get to call this a family dinner’ and I’m glad that I get to.

Where am I going with this you might ask?  I am learning to appreciate the beauty within the dysfunction, learning be able to feel let down and appreciative of what I ‘do’ have at the same time.  And let me tell you that’s not easy at times when all you want is to be able to call your father and say hey I’m having a hard time and I could do with your help.  Family relationships can be so confusing to navigate at the best of times, bring into that a narcissistic personality and you get a whole lot more than you bargained for.

It’s hard beyond words to let go of any expectations of acceptance that I have and to get my head around that fact that my father is simply not interested in me as an individual at all.  If I am not what and who he wants and expects then I am wrong and need to change immediately to meet his needs of what I am to be, this doesn’t work well between two head strong redheads.  What I struggle with the most in it all after grieving the fact that I will never have the type of fatherly relationship that most people get to enjoy, after accepting that my father isn’t interested in who I am at all, after learning to stop taking it personally, after learning to not see myself as a failure because of it.  What seems the hardest after struggling with all that is coming to terms with how to love him regardless.  It’s so hard to have all of that hurt and disappointment and to at times really just not like him as a person at all and then comes the beauty within the dysfunction, those beautiful moments that you can often only find with truly dysfunctional people.  Those moments, for all the pain that has led to them, I wouldn’t change for the world but learning to reconcile that with everything else can do my head in at times.  To love and hate, and enjoy and not be able to stand someone at the same time, well to coin a cliché – It’s not always black and white.

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Colour and Light

A collection of cans of paint and other relate...

I haven’t written for a while.  I’m unemployed and contrary popular belief I am quite busy.  I have been doing a lot of work on the space that I live in both physically and metaphorically, internally and externally, for the past couple of weeks.

I have painted the living area of the house that I live in.  I have to say I am a convert to understanding just how HUGE a difference colour can make in your life, to the illusion of space and to the effect on the available light.  I live in an old workers cottage in inner Sydney.  The house has been added to over it’s 150 years by previous owners and is now at a stage of having had done to it about all that can be without tearing the best part of it down and putting a second storey on top.  Anyway it’s only 3.1m wide, that’s just over 10 feet in imperial, and 11m (give or take a few cm) long or 36 feet if you prefer and has been painted the most dreary dull and remarkably dark shade of pale blue for the past 20 years at least.  The shade of blue that was used is akin to that shade you find in storm clouds that is almost grey and has a foreboding about it that warns of more than your usual thunder and lightning.  I have lived with the house painted in this colour for the past eight years, I rent the house from a family member and have enquired on and off over the years about repainting and have been offered the tin of left over paint to ‘touch up’ the existing colour.  This family member and I differ greatly on our colour palette and he has been convinced that I would “paint the house to look like a kinergarten or an experiment in the use of primary colours” so has been reluctant to give his permission for me to change the colour of the walls.  Can I just add here whilst I wasn’t wanting to paint the house to ‘look like a kindergarten or an experiment in primary colours’, what is wrong with that if I did?

That was until recently!  His attitude now is that he is going to renovate and do the aforementioned tearing down and adding a second story so he doesn’t care what I do to the place but sees any money invested as a waste.  This talk of renovation has been taking place for the past eight years so I am comfortable that I’ll get my money’s worth out of my investment of, so far, two 4 litre tins of paint and some various painting equipment.

The Living Room

The Living Room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to the point though, I now have a living room with white walls.  The difference that it has made is truly amazing.  I thought that the house was very dark to the point of having to have the lights on in the day time most days to be able to read and that nothing much could be done about it.  I was so wrong!  The only thing dark about it was the colour of the walls.  The walls being white bounce around the available light beautifully and even on a dark day like today I don’t need to have any lights on inside which is as it should be.  Even at night-time previously the walls ‘ate up’ so much of the available light and because of their colour cast very dark shadows, now I only need to use half of the lighting I did before to light the house and it’s not so shadowy and gloomy.  Yes I know I’m raving about paint!  It’s a revelation I tell you, I’ve been living in the dark quite literally for the past eight years all because of poor colour choice.

Add to this new-found light a new-found spaciousness, as I have continued culling my possessions with a new-found ruthlessness and there is now an air of clean, light, space and even a touch of an echo in my living room and I am really liking it.  I think I have emptied about four or five full car loads (in my little 4 door hatchback) of ‘stuff’ out of my house in the past 12 months and what amazes me most is how on earth I fitted it all in here in the first place.  In all of that culling I have so far only missed two things that I got rid of, my shovel and my pruning saw, yes so feminine of me I know.

I have also been looking for work and going to job interviews hopefully without any residual paint splatters on me.  I now have a whole shelf of books in the shelf that haven’t been read yet to tackle, what a chore!

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Relinquishing Hope

hope goes down the drain

Yes it sounds a little morbid I know, the idea of letting go of Hope.

Once again my inspiration for today’s post comes from another blog Tiny Buddha and a post on that site about When it’s time to stop hoping.

Needless to say the post resonated strongly for me and again confronted and terrified me at the same time.  To give up Hope goes against everything that we’re told most of our lives.  “Hold onto hope” is a Western catch-cry, but to what end.  Thinking on it Hope when clung to relentlessly can keep you stagnated in the past or wistfully dreaming of the future waiting for something to be other than what it is instead of accepting what is and embracing that and making the most of it in the here and now.  Easy right!

No not easy.  How do you let go of hoping that something will change, that you’ll get your desired outcome instead of the unscripted one that you have, of accepting your failures instead of hoping that someone else was wrong and they’ll figure it out and you’ll come out on top.  Truth really does hurt especially when confronted to accept it in all of its hairy, scary naked glory and especially when it’s not what you wanted to hear, see, or have happen, but when the alternative is to stay stuck in a place of ‘hoping’ things to be different instead of acting to make things different or to indeed accept what is and make the most of that, what choice do you have?

So my lesson today is learning when to let go of Hope and to embrace Belief.  Belief that everything will work out in the end, Belief that things are as they are for a reason, Belief that what is and what is to come is and will be far greater than anything that has passed.  It’s not an easy lesson and to tell the truth it doesn’t sit that easily either, I think this will be an ongoing lesson and one that I’m sure will take some work to get the hang of but it is one that feels right none-the-less.

Not Hopeless by any means but trying to recognise when to Relinquish Hope in what might have been but is not and never will be and Embrace Belief in what is and where it can take me and what I can learn, see and experience along the way, not to mention who I might meet.   Lets call it a work in progress.

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Living with Kathleen

I haven’t really been up to a lot the past few days that is worth writing / reading about.  I am in the process of repainting the inside of the house I live in so that I can bear to continue living in it for a while.  I spent yesterday emptying furniture from one end of my living area and piling it up where I could at the other end – I live in an 1860’s worker’s cottage in inner Sydney, it’s 3.10m wide by 11m long with a triangular bedroom in the roof cavity and an outdoor toilet (yes still in this day and age).  In my world space is a valuable commodity.

Anyway I’m having my coffee this morning before finishing the taping and starting with whole cutting in then painting process for the day and thought I haven’t posted anything for sometime.  So here is a journal entry that I wrote in 2000 that I still quite like, I have changed the name of the person – just in case.

Alan Higgs Centre, Coventry, England. An outdo...

Alan Higgs Centre, Coventry, England. An outdoor football pitch at about 9.00pm with flood lights on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10th May 2000

You know those profound moments you have occasionally when the proverbial penny drops.  Somewhere in the back of your mind a huge spotlight, like the ones they use to light up a football field, switches on and catches one of those brilliant ideas that you concocted and exposes it in all of its naked glory.  The funny thing is that that spotlight has the same effect on that thought as does waking up sober next to the thing that did look human, last night after the “I lost count” schooner.  It’s ugly.  Suddenly you can see every design floor in it, every hairy, scary bit, all the extra folds and the grime behind its ears.  Problem is you set that brilliant idea into motion and you’re going to have a fucking hard time stopping the bastard now.

Well recently I had one of those beautifully profound moments.  ‘Living with Kathleen’!  Now I feel like I’m caught under that spotlight with that brilliant idea that I concocted, that would be living with Kathleen, and coming face to face with it in a boxing ring.  The problem is that ‘Living with Kathleen’ doesn’t have a problem with striking below the belt.  You see Living with Kathleen never did sober up the next morning or the one after or even the one after that.  So she has the benefit of irrationality without the sober brain asking “What the fuck is that?” the next morning.  Whereas I on the other hand have the lovely down to earth, practical and at times slightly capitalistic but very sober morals instilled in me from birth by my well-meaning parents.  Don’t get me wrong I love my parents to bits but Jesus I wish they’d taught me to fight dirty.

A Knight in a re-enactment of the Battle of Te...

A Knight in a re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury. The battle took place on 4 May 1471 and was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses. The forces loyal to the House of Lancaster were completely defeated by those of the rival House of York under their monarch, King Edward IV. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here I am under a hot, harsh unforgiving spotlight with Living with Kathleen who fights dirty and I’m still running around dazed by the brilliance of the lights.  The fight or flight knight just came by, sized up the situation, turned and shook his head, and ran off without me.  Now what!  Do I run after the prick thinking he probably has the best plan of attack, or do I stand and fight and try to prove him wrong?

For the record I did ‘run’ a couple of months later and never looked back.