2019: Embracing the Plateau

The time has come for me to let everyone else in on my theme for 2019. I stumbled upon this one scrolling through Facebook, but it struck me like a bell. One of the people I follow in my capacity as a midwife is Dr Sara Wickham, who posted about an article ‘In Celebration of Plateaus’. I read the pull out quote and it resonated so strongly with me.


I suggest we reframe plateaus as being both physically and psychologically purposeful, rather than worrisome or in need of a remedy


Davis E (2018). Labor plateaus and our sexual natureMidwifery Today. 127: 14-16.

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that 2018 was hard going and left me feeling quite wrecked and burned out. I now feel a strong pull to recover and rebuild myself into who I want to be going forward. This is not the hiding away from the world and protecting myself deep inside like my year of Chrysalis, but neither is it pushing myself forward ambitiously and putting myself out of my comfort zone as I did with Cusp.

2019 is about moving forward, but doing so in a way that is sustainable and building on the future I want for myself and who I want to be. I think that will require reflection and a lot of self awareness about what I want to keep from my yester-self and what new things I want to try on. What better way to do that than embracing the idea of a plateau. So yes, Plateau is my theme for 2019.

A view of Ha Giang, on the border of China and Vietnam. Green mountains in the background with blue sky and clouds. IN the foreground a winding mountain pathway but right in front, a daisy in hyper focus.

The idea of a plateau is often held as a negative. They are often perceived as being stagnant of growth and with a sense of holding back, or taking the easy route. However, as with all things, there are more positive ways to consider plateaus.

Plateaus are rest points, while you’re climbing, or pushing, learning, or building. There’s also often a view, even if it’s specifically of the progress you’ve already made and how far you’ve come. Plateaus give you the chance to continue to progress, slowly, and without exerting extraordinary amounts of energy. You get to maintain forward momentum, but in a way that continues to allow recovery before you start climbing again.

I want this year to be a year where I do move forward. I want to do and try new things, but I want that to be rooted in a foundation of self care and healing. I want to prioritise coming back from the burn out I began 2018 with and which was exacerbated by the trash fire that largely describes last year for me. I want the option of stretching myself and choosing ambition, but not at the expense of recovery.

So what might that look like? Here’s a list of what I’m thinking, I’m keeping it simple because I don’t want to pin myself down or feel weighed down by goals and obligations, even those I set for myself. I am going to split it up into areas just because I can visualise it as a balance better.

Midwifery

  • Be the best midwife I can be and keep growing and learning as a part of that.
  • Keep reflecting on my practice as a midwife and connect with other midwives and learn from their experience and mentorship. Be generous with my time and support to other midwives and students.
  • Start my Masters degree. I enjoy studying and I do want to do research in the area of midwifery, so this is a first step. I plan to take it slow and let myself be immersed in it. I am hoping this also fulfils part of what I mention above regarding connecting with other midwives.
  • Continue my support of and contribution to the Australian College of Midwives as my national peak body.
  • Go to the ACM National Conference, it’s as much about learning and growing as it is connecting with other midwives. It fills my bucket.

Self Care

  • Continue prioritising the things for my physical and mental health. I am lucky that I have health professionals I trust to work with on this and this is already something that’s in progress, it just deserves its own dot point in my opinion.
  • Continue to practice relaxing and letting myself have down time without worry or fear. Let myself have fun just for its own sake. This is just habit rewiring, it wasn’t really possible for a long time and so now it’s something I struggle with.
  • Play the video games I want to play, and watch the television and movies I want to watch.
  • Go to the cinema for the immersive experience that turns your brain off.
  • Maintain sleep hygiene stuff so that sleep remains a priority. Obviously as a shift worker my hygiene is mixed, but I do my best to support something of a routine way of handling the changes.

Reading

  • I want to read more books than I read last year, I didn’t set an ambitious overall reading goal though. I am aiming for 50 books and I hope I beat it hand over fist.
  • I’m also pledging to do the Australian Women Writers Challenge again in 2019. I just enjoy this challenge a whole lot. I’m going to pledge at the Franklin level, to read 10 and review 6. I hope I exceed this too.
Australian Women Writers Challenge badge for 2019, forest green background with black silhouette of a woman in a hat in a frock with an umbrella. White text overlaying with the title of the challenge.
  • I am also doing Beat the Backlist again, because my TBR list that I regularly prune is still over 600 books. So, reading the books I already want to read, that’s the plan.
  • I still want to increase the areas of diversity I’m reading in, more queer writers, more non-white writers, more writers who are disabled or neurodivergent.
Coloured books in the background with banner text white on black background 'Beat the Backlist'

Dining Out and Cooking

Dining Out is one of the hobbies that I started to develop last year but I think I want to highlight it a bit more. It’s a hobby Fox and I share, also something my girlfriend Omega and I share. Additionally, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed but it also will tie into self care and having fun for the sake of it. I want to try new restaurants and maybe even review them. Mostly I just want to explore all the amazing food that other people are making.

That’s because cooking is a hard one for me at the moment. I feel like I’m burned out on cooking as well because of how it was so critical in recent years. Meal planning and being frugal were absolutely necessary. And I got extremely good at using food creatively and cooking amazing meals that helped us to get by, not *feeling* like we were missing out while we had so little income. It worked really well, but as a result of doing it full tilt for a few years, I need a break so I’ve been doing a lot less of the style of cooking I’m most used to and comfortable with.

I still do it, this week I made an amazing carrot cake decorated like a fox face! But it’s more sporadic rather than being a cornerstone of my days and weeks.

A fluffy looking cake of a Fox face with icing ears stuck on and orange icing, black detailing and white cut outs. Background is rainbow fabric.

So any dot points for these items?

  • Try new restaurants, including fancy fine dining and casual dining.
  • Try to attend one of the one-off dining events that happen every so often.
  • Go to a degustation event.
  • Continue to cook what I want and when I want, try not to let obligation or duty dictate things too much.
  • Continue to teach Fox to cook and encourage him to build confidence here, but also mindful of his burn out too.
  • Join in some of the months of the Food 52 Cookbook Club, it was fun for the couple of times I joined in last year and I loved the focus on a single cookbook in the company of others.

Travel

  • Do some mini weekend trips with Fox to Victoria as whimsical escapes – like wineries and bed and breakfasts, trips to the south coast.
  • The big ticket item is that we’re planning on a trip to Germany in July, it will be my first overseas trip and I’m ridiculously excited. Not sure that I’ll get in any other countries this time around, but travel is a long term thing that Fox and I both want to do more of together.

So 2019 is about embracing the plateau as a useful way to move forward, while seeing where you’ve come from, and taking care of yourself while growing and changing. Here’s to the new year, a new theme, and the best hashtag about those I’ve come across: #twenty-nice-teen.

The end of 2018 and Alchemy

Oh 2018… you were such a long and hard year. While there were moments of profound joy, it was overall a sad and painful year. This is to finalise my thoughts and the lessons I learned from my 2018 theme, Alchemy. Perhaps even more so than usual, there’s a huge difference from the trajectory I thought this enquiry would take, and the actuality. Even from my mid-year check in post, things look vastly different.

So what do I have to say for myself in finalising this theme and making ready for 2019, a new theme and new enquiry?

A space scape of the heart nebula, coloured in gorgeous red hues with bright stars. The image is by Robert Franke.

Well, in hindsight, none of my careful thinking about Alchemy considered the potential for things to explode completely. Hilarious in hindsight! Because that’s really quite an obvious association with Alchemy and transformation, transmutation, and experimentation. See? Obvious. And that’s one of the big lessons I learned coming to the end of this enquiry. Never underestimate the potential for something to go ‘boom’, no matter how careful you are. There is no way you can control all the variables, even in yourself if you’re honest. And then subsequently, why would you want to? That pathway is not healthy. So perhaps my experience of my personal life exploding messily is also a side effect of being able to wind back some of the hyper-vigilance. In any case it was excruciatingly painful and I still feel raw from pain and grief over the loss of my relationship. And I think a sense of my loss of self.

I’m still feeling the feelings about it, less in relation to losing a person from my life, although there are times when I still miss them and our relationship fiercely. It’s more to do with feelings in myself. Who I am, who I am becoming, how I am in the world at the moment. Coming to terms with the sense that I still feel broken, still feel damaged and traumatised. That’s not crappy self-talk either, I genuinely don’t feel like myself at my core and like at least some of my self-work coming up is about finding my way forward to that (since you can never go back). I have been traumatised, I was let down horribly in the end by the break up and all of my energy in standing by my ex-partner through so much hard and difficulty was as nothing to them in the end. They did not value me as I valued them. They did not believe in my valuing of them, and I falsely believed in their valuing of me.

Toward the end of the year I had 20 whole days off from work, a combination of rostered days off and annual leave. I was pretty desperate for it by the end, grad year is a long and hard year after all. I made a plan to rest on those days and during this break and I did just that. I rested. I watched Christmas movies and I played video games. I did very little else that could be characterised or construed as productive or adulthood related. And I valued that and it was necessary. I slept, I slowly got slightly better at relaxing and not fretting. I let go of some of my need to prove to myself it was okay to relax because all the work was done. All the work was not done. And yet I rested and relaxed anyway. And the world did not end. But honestly, I felt worse by the end of that break rather than better. And I was so disheartened by it. I felt lost. I’d been working on prioritising self care the whole year, on healing, self-care, trying to refill my personal buckets. And yet in November, I was not only not feeling better, but I was feeling worse.

I mentioned this to my GP and to my Counsellor when I saw them toward the end of that leave period. Both made comments about the possibility that, if this was the first time in 4-5 years that I’d genuinely tried to just stop and rest completely, that it might be the first genuine feedback I was getting from my bruised psyche as to how burned out I really was. They said this in different ways of course, and they didn’t collaborate on this verdict, but their words had much the same idea. And this is even considering the fact that throughout the last few years I’ve constantly tried to look after myself as I’ve poured myself into the other things demanding time, attention and energy.

I realise now, that I did put myself last as part of those considerations plenty of times. And while I kept things going, I only really started to see during my November break how much had been sheer determination and worse, me taking from myself all the vital energy that I also need to live and thrive. So I got a very confronting look at how much I’d compromised my own well being, how burned out I still am. And despite all my care and focus on self-care and looking after myself in 2018, I had barely made a dent in the backlog. Particularly considering the demands of a painful break up and challenging grad year, I’m still so exhausted. It all makes sense now, but it was disheartening.

Having said that, there were some incredible parts of Alchemy that brought a lot of satisfaction and joy. My opportunity to work professionally as a midwife this year was such a gift. I love being a midwife so much, and I’m so passionate about it. Even though I struggled (as all grads struggle) with the transition from student to professional, it was also rewarding and fulfilling. That’s where I felt the generosity of Alchemy and transformation most. I’m most of the way through my program now, I feel like a real midwife and I can see how far I’ve come. I can also see that I’m still at the beginning of my career and that there’s so much to learn, so many ways to grow. While I feel happy overall in my consolidation of postnatal care, I still desire to spend more time in birthing suite consolidating my skills there, that’s something I’ll likely be trying to spend the next couple of years doing, and that’s to be expected too – it’s a challenging and changeable environment, particularly in a tertiary centre.

I also got to spend this year with Fox. And although we never conceived of being a two, we love what we have been creating together. There’s a lot of whimsy, a lot of gentleness and thoughtfulness. We spend a lot of time emphasising the importance in prioritising ourselves and choosing what is best for us. Odd that this is hard or new to us, but it is. But having someone explicitly encourage me in this way has been invaluable. And even as I encourage that for him, it also reinforces it for myself as well. This partnership is both old and new, we already have abiding love and trust. We’re already committed, and we’ve already been through so much together. So even though it’s new, it’s also well established in foundation. It’s still amazing and fascinating to experience him and our connection anew, through a fresh lens. I hope that continues into next year.

Alchemy has been an enquiry that brought with it massive transformation, not all of it welcome at first. And now amidst the embers of painful feelings, grief, and memories. I have hope and an inkling of how to move forward. And so even if I didn’t turn my lead into gold, I learned a lot. I gave myself over wholly to the process of undertaking a great work, of being that great work. That’s an important focus and one that I’m not finished with and will likely revisit in 2019. I feel like I’ve been melted down and am molten again. Anything is possible, I’m all potential and unsure what the next phase will look like when it stabilises. However, I feel ready to thank Alchemy for the lessons, and let it go so that I can focus on the new year and everything ahead of me.

Alchemy in progress

When I read back on my original post about Alchemy and what this year in focus was going to look like, once again I’m amazed at the purity of the theme as it has played out and also simultaneously, how I could never have predicted how this would turn out. Here I am typing, pausing to catch my breath. In the beginning I situated my experience of Alchemy as the proto-science, about transmutation, transformation of one thing into another and of dedication of self to a great work, in my case to *be* the great work. That’s still absolutely true, but how it looks is vastly different to how I imagined.

So if I imagined one thing, way back in February, what does Alchemy look like now?

It looks like profound uncertainty. And grief. Change. The self I started the year as is not the self I am halfway through. I have started my career as a midwife, I’m halfway through my graduate program, halfway through that crucial first year where I come to understand how does my own personal practice look, what do I do and value and how do I make it come together in the increasingly time pressured experience of hospital midwifery. This year I’ve also experienced a major breakup in my live in poly relationship which was both unexpected and deeply painful. I’m growing and changing and processing, grieving all at once. And there is also joy, profound joy too.

I love my graduate program, the hospital I’m working for has been sincerely supportive and I am finding my way as a midwife. What is most true for me right now is that: I want to give the best care I can and be the best colleague I can. Nothing is perfect, things remain undone, and not everything is done to the standard I would want were time not a pressure. And yet if the thing I fret most over is giving the best care I can and being the best colleague I can be, then I am reassured that I’m working in the right direction. I care and each day it matters to me, each family matters to me. My colleagues matter to me.

I can also see fledgling pathways forwards in how I may want to extend my practice, learn more, grow more, develop programs that could make a difference. These are ideas at present, but they have gravitas. I’m not ignoring them and I’m considering them from a ‘what if?’ perspective in that I assume that what I am thinking of is actually possible to create and implement. Obviously that’s long term, but the seeds are there. That’s reassuring in and of itself because this job I studied so hard to qualify for matters to me more than ever. I’m so passionate about it and I didn’t understand before now what it was like to be motivated so strongly by some kind of calling. Midwifery is my calling and is the most practical means in which I can express, generate, and act with love.

Midwifery - art, science, care - quote

While my path in midwifery is clearer than ever, my personal path is not. I am uncertain and I am dealing with grief in the loss of one of my most important relationships. Additionally I am sitting with and processing all the fears I have as a result of what I’ve been through, they’re powerful and will take time to dissipate. I have to incorporate the additional cynicism that I’m experiencing into who I am and how I go forward, I can’t just pretend it’s not there. Alchemy is about experimentation and being open to the unexpected. It is also about sitting with uncertainty and taking on that not all will be revealed, explained or understood at the end. That part is hardest for me right now.

However, I have determination and bravery. I have the love of my circle around me. And I’ll continue to sit with the lessons that Alchemy brings as part of my year long enquiry. I have a feeling that I’ll barely recognise myself by the time I get to the end of the year. Certainly, there’s so much already that feels changed inside. But it’s still too raw to really write about at present.

For now, in this update I can say that I chose the right pathway in Midwifery and that I want to follow that wherever it takes me. Personally everything is particularly uncertain as I undertake the most acute healing following my breakup. Also my remaining live in partner, together we’re now working out what we have together. We were never a two and never conceived of being a tow, and now that we are, we’re approaching it intentionally. We’ll create something lasting and special – we already have the love, commitment and trust. Now to explore the shape and possibilities together. That’s still a little bittersweet, but the joy and whimsy in the possibilities is absolutely present.

My original post wasn’t all that specific about this theme, and I feel this one follows that same pattern. Things are no clearer in specifics, and yet there’s been so much growth and change. I will never be the person I was from the beginning of the year, but I’m already appreciating and a little in awe of the person I’m becoming. As always, I’ll do the best I can, give the best of myself I can.

Alchemy in 2018

I feel like in some ways this post has taken forever to come together. And it’s one of those years where finding my theme took longer and while the concepts were clear to me, the overarching word to tie them together was elusive. But I made it, with some wiggling and as always with abiding love and thanks to @dilettantiquity and @ravenari for talking things through for me in useful ways to get to this point.

So for the entirety of 2017, I swear I could almost feel the precipice beneath my feet, the open space ahead of me and I was poised on that edge the entire time. I thought when I got to 2018 I’d have some kind of word like ‘flight’ or ‘leap’ or something but it’s not that simple. And I’ve found that when I realise that what I thought isn’t going to work, I just have to sit with it and let that go, and then be open to what this year is actually going to be about. And what I came to understand is that 2018 is about Alchemy.

A space scape of the heart nebula, coloured in gorgeous red hues with bright stars. The image is by Robert Franke.

Having an image that represents the theme is a new part of my process and just because none of the images I found of alchemy in the proto-science historical sence fit or worked for what it means for me, doesn’t mean I wanted to forgo a focus image. So what this heart nebula image tells me is that my capacity to love is like the universe – infinite. Also about transformation and potential. Only parts of the universe are ever visible at any one time to me. I can’t take in or do everything all at once and so this is both the potential and possibility and reality of how powerful love is as a force for me, but also to remind myself of my realities and constraints. I am not the universe, just a human being, a speck of dust in the universe really. But even a speck of dust can aspire to make themselves a work of art.

This year, I don’t think I want to talk about discrete areas of intention or goals so much. I’ve already talked about reading goals elsewhere in any case. My plan is to talk about the two main focuses that are intertwined and let this enquiry be more abstract and less specific about things I want to do or achieve. I’ve talked about before how some themes are more internal than external and I think this is one of them. The process is within me and I have to work with myself and sit with the emotions and the growth in order to get the best of it.

Alchemy is about transmutation, refinement of one thing into another purer thing. Which in this sense for me is transition from student midwife to professional in my own right, capable and confident in my basic practice. It’s about the repetition and revision and intention towards myself and being  my best midwife self. Alchemy also seems to be about dedication of self to a great work… and the idea of myself as the great work is not new to me and in some ways feels like a returning to some of my core self values.

I want to build on the momentum I’ve created as a student going into practice, take advantage of all I can, learn as much as possible, listen and grow and put myself out there. But. And it’s a big one. I’m not doing this from a perfect clean slate. I’m doing this off the back of constantly fighting off burnout for the past three-four years while I was studying and there were additional pressures and stressors. So, I can’t just fling myself off the precipice and trust myself to fly, to catch myself without pause. There’s a lot of pause. The potential for burnout as a new healthcare professional is massive, particularly coming to this space with that already having been a threat that I was managing. So I must take care that things don’t blow up in my face. I must not be my own worst enemy and slave driver. I must not seek to achieve and experience at the cost of myself and wellbeing. Self care as an active and mindful process must remain central to how I engage with the year ahead and the alchemy I seek to immerse myself into as a new midwife.

For me self care continues to look like reading for pleasure, surrounding myself with amazing people and enjoying their company, conversation and connection. With improved finances I hope that I’ll be able to do more getaway type things that take me out of my routine and allow me to prioritise stopping, not doing, and letting go. Hopefully they’ll assist me with actively being able to relax and not have it be such a conscious skill I’m building basic muscle memory for (it’s a work in progress, and the fact that it requires so much determination from me is pretty telling).

So Alchemy, intention and refinement of purpose that is passionate and enduring – midwifery. But care and mindfulness, taking the precautions and seeking not to blow up my lab (read: myself) in the process. Transformation in a really deliberate way, less like waving a magic wand and  more like turning over puzzle pieces to find how they fit – how I want them to fit.

This is the beginning, and finally I think I’m ready for it.

 

Finalising (finally) Cusp from 2017

It’s nearly the end of January and I’ve been working up to writing this post all month. Some transitions in theme happen seamlessly as one year folds into a new one, others take a little bit of extra time, others finish faster. This one was a confusing transition and even though I could metaphorically feel the cliff beneath my feet, and that I was ready to step off, to take flight to go forward, something held me at the Cusp for a little longer. But now I’m ready to move on from Cusp and all I did and learned from this exploration. To give you the background to this conversation, take a look at my initial thoughts on Cusp as a theme for 2017, and my check in post from September.

Silhouette of a cliff with a blue starscape behind it. Standing on the edge of the cliff is a female figure with scarves uplifted by a breeze.I’m emerging from the space of liminality that Cusp provided for me, that breath of almost, but not quite. Holding space for that experience for the year was both challenging and rewarding, and necessary I’m certain now, in reflection that I got everything I possibly could from Cusp. This was a theme that was with me every day last year, like breathing. It encompassed so much of what the year was about, the challenges I faced, the goals I had, how much I yearned and wanted to experience certain things and how close/how far I felt to reaching the end of a major journey.

So now it’s time to reflect, to look at the different areas of focus and bring together all my awareness of the year gone by and where I stand at the culmination of 2017 and Cusp as an enquiry.

Midwifery

And I did it! I completed my degree in the study of midwifery, I’m going to be a midwife for real! I start my graduate position in late February and this also marks the completion of my second Bachelor’s degree and the end of my undergraduate studies. All the hours of study, all the hours of prac, unpaid and doing my level best to learn as much as possible, be as competent as possible, take in every moment, every little detail. And now I have my training wheels to go into practice, transition from study to practice they call it – I’m equal parts excited and terrified. I will be able to sign my own name to things that previously were always co-signed. The responsibility for others’ experiences and wellbeing will be in my hands. I know that I’m capable of this, I know I’m equal to it. But no matter what: it is so huge in my mind. I poured myself into my studies and gave everything I had to it, especially to my clinical placements seeking to marry up all the knowledge and theory I’d accumulated into how to use this in my hands and in my speaking. I never thought I could believe in, and be so immersed in something as a job and career until I started my journey to be a midwife.

A photo of a science poster on a poster board, the background is a gradient of maroon through purple and pink. The title reads 'We can change midwifery in Australia forever: Expanding the boundaries of midwifery through collaborative autonomy'. The poster features four boxes of text outlining the intro, why it matters, the plan and conclusion. There are two images, art of a pregnant person, one with a cloud of terms with implied confusion and overwhelm. The second the pregnant person is in partnership with a midwife and together they grow a tree of the experience that supports and empowers the pregnancy and family.

From my last update, I mentioned that I’d had abstracts accepted for a talk for the Student Midwife Conference and a poster for the ACM National Conference. I applied for grants to attend these, both were held in Adelaide the student conference was the day before the national conference. Thanks to the grant and the kindness of a friend who let me stay the week with them, I was able to attend both and present my work. My talk at the student conference was well received and was part of an overall remarkable day of work by other students. Seriously the calibre of work was incredible – I was so proud to be amongst them. Also, one of the keynote speakers Nicky Leap came to speak to several us and to congratulate us on our work – including me. And then she asked if she could mention my work in her keynote speech! And she did in fact do that! Which meant a lot of people made a point of going to see my poster, and my little 2 minute presentation for it also went well. My poster was awarded the best of the conference – much to my surprise. I spent the week revelling in being surrounded by my peers – and for the first time ever, that word felt true. I had peers. I was welcomed and there were so many conversations taking place about things that were directly concerned with my own study and practice. I was able to participate and share in this. I have never felt such abiding professional identity and recognition before. It was an all around incredible experience.

I especially loved connecting with the other students there who were also intent on making a difference, throwing their hat in the ring and participating with research with the aim of improving midwifery practice and access to midwives and continuity for families across Australia.

I did indeed need to do extra shifts to complete my numbers to qualify as a midwife. But these were helpful shifts and I gave my all to my last prac and these shifts determined to come out the other side where instead of feeling like I would never be ready to practice as a midwife, to feel like I was where I needed to be, ready to take the next step. If nothing else I have determination on my side and I gave my all to immersing myself in the wholeness of learning to take on being a midwife in my own right. This was only possible with the support of my preceptors who were unfailingly kind and encouraging and also demanded my best of me. They encouraged me to take point on the care we were undertaking and by the end of it I really did have the shape of things to come set in my mind. There’s so much that comes with experience in clinical practice, but we all have to start somewhere. All I wanted was to feel ready to go to that next stage and by the end I really did.

I will always be grateful to the families that let me participate in their care and help them to welcome their babies into the world. May I always be equal to your trust and give the best care I can that supports and empowers you. 

Self-Care and Development

Focus on this area was crucial to last year and that’s also something I’m taking forward into the new year and theme. You can only give your all, and do your best if you’ve got it there to give, so refilling my well was imperative – especially as I emptied it pretty much as fast as I could fill it. I dug deeper than I ever have in order to get through last year, and so I really did crawl into December as I predicted. Let me also say, that knowing that would likely happen and then experiencing it, are two very different things. It was hard. And the attention I paid to making sure there was self-care and stress relief and extra buffering for anxiety and coping made all the difference.

Close up cover shot of Marie Brennan's 'Midnight Never Come' with a glass of white wine with an outdoor table as backgroundI put in place opportunities to spend time with friends, I joined in with online spaces that were nurturing and loving and made me feel connected and like I belonged. My friends were amazing and invited me to spend time and checked in on me and made sure I got out on occasion to do fun things. I maintained the tiny rituals for taking time for myself whenever possible, like taking baths, reading for pleasure and doing my nails. I also didn’t watch or read anything that was too taxing or demanding, I subsisted pretty much on fluff and it was an excellent decision on my part. You can see more about how my reading went in my 2017 wrap up of my reading goals. (I won’t cover reading and media separately as I think between here and my goals post, I’ve said everything I need to).

I continued to do counselling, and transitioned to a practice that is ongoing rather than the stopgap short term project I was using through the Royal Women’s. I have been trying to improve my skill in meditation and have found an app that works for me that I like using and has a bunch of meditations on a huge number of topics and ranging from a couple of minutes long to 30 minutes in length, depending on what you want and need. My meditation muscles are flabby so this has been excellent to help me to just do a little bit more often and I’ve definitely seen the benefit of it – particularly in helping me to fall asleep.

I prioritised and protected my sleep as much as possible – difficult with shift work placements, but this also made a difference. I also used a phone counselling service specific to midwifery which also helped at times. I let myself reach out for support as I needed and I didn’t sit on it or wait it out, and I think that helped. I know it will always pass, but just because I can make myself get through it, doesn’t mean I have to do it, or do so alone. That was invaluable this year.

Self-care and development has also been about trusting in the chosen family and friends around me, giving of myself and trusting that what I can give is meaningful and appreciated. It’s also been about letting myself be myself and to be less apologetic about it. It’s partly an acknowledgement of how I have dedicated a lot of time and energy into being self aware and working on my own personal growth, but it’s also putting into practice the understanding that being myself is more important than being comfortable, or being liked, and that sometimes it’s a thing that takes energy to give you energy. Coming to the end of this enquiry I feel much more grounded in who I am now, and where I am going forward – and in particular that future direction and insight there is new and shiny to me. I’ve never really had that before. Midwifery has given me so much.

Domestic Life

A super fluffy pancake on a white plate topped with blueberries and strawberries, maple syrup and creamEverything I said back in September remains true – budget was lean and I think some days the hardest bit was knowing that we are so close to it being better. It was that sense of being so close and yet, so far – you can’t enjoy your budget being better until it actually is. It was very hard to be patient, harder than other years. Meal planning was still a lifesaver, and it helped me to enjoy cooking as a hobby and not just as a chore as well. We defaulted a lot to comfort food – or things that were classed as super-easy to prepare, I regret none of this. 2017 was hard and grueling, there were not enough hours in the day and there were so many competing demands. We made it through and compromising where we could made a difference. Mental health challenges were persistent for Bat while Fox was overall better than any previous year in his mental health – mine was very shaky at times, but the other two were there for me and supported me, plus I did everything I could to improve my mental health and mitigate for the things that were demanding or damaging.

Relationships

This is largely already covered elsewhere – I am surrounded by the most amazing chosen family and friends who helped me to in turn support and maintain strength in my live-in relationships with the challenges we’ve been going through between finances and health. I am grateful for polyamory and the love I have in my life, and the possibilities. Although I didn’t get to celebrate my 20th anniversary with K in person, we both spoke more often and shared more than we have managed in previous years, I assume mainly becauth K was better at answering the phone and returning calls. Regardless of how long it’s been, he’s still a daily influence in my life, I know he loves me and has my back always – he’s shaped so much of my life, my determination, my moral compass. 2018 we will celebrate and that will be incredible.

My relationship with my girlfriend continued to be deeply rewarding and our bond is something I value incredibly – we have great dates and that feeds and delights both of us, but we also care about each other’s happiness so much and it colours so much of our interaction and care for one another. I spent more time with friends and chosen family than I had anticipated, but it was so, good, so appreciated. I am surrounded by amazing people online and off and  the time, care and affection shared with me is priceless. In particular I’m grateful to some of the closed and small online groups I’m part of – I couldn’t have gotten through last year without them.


There’s not much more to tell in some of these spaces since I checked in back in September, but I got to the end of my study gauntlet and now I’m waiting only on my registration number in anticipation of starting working. I’m also on my first real and genuine break in forever. I have no study to do, no big thing due, it’s just about me. Recovery, rejuvenation, refilling my well, rounding out all the self care, and spending time and appreciation on those who’ve supported me along the way.

Checking in on 2017’s theme: Cusp

Back in January, I revealed my theme for 2017 as Cusp and wrote about it in detail. Now it’s time to revisit what I wrote then and see what I’ve learned from this year, where am I tracking as far as what I wanted and hoped for. Reading back over that post, I’m still deeply moved by it and how it managed to encompass so much of what this year means to me.

If I felt like I could see the end point back in January, now in August… wow. I can feel the end of this degree and the journey that accompanies it breathing down my neck. I feel like there has never been enough hours in the year, and that I’ll be crawling into December. But oh this year, what a thrill it’s been to just maintain awareness of this idea of liminality, standing on the precipice and revelling in being ‘on the verge of’: on the Cusp. Trying to gain as much grounding, support, practice, research, and learning as possible. Trying to balance that with self-care and maintaining my household amidst budget pressures. As much as this year is preparing me to leap, to fly, to take off into a newly created future, it’s a deeply grounding year and I have felt like I’ve revisited many things and reprocessed things, reawoken others – not all of it welcome. And yet, I persist.

So what does that look like in the specific focus areas breakdown?

Silhouette of a cliff with a blue starscape behind it. Standing on the edge of the cliff is a female figure with scarves uplifted by a breeze.

Standing on the Precipice (credit unknown)

Midwifery

It’s looking more and more likely that I’ll succeed at this goal I’ve had and be able to finish my degree in Midwifery and qualify to practice as a Midwife. That’s an incredible thing to contemplate. Equal parts exciting and terrifying. I’ve submitted all my applications for Graduate positions, I’ve completed the interviews. And now I wait, and hope. I did the best I could with references and applications and I’m secure in how that’s proceeded so far. I also maintain faith in knowing that the sky won’t fall if I don’t secure a graduate position for next year: I can and will make this work, it’s what I’m here to do.

I submitted an abstract to both the national and student conference for later this year and both were accepted, one for a poster and another for a talk, so I’m in the midst of doing that work for presentation now. I’m delirious with excitement as this will fulfil a long held goal to present at a professional conference. I can hardly believe that it’s really happening, but it feels welcome and resonates as ‘right’ for me: I want this, I want to contribute to research and midwifery, increasing evidence for practice, expanding boundaries, making positive changes possible.

I am still working on feeling ‘ready’ to be qualified and a professional in my own right. But I’ve still got two placements left, and I know that there’s a transitional period as a graduate too. But I know that I’m closer than when I started at the beginning of the year, I’m working as hard as I can at every moment for it to come together. And it’s not like I will ever stop learning and trying to improve my practice: that’s continual and part of being a reflective and adaptive practitioner.

A corner bathtub filled with sparkling bubbles, surrounded by candlelight, a glass of sparkling wine, and a book on the sideSelf-Care and Development

I’ve needed this focus so much this year and it’s been deeply central to everything – even Midwifery. I still have things in play to fulfil  me socially with chosen family and close friends bolstering the energy from my beautiful partners. I’ve got some new online spaces that bring joy and care my way and ground me and focus me in a way that I didn’t realise I’d been missing desperately. I love Slack. In my physical social life I’ve made it as easy as possible to say ‘yes’ to things and to spend time in ways that will energise and inspire me, allow me to keep working hard and pushing forward. Also this helps me to mediate the worst of budget difficulty and mediate the impact of mental health stuff our family is going through. It’s been a hard year, but my beloveds and I are consistent in that we all persist. That is always heartening.

I am still trying to do my nails regularly, and it still helps – especially when I am managing to follow through on the regularity specifically. I am reading for pleasure and I’m cooking some amazing food. I have been taking baths and focusing specifically on activities that allow me to relax. The media and books I’ve been consuming have stayed fluffy, I’m just letting go of doing any harder reading or watching this year, it’s all about comfort and optimism right now.

I have also been doing counselling which has helped and so very validating. It’s nice to know that I’m overall coping exceedingly well with extremely challenging circumstances. That central truth helps me to keep going and contextualises it so that I don’t think that how hard things have been is just ordinary hard or challenging. It’s not. On the advice of my counsellor I’ve been starting to meditate and this time around, with the app I’m using, I’m having quite a lot of success with it.

This year has been difficult in the self-care department not the least of which because there’s so much riding on this year and so much to do that there just never seems to be enough hours. But I also had a health experience that reactivated my post traumatic stress disorder and so I’ve been fielding that being more of an imposition than I’m used to for the past few months. While I’m not depressed, I have issues with anxiety, and they play into sleep, not exactly insomnia but not restful sleep, not enough sleep, too easily roused and anxious and thinking and driving myself to ‘do’ even when what I’m supposed to be doing is sleeping.

I’ve done an amazing job in this area, and I’ve needed it. I’ve needed my loved ones and their unstinting care and encouragement, being able to just trust in their love. I’ve needed to care for my loved ones, to be able to make a difference in the difficulties they’ve also faced – be outside my own head and be reminded that there is so much going on outside my own sphere. Also, giving in what capacity I can means that I can more easily accept the help when it is offered, and since I’ve needed the help, I have also needed to know that it is grounded in mutuality and love.

I said in January that Cusp is about being myself and letting that be okay and it’s still true – whether I intended to hold so closely to the importance of that statement or not, I don’t know but the actuality is that it’s underpinned everything. I am more myself than I’ve felt able to be in the past couple of years, I am more in sync with who I am and who I want to be – they’re not so far apart now. That’s pretty amazing, I can’t even pretend that I’m anything other than elated about that.

Reading and Media

As I said above in self care, reading and media has remained a comfort to me and is of deep importance. I can’t conceive of myself as someone without at least one book or television series in progress at any given time. I’ve focused entirely on fluffy and comforting subject matter though, I’ve had no space or coping for harder work in my head or heart  with this space. I have needed reading and watching to help  me recover and relax, so fluff and comfort it is. Excellent decision on my part overall. I’m not really sure how well I’m tracking against my reading goals at this stage – that’s going to be something I allow future me to deal with.

Round earthenware casserole pot with red duck curry, decorated with toasted flaked almonds and bright green corianderDomestic Life

Everything I said before about this being a harder year budget wise was true, and so meal planning and lifting our spirits in tiny ways has been imperative. It’s helped. We’re making it through. The image I picked is from Bat’s birthday dinner, I made Red Duck Curry with Pineapple as the main, it turned out pretty spectacularly! Fox is happier in new work, and we’re so close to the point where I’ll be able to work and we’ll have two incomes finally. And what a feeling that will be! Our most powerful tool domestically continues to be ruthless kindness and gentleness with one another.

We’re all operating at heightened stress, and often limited coping. With kindness and gentleness, any impact that could make things harder or more painful is minimised and often averted. We communicate really deliberately, making requests, providing support, being accountable to one another. Mental health challenges make this both critical and very hard, tiring work. So again, self care – for all of us has been critical. Also coming together and being together, I also think that’s been important, even if we’ve not really been able to make much of an occasion of things.

I had wanted to post here more about study, domestic life, and cooking in addition to books and review – but there’s just been not nearly enough hours. I’m going to just assume that will remain the case and I’ll revisit that idea as a next year one.

Relationships

I am profoundly blessed in my relationships. One partner and I celebrated our 20th anniversary – apart, because that’s just how finances crumbled this year and we’ll make up for lost time later. I love them more deeply than I thought was possible 20 years ago, and I cannot imagine my life without them. That’s the most notable thing to mention. But everyday life with my live-in partners is both a joy and a challenge for all the domestic life reasons above. But our commitment and capacity for each other astounds me and inspires me. I couldn’t have gotten through the past few years without all three of us and our mutual determination. Fox is in a better and better place, he’s grown so much even in the past twelve months, I think sometimes he scarcely recognises himself. Bat continues to persevere with Med school and  mental health – he’s pushed himself at every turn and I couldn’t be prouder (and at times more heartbroken as to the cost), he inspires me with his ability to just keep going, and his honesty around the difficulty.

One of my connections has fallen away in a very quiet way, and I’m just letting it go. It is sad, but I know there’s no actual hard feelings, just not enough impetus and energy and when I realised I was the only one holding on it became a little easier to just take a deep breath, and let it go and appreciate having enjoyed something special. Also, my capacity to drive connection against a tide like that is limited and if I’m lacking that sense of mutuality it makes sense to just appreciate the person and breathe deep and let go. I’m still a little sad, but I am overall okay with it. It is the right choice. The platonic romantic relationship with one partner reached 4 years this year, and we continue to revel in how excellent it is to enjoy each other in the form of really excellent dates and emotional support and togetherness. When so many other bits of our lives are  mutually really hard work, it’s just so wonderful knowing that there is nothing but ease and joy with each other. It helps. That goes toward self care too.

Friendships have been myriad and so rewarding and important, from chosen family and best friends to friends far away and online. I’m rich with amazing people in my life and honestly, the only way I’ve gotten through is with thanks to them. I wish that there were more hours, wish there was more energy and I could more easily show the difference people have made, and give them more of me.


Quote image: a with woman midwife loves what she does, but who she does it for more, less about doing to women, more about doing for women, trusting birth, trusting women.I am still committed to my overall intention being open to things, taking on as much as I can in preparation for what is coming next. Midwifery filters through every aspect of my life, my feminism, my activism, my passion. The image above is a quote that summarises pretty succinctly my central philosophy behind my practice.

I’m not quite as shiny as when I started out the year, I still feel capable, I still feel energised and determined. But I’ve been knocked around by the year, and I’m still struggling. I am learning how to take even better care of myself. I feel more than ever that I’m on the verge, that I’m so very close to the end of this journey, Midwife and all the promise and new beginnings that holds. I’m still in progress, there’s still so many loose ends… but I feel equal to them, and I’ll keep going.

 

2017 is on the Cusp

The new year rolls around again. Now that I’ve wrapped up what I got out of Chrysalis, my 2016 theme it’s time to open up my 2017 enquiry. That’s how I view a theme for the year in any case, a year long subjective enquiry that I let be the background focus for how I go about things. It informs the lessons I want to learn, the growth I want to undertake or the direction in which I want to throw my energy. It’s a no-sticks way of making the whole new year and resolutions thing work for me. If you’re interested, I wrote about my what and how of themes previously.

Without further preamble, my theme for 2017 is: Cusp

Silhouette of a cliff with a blue starscape behind it. Standing on the edge of the cliff is a female figure with scarves uplifted by a breeze.

Standing on the Precipice (credit unknown)

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, here’s the definition that resonates with me for what I’m focusing on this year:

“An interval of time just before the onset of something”

A theme is always a concept, intended to be big enough and broad enough to encompass an entire year, with flexibility. The idea behind Cusp for me, is that I’m still in the midst of a journey – becoming a midwife. I’m still in the process of transformation and I’m not quite done. Unlike my 2015 theme Becoming, I’m much closer to the endpoint and I can see that ending in the distance. I’m close. I’m on the verge. But there’s still a way to go. I don’t yet have my wings, I’m not quite ready to fly – but I’m approaching that point and so I feel like I’m in this liminal space, in between and not-quite. I like Cusp for the potential it makes me feel, for the challenge it breathes into me and the push for this last year of effort required to achieve this major goal, career and vocation change, who I am in the world, being that kindness and change I wish to see. Everything. On the verge, standing on the precipice: just before the culmination, on the Cusp.

Weeks ago when I was letting this word and concept  tick over in my mind, I had thought this would be another inwardly facing theme. I thought Cusp would go to work on me internally and that I would need to look inward to see the effects. Now, I don’t think that is the case. I think this is far more outward facing than I’d supposed, and that it’s a kind of embracing of the world at large and putting myself and what I am contributing out into the world in various ways. There’s still the internal component I’d already mused upon, but there’s also a call for me to be visible, be vocal and practise all that I’ve learned, consolidate it all and find out how it and I all fit together. It’s pretty exciting!

Let’s break down the areas where I’m directing my focus for Cusp, and what I hope comes out of this enquiry.

Text graphic with a turquoise background. Black text reads "Keep Calm, Study Hard and Become a Midwife" with a small black crown at the top.Midwifery

I want to complete my final year in my degree to qualify as a Midwife, this is so much the thing that I am on the Cusp of, it’s so close I can almost taste it! I would like to do this and maintain the good marks I’ve gotten so far. I want to do well in my last three prac units, and get the references I need for my Grad Year Applications. I also want to get all my numbers for things together so that I can hopefully do as few extra shifts for births and the like at the end of the year. I think it’s unlikely I’ll have all the numbers and not need any extra shifts, but we’ll see. I want to go to the Student Midwife Conference this year, and if I’m lucky one of the other professional conferences (that might be pushing it though). By the end of the year I really want to feel like I’m ready to transition into professional practice for real, have my own registration and the responsibility that goes with it.

Self-Care and Development

In this area I hope to continue the practices that I’ve found work for me in the past couple of years. I want to continue to refine the care and feeding of my extroverted self, surrounded by my wonderful introverted partners. I’m grateful to them for how loving and caring they are toward me, knowing that I thrive on a base level of affection and touch. I appreciate their efforts to give me what I need and that they notice how I in turn try and support and fulfil their needs.

Two hands showing nails over dark purple sleeves, fair Caucasian skin tone with nail wraps featuring glow in the dark multi-coloured eyeballs from Jamberry. I want to remember that baths, books, Jamberry nails, video games, walks, podcasts, dinner and great conversations with my wonderful friends are my favourite self-care mediums. I want to keep making time for these and have them fit into what promises to be a busy and demanding year. I’m getting better at this as time goes on, so it’s refining and continuing as I’ve already started.

I am allowing for some gentle untangling of some deeper and older emotional stuff inside, body stuff, family history stuff and being myself stuff. I’m not sure how that will go, but I’m allowing space for it to come about, without intending to specifically dig things out of my psyche and go to work on them.

That said, I do want to finally conquer the ridiculous molehill-become-mountain that is getting my driver’s license. It’s back in active progression as I’m doing practise driving regularly again and will aim to book a couple of pass-the-test lessons and then do the test and (hopefully) pass!

My intention for this year is that I reduce my overall anxiety, that I see a reduction or ending to those habits and telltales of my anxiety. I’d like to continue to dial back my hyper-vigilance as I can bit by bit. That’s hard. About as hard as I thought, but not intractable. It involves letting go, breathing out and trusting things to be okay and people to be okay.

Cusp in this area is about being myself, and letting that be visible and outward without fear, learning to be okay with it and not quite so terrified.

Reading and Media

This is purely for me, my leisure, my enjoyment of time  to myself and how to spend it. I want to read, enjoy book clubs, do reading challenges, catch up on some of the television I’m watching, play awesome games, keep up with podcasts and share that with people here and via social media. I want to keep reviewing books here and doing some interviews and blog tour things if I get the chance. I’ve already written up my reading goals for 2017 so I won’t rehash that. I think I’ll also just allow for another post at a random interval talking about the games, media, and updates to podcasts I love and so forth. This is the simplest for this category yet, but the intention is simply to just keep enjoying it the way I am and to share it outwards with joy and enthusiasm.

Domestic Life

This year looks to be crappier budget wise, but we’re going to try and make it work as best we can, it’s the last year where budget should be so very hard and that too is reflective of the theme Cusp. That means meal-planning and using little inexpensive things to keep our spirits up and to make us feel better about things. It’s easier to deal with a strict grocery budget if you’re still able to make awesome and interesting food. Since Bat is also back to sharing more of the cooking that actually looks less stressful and more possible. Household things in general seem to be mostly running more smoothly and fairly, with room for tweaking but there’s no real ‘hard’ attached overall. I want us all to feel like the breakdown is fair, achievable and that we live as well as possible in a lean year. I have some light aspirations towards decluttering – specifically in my bedroom/wardrobe space but I’m simply identifying the desire and not putting any specifics around it at this stage. It’s all possible. I would like to post more about food, cooking and meal-planning this year if I can manage it around study and book reviews.

Relationships

A white cat and a black cat cuddled together in a soft nest where their paws and tails make a heart shape. I want to enjoy my relationships, friendship, chosen family, family, romantic and other poly-connections. I want to spend time and appreciate the wonderful people in my network.

I want things to continue to improve emotionally and in mental health for my live-in partners, it’s been a hard few years, and this year is intended to be the last ‘flagged’ hard year as after this we should have better income options which will take much of the pressure off and give us some more options. Fox is in the best place he’s ever been, but with that still comes new lessons and difficulties – like trying to learn how to actually relax. Bat is doing alright and is doing what he can to maintain that ahead of going back to Med School. His new boyfriend from the US is also planning to visit this year which I hope consolidates Bats feelings of love and safety and possibility, and that it helps him to get through the academic year.  I want him to feel loved and supported and know that Fox and I are behind him eleventy percent, and that we welcome N as his partner too.

I want to spend my 20th anniversary with my partner K who is interstate and I’ve not caught up with him in person since 2014, because money. But it’s our anniversary and there’s a lot going on to make this possible for him to be over here and for us to spend time together. We’ve been through so much together, we mean so much to one another – and despite living on opposite sides of the country, that doesn’t change. He’s still the person who wants me to have the most amazing life and wants to contribute however possible to that, and I want the same – he made it possible for me to move to Melbourne and it was the best thing for me, despite how deeply I miss him constantly.

I want to spend time with my other poly connections, enjoy the company and try and find some way of spending time regularly instead of sporadically – that ends up stressful, I’m making space for that to become easier. It’s hard with no central scheduling, competing priorities and obligations, distance, and lack of money to make things easier. I’m still allowing for the possibility.


Overall what underscores Cusp for me is being open to things, allowing for possibility and being willing to take on things, try things, do things and see what happens. I still have to be mindful of energy levels, resilience and self-care but I  feel much more capable of that at this point. This is less detailed and specific than in the past couple of years, but I feel more freedom at this point to see where it leads and to just let things happen. Hopefully that means more reflection posts along the way as I learn things too. Here’s to 2017, Cusp, and getting ready to take the leap, letting myself be with the moment, on the verge and almost arriving at the destination of Midwife.

Reflecting on Chrysalis for 2016

As always before I do my reveal and discussion of my new year theme, I like to reflect on the year past and what I learned from my enquiry over that year. In 2016, my theme was Chrysalis, envisioned as below because I felt I needed a protective place to recover, a suit of armour to prevent further damage and needed to be inward focused in order to get through another year of study, another year where I anticipated many challenges and much stress. It was a reactive theme, but even so I still put forward aims that I hoped would be part of the enquiry and part of what helped me to heal, you can read about how I originally imagined Chrysalis back in January of 2016.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith - 2014

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith – 2014

So now, in January of 2017, where do I think my past year of enquiry has taken me? What happened, what did I learn. What will I take forward and what will I let go?

Overall

Reflecting on this theme, I think what I got from Chrysalis is exactly what I needed: comfort, peace, healing, protection, love. I spent the year reinforcing in every way I could a recovery of my energy, rebuilding of my resilience, and letting go of some of my perfectionism to make way for simply trusting that things would happen – like dinner on the table when I was in the depth of study doom. It was a year where it sounds like I was selfish and that’s true, but it’s the selfish of desperation where I had very little left I could pour out and give – I’d exhausted  myself and everything inside of me to get to the end of 2015.

Things that contributed to that state included my study, partner illness and financial stress. To share a little more, I am studying a demanding degree course in Midwifery, which I love and am passionate about – but it is one long push, there are few lulls and it is demanding intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Being realistic about that doesn’t make me love it less or less committed to being the best midwife I can be.

It’s no secret that one of my live-in partners has been in the depths of mental-health crisis for the past couple of years and this has taken its toll on him, but also on Fox and I as we do our level best to support him, protect him, and encourage anything that draws him out of the depths of it. The best outcome for 2016 was a dramatic shift in his mental health and while it’s certainly a massive relief to see, and we all hope that it will continue onward and upward it’s not a magic wand and there’s a lot of work and time before I think he can look back and say ‘This is behind me’. Right now he can say that he feels like the worst has passed – that feels true for Fox and I too.

Which brings me to that other stress point – we’re still on one income predominantly. Over the past twelve months I did some part time work which eased the pressure for most of the year. Fox has continued to be our breadwinner, he’s stoically dealt with the awfulness of his job and company that has steadily declined in all level of satisfaction. The likelihood of redundancy looms ever stronger and we’re doing our best to hold out for that as a means to give ourselves the best buffer and chance to weather a change in job and income. Fox’s dedication as a provider is incredible as is his own commitment to his mental health, which has improved slowly and steadily over the years since he first started tackling this. I’m so proud of him, so grateful to him and I can’t wait to repay his faith in me and my studies by giving him the chance to pursue his own studies.

So finances still sucked but they sucked a little less, and we  made as good a use of that as we could – we didn’t need to be so strict on meal planning (that will be a necessary change this year), we could get takeaway on occasion and did so at several points where ‘too hard’ hit. But that has been hitting less and less as Bat has recovered more mental health and capacity. There is less worry and so work happens more evenly distributed and support flows more freely in all directions. Bills were paid, we had some disposable income occasionally. I was able to invest in some training to go with my Midwifery studies that will hopefully set me up to be an attractive graduate candidate when I apply this year for a position for 2018. All the ways in which I dedicated energy to self-care, to recovery and resilience paid off, for me but also our family. We’re all in a better position personally at the end of 2016 to go into 2017.

Reading, Media and Fandom

One of my big realisations for 2015 was just how much reading for pleasure grounds me, and is a self-care mechanism and stress relief rather than simply a luxury. I’d spent most of the first two y ears of my study feeling guilty for still reading fiction and then I learned that it’s a small and regular thing I can do to look after myself and enjoy my days and weeks. So I made that a priority for last year, and letting that joy be there for myself rather than worrying that I should be studying was so helpful. I read some amazing books (my favourite books of 2016 post is still pending, but I’ll edit and link when I’ve posted it).

Blue banner image with picture of a book in white and the text Goodreads 2017 Reading ChallengeI loved reading and reviewing this year and I exceeded my reading goals in lots of ways – and there’s still room for improvement in others, as it should be. We’re never done, there’s always more room to grow and more to learn. You can read more about my reflection on last year’s reading goals if you like, or see what my goals are for 2017 in reading – I won’t rehash them here. In short: read books, review them, especially books that are diverse in important ways, and books by Australian Women Writers. Try and read 75 books in the calendar year.

I also listened to my favourite podcasts and I looked for ways that I could keep listening even when I wasn’t working. Favourites continued to be Galactic Suburbia and Fangirl Happy Hour, and I continued to really enjoy Tea & Jeopardy. New favourites include Sheep Might Fly, Magical Space Pussycats, and in non-books and fannish areas,  Acts of Kitchen and The Birth Hour. I also fell in love with the Booktube channel Books and Pieces, I highly recommend it. I managed several really great walks (and Pokemon Go was great for this as well) while listening to podcasts, which was a happy goal to achieve. Plus, I’ve also gotten to a point where some of my general online productivity like organising recipes or sorting stuff etc can be done to a podcast background so I’ve stayed mostly up to date and in love with the voices and conversations of intelligent women, who are so switched on and aware, so emotionally present and generous. This kind of listening brings such joy to me.

There were a few other media things I did to contribute to self-care and taking time out. I played games and in particular enjoyed Stardew ValleyNo Man’s Sky, Pokemon Go, and Armello this year. My favourite movies were Deadpool and the new Ghostbusters, pretty equally, although I also really loved Zootopia too.  With music, I set up a Pandora radio station for Hamilton and other Broadway musicals so that I could have background music that mostly made me feel better about the world and let me relax and think about the stories the songs were telling. Like a large percentage of the rest of the world, I unexpectedly fell in love with the Hamilton soundtrack and listened to it time and again over the months in the second half of the year. I think Lin Manuel Miranda is a gift and should be celebrated.

Midwifery

White banner with intersecting circles Hands, Heart and Mind and the kind of midwife you will be. Midwife is in the centre of the intersecting circles.In taking on Chrysalis last year, in my original post on the subject of midwifery I said:

I just want to do well. I want to do well, I want to learn. I want to be the best midwife I can be. I want to regain my confidence on prac.

This area is one in which I’m particularly proud of the outcomes. I excelled academically in 2016, beyond even my high expectations of  myself. I worked exceedingly hard for it too and I’m so pleased that paid off. I also went back to prac and it went well. I achieved that aim too, to regain my confidence in my practice and to do well in my clinical placement. I’ve also started asking for and collecting recommendations and I’ve been doing additional workshops, seminars, conferences and courses to supplement my study as part of my efforts toward applying for a graduate year position. They’re competitive and I’ve my sight set on one in particular (I have yet to work out my second and third preferences) so I’ve been working hard already to achieve this. I also had my halfway mark assessment, and it went well, and I’m feeling confident in my ability to prepare for my final assessment at the end of 2017.

I went into 2016 still so passionate about Midwifery but feeling shattered and uncertain. I have emerged from the year with a greater consolidation of experience and knowledge, as well as an even greater passion for midwifery. Calling. Vocation. I never though those words would be ones I could really identify with and yet, more than ever I feel this.

Self Care and Development

I did so much better with this area of focus in 2016 than in previous years and I think the shift in making it about care as much as development helped with that. I wanted to grow, but I didn’t want to push myself in to painful spaces when it was obvious to me that I needed to draw in energy and seek out joy and connection, love, and comfort. Through that focus I did grow and learn. My confidence returned and grew. I’m more sure of myself in conversations and my opinions and ability to contribute meaningfully. I worry less about perception (in some ways, in others this is still a work in progress).

A box with a book, and bath bombs in it, with a subscription to the official Book Bath Box includedI had the best birthdays this year, Bat and Fox made it perfect for me with the most thoughtful gift – a Book Bath Box subscription, and because that would arrive months away they also made up their own version to give me on the day! So sweet! They spent the day quietly hanging out with me and cooking me an incredible birthday dinner – pork belly with caramelised pears on silky potato mash and a brownie cheesecake birthday cake dessert. It was perfect! So relaxed and peaceful, I slept in, there was no stress and I felt whimsical and full of love the entire day.

I wanted a better year for my partners and I do think we all got it – although there were still so many hard things about the year, so many ways in which we just needed to dig deep and focus on the fact that we love each other and would somehow make it through as a starting point. I do recommend that as a starting point by the way because if as a fundamental assumption that has shifted, then a different conversation may be necessary. But I love my partners, I trust them and I value them. I feel loved and trusted and valued. This is especially true of my partners whom I cohabit with, where we’ve created a little family for ourselves.

But my other partners are just as important in different ways and I love and value them for what they bring to the world and my life too. I trust that I bring them good things to their lives as well. There are a number of partners and close friends, chosen family who I wished I could have seen more of throughout the year – and yet energy and time where in short supply. It was also a hard year for some of them and I know this impacted on us being able to make time and scheduling work. My platonic romantic partner and I spent quite a bit of time together, mostly in quiet conversation and having lovely cheap dinner dates in the city – spending time and keeping each other feeling sane and cared for. She had a hard year and I hope that what I could do to stand behind her helped. I did get to spend time with two of my Perth partners who came over and that was wonderful and messy and I’m so glad – even though I was in the midst of semester so it was also hard. But right now, there is no ideal time. We made it work. Overall with people and social, especially partners I did the best I could but I wish I’d have managed more somehow.

2016 marked another year where I didn’t get to see my longest term partner, K. Our 19th anniversary came and went and I missed him more than ever. We’re starting to make determined plans for our 20th anniversary together because even with crappy finances, somehow we will make this happen. K has been one of the most integral parts of my life for about a third of my life and no matter how things shift and change for us, he remains one of the most important people in my life, and someone who’s happiness means the world to me. I know that I mean similar things to him.

Collage of 4 pictures, 3 landscapes of hinterland and bay overview, one with a plaque about Apollo Bay and the Great Ocean RoadI did have a year that was more social than the previous one, and it was part of my extrovert self-care mechanisms I put in place. I attended our local science fiction convention Continuum and has the most wonderful time, it was seriously one of the best things I did this year. Followed by my trip to Apollo Bay with a friend where we cooked, and explored and lounged for a week – it was great. I organised with chosen family members to do semi-regular dinners and host them so that I could soak up the social time, but have it be easy and love filled and not a struggle at all. I did regular vid chats with @dilettantiquity which was wonderful for both of us in several ways and was one of the our mutually most successful aims for 2016. I did several more frequent chats with others who are far away and that meant a lot to me too, I want to continue that in the new year.

My health was mostly very good, pain and strain were well managed. Reflux stopped being an agonising problem and is well managed. I had some reproductive health issues but thanks to our wonderful public health system, they’re all taken care of. I judiciously applied bravery, reward and lots of care mechanisms to deal with the emotional and anxiety strain these issues posed and I came through it all really well. Pokemon Go deserves the most credit for me improving my activity levels, I enjoy wandering and will quite happily do that for several kilometres in order to catch the little monsters or hatch eggs. It’s low key, easy and satisfying and I value that ease as much as the compelling fun nature of it.

A large number of books piled onto a shelf creatively, a shelf next to that is empty.I did declutter and organise my physical things better (I need to revisit some of it as it got away from me in the last part of the year). I obtained some second hand bookshelves and unpacked my books (still a work in progress, one shelf needs stabilising). I also enjoyed more of Melbourne in tiny and cheap ways that brought me a lot of joy. I walked along Southbank several times (in part because Pokemon). I wandered through the city and admired how beautiful Melbourne is. I went to several Wheeler Centre events and marvelled at the speaking programs they have and the way I think it contributes to our city and people overall.

I blogged throughout the year – here less so than I hoped but I did manage to keep things up reasonably. I maintained my 5 things habit throughout the year, although I have decided to change it going forward. My blog is as important to me as reading and I value having spaces to chronicle, to write and share with people that are more thoughtful than the immediacy of social media.

I didn’t get to any different cities in 2016, we’ll see if that’s different in 2017 – finances say doubtful. I didn’t get my license either, this still hangs over my head. However now that I’m in a better mental space than I have been in two  years it looks like it is vastly more possible than it has  felt for ages. I’m just trying not  to use this as a stick to beat myself with. I will get there. I will. Eventually.

Cooking

A table set with many dishes of food including a quiche, ham, turkey and several sides.The framing for this was trying to maintain things that worked to take stress out of decision and uncertainty. To reduce the cost of food, but to eat well and enjoy the meals we have together. I wanted to maintain my enjoyment of cooking and not have it be something that always felt like a chore. This was successful overall. Meal planning fell largely by the wayside in any formal way, but we did try new things in that vein and they have potential. The repository of recipes is more accessible and easy to navigate by people other than me. Fox did a bunch of cooking, including for Bat’s birthday dinner and did a magnificent job all year when it was his turn. Bat is cooking more and we’re back to enjoying trading cooking between us and sharing it as the joy it has been in the past for us.

We had people around regularly and good food was always a part of that and we all enjoyed that massively. Low-key dinner parties are our favourite social events to host and sharing great food with those we care about is enjoyed by us all. Fox remains enamoured of our BBQ which continues to be adorable. We hosted Christmas with chosen family and a friend this year, it was our turn – 3 years in, it’s officially a  tradition now! We over-catered and went way over-the-top for our feast, it was glorious and a massive undertaking that paid off. The inset photo is of the feast at the time of serving before we devoured about 5% of it.

Much of our ‘make-from-scratch’ things like stock and bread fell entirely by the wayside – we ate more pre-prepared stuff in general. But I was busier, made less decisions and organised less. And we still got fed, there was still delicious food and it was good for me to let go in this way and trust the others and let them figure things out so I could concentrate on work and study priorities where they impacted on my ability to do household contributions. I was successful in abdicating adulthood at various points when it was necessary and being supported by my partners in this. It was important and necessary (and hard to do) but worth it.


Chrysalis was a year that I wanted to focus on care, recovery and resilience. It was that for me. I got all of this in so many ways – expected and unexpected. The letting go and simply trusting in my partners and the people around me was a valuable lesson, and one I want to take forward. I still think that my expectations of myself when I read over my planning from the beginning of last year was too demanding, wanting too much of my finite energy, time and skills. That too was a lesson – and I know amongst those I am close to that this I am not alone in this trait. I spent the year re-framing things so as not to beat  myself with sticks. The point is not to punish myself for failing to achieve all the myriad things I wanted, or for forgetting things or cutting corners. Actually the point was to learn that the sky doesn’t fall when you do these things and in some ways, it turns out even better emotionally and in the final results.

I am grateful to this theme, it has been a gift and an inward focus that I’ve consistently put energy into. And in all the other ways I achieved what I put in, that was true with this enquiry too. And now with this reflection, I can draw a line  underneath Chrysalis and move on from it’s protective shell. It’s time to move  properly into 2017.

Reflection on 2016 Reading Goals

I’d hoped to get to this in December, but it didn’t happen so all my reflection and end of year posts are being mushed together with my 2017 launching/goal posts. It was a pretty great year for reading overall – but I wanted to evaluate that against the goals I’d hoped to achieve in my reading at the beginning of 2016.

Orange banner with text 2016 Reading Challenged with a book in white on in the centre. A red ribbon with 'completed' crosses the left hand top corner.Overall Reading Goal:

As far as my overall reading goal, I’d hoped to read 75 books and in the end I actually read 81 – according to Goodreads that’s 108%! A bunch of these were shorter, and there were a bunch of graphic novel trade volumes for the first time too. But I still think overall 75 was exactly the right number for a goal – reasonable, something of a stretch but something I can reasonably expect to achieve. I’m really looking forward to finishing my studies so that I can see what my reading is really like – I’ve been studying for almost a decade now, across 2 degrees so I can’t even predict what my reading looks like outside of study anymore.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 BadgeAustralian Women Writers Challenge 2016:

My goal for this challenge was to read and review 15 books, this was in part to tie in with other reading goals I had. I managed to read and review 17 books and I’ve also already posted my Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 Completion post. I didn’t read all the books I had planned to, but I did read a bunch of unexpected books – and for the first time there were some audio books via podcast serials that I included. Probably my only disappointment really with my reading for this challenge last year, was that I didn’t read any works by Indigenous authors, and my diversity in this area was particularly low – I’m hoping to address that in 2017, it’s an ongoing goal.

Read with Diversity in Mind

Speaking of diversity, that was another of my overall goals for the year. I wasn’t specific with this and that was deliberate because it’s an ongoing aim of mine. It’s also one that still requires a lot of conscious effort on my part to achieve – which as a white person is the point of why I’m doing this. But, I’m also a firm believer in the fact that goals and aims need to not be an excuse to punish myself, that defies the point of the goal in the first place and makes it no more likely to occur. So I aim and where I can dedicate the energy to increasing the diversity in my reading  I do so.

Now that I’m looking over the books I read in 2016, I think I did a little better in this area than I thought, but it’s still only a handful. I did much better in reading from queer perspectives – but I’m also a queer person so it’s me seeking out representations of myself and doesn’t have the same meaning or importance in confronting my biases and being uncomfortable as a white person reading more  non-white and Indigenous perspectives. I did read books by non-white authors and books from different cultural perspectives to my own, but there only a few, although they’re ones I enjoyed immensely. I reviewed Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, Book of Phoenix by Nnedi OkoraforThorn by Intisar Khanani and He, She and It by Marge Piercy. I also read Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani, but I’ve not yet reviewed it (but will do so together with the follow up book Memories of Ash which is on my to-read list).

Central Station - cover Book of Phoenix - cover

 

 

 

 

Thorn - cover

He, She and It - cover

 

 

 

 

Participate in Bookclubs

This was partially successful? I did participate, but the clubs I participated in where a bit different to the ones I anticipated. the YA Escape Bookclub wasn’t very active last year, and I was certainly busy enough that I didn’t get to read many of the nominated books, although Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff was one of them and a fantastic discovery. The Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub was active all year, but I fell out of keeping up with what they were reading and making the effort there – I did read Radiance by Grace Draven which was one of the pics for January and enjoyed it a lot (I still want to read the following books in the series), but I think that was the only one I read from that club in the year. Although I loved the idea of Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf bookclub, it wasn’t tightly organised and was an absolutely huge group very quickly which made it hard to follow. Also, I didn’t have a lot of coping to do the kind of heavy reading being proposed, or money to access the books – plus the discussions were so huge as to be intimidating unwieldy so I let that club go midway through the year. The Sword and Laser Bookclub is one that I followed a bunch of the discussions and even joined in with them, but I think I failed to read any of the books – I started Radiance by Catherynne Valente, but I found it deeply difficult to read and eventually declared that it was not a book for me recently.

What I did pick up during the year and enjoyed immensely was the Goodreads Challenge group that does regular short and long challenges and buddy reading. I did five buddy reads including Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani, and Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. I participated in some of the quarterly and monthly challenges too but I didn’t actually track those very well so no links, but I’m already tracking this year’s challenges better.

Image of a series of vertical book spines showing the twelve planet books in various colours. Header text white on transparent black overlies the image with the title 'A Journey Through the Twelve Planets'.Undertake and Manage the Journey Through Twelve Planets Reading Challenge

Steph and I started this and it went really well for the first six months, and then the second half of the year hammered both of us. Also, when I am stressed and overtired and really busy with study, I am even less likely to read horror than the best of times. So it took me most of the second half of the year to actually read Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren. The other books in the Twelve Planets series by Twelfth Planet Press that we read and reviewed included Nightsiders by Sue Isle, Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts, Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex, Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, and Showtime by Narelle M. Harris. Six books down, six to go!

I had originally planned another largeish but relaxed reading challenge but it didn’t quite come together, but it was always a nice-to-have rather than something I was attached to for last year.

Unpack and Read Some of My Physical Books

I actually do have progress to report on this – not much, but I did unpack my books when I managed to get a hold of some free bookshelves that would fit in my (actually strangely huge) wardrobe. So I unpacked books, but it didn’t lead me to reading them (yet). I hope that in the coming year that shifts – I do feel much better emotionally for being able to see and admire all my books again. I am reading a couple of physical books, but they’re definitely the slowest going for me at the moment as I often just pick up my phone to read by default now. I do still love turning the pages and reading a physical book.

Chrysalis for 2016

It’s finally time to talk about what my enquiry for 2016  will be.

If you’re new to my blog and have no idea what I mean by theme, it refers to my personal practice of engaging in a gentle year long enquiry that is more subconscious and occurs in the background rather than involving overt and specific actions over the course of the year. It’s about a guiding idea of focus and thoughtfulness – I wrote about this in more detail if you are interested.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith - 2014

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith – 2014

My theme is Chrysalis, like what butterfly pupae go through as part of their metamorphosis. Unusually, I’ve had this word since late December last year, after a conversation with one of my best friends – she mentioned it idly but that tiny little inner bell I associate with intuition, pinged and I took note. Interestingly, at the time I didn’t realise that I’d spoken about butterflies and transformation when I wrote about Becoming in February last year. Chrysalis seems fitting and feels right because it’s not a dramatic change from Becoming, it’s more of a transition to a different enquiry, a shifting of focus ever so slightly. I’m still in the process of, I’m not done yet, transformation is incomplete and I’m not ready to emerge.

On @Dilettantiquity’s advice when we had our annual theme conversation (and this year we’ve pledged to vidchat much more frequently), I looked up Chrysalis on wikipdedia and youtube. What I learned reinforced how well this theme fits for the year ahead. This is not a theme I’m excited about per se, it’s a theme that feels like a warm blanket, it feels like a nest, and like self-protection and self-care. Given how grinding last year was, this makes sense to me. Given the likelihood that this year will be similar in several respects, this also makes sense to me. I’m especially enchanted by the association of the cast off skin hardening, something like armour and becoming somewhat metallic in appearance.

If last year was a much more inward year than I expected, then this one is presenting itself as more inward focusing still. I’m okay with that, up to a point and I’ve put in place gentle steps to avoid feeling lonely and cut off socially when things are hard later on. I expect I’ll remain very low in social energy throughout the year, but that easy social activity with people I’m close to in low-stress settings will be a world of good. And so I’ve asked people to gently check in with me and make socialising easy if they can. I feel like I’ve already given my future self a huge gift by having this conversation with some of my closest friends in Melbourne, because right now I have the forethought and the energy to put it in place, and later I expect I’ll value this previous effort and hopefully I and my beloved friendships will reap those rewards. It is pretty clear to me that I am a person in ebb at the moment, rather than flow or abundance. This is all good and well, part of balance.

Even in an inwardly focused year, there are aspects of my life that I’d like to put some energy into, that I hope I’ll learn something about through my enquiry. Chrysalis will be interesting – I have no idea what to expect from it, and just because my associations with it suggest self-protection and self-care and so on, the actuality may look vastly different. There’s always something amazing and unexpected that occurs as a result of letting the enquiry just be there in the background working away at your subconscious. Still, here are some things that are important to me that I’m putting energy towards this year.

Reading, Media and Fandom

Although I was so very exhausted at the end of last year, I also found a lot of joy and solace in reading, in media – especially podcasts and feeling more connected to fandom in general than I have for several years. I’m really hoping to continue to nurture this! I wrote about reading goals I have, they’re very similar to those I had last year where I’m seeking to improve on some aspects but not using these as a stick to beat myself with. I’m focusing not just on number goals but on participation, community and sharing. Yay bookclubs!

I want to continue to listen to and revel in the podcasts I’ve fallen in love with – they helped me through last year so much! Also, they’re the perfect motivation to go for a good long walk which I need help with, so yay! I also want to enjoy the reading and blogging projects I’ve instigated, because the projects themselves are super awesome, and I adore the people I’ll be doing them with. I enjoyed reviewing books I was reading massively last year. It was so much fun and I felt much more connected to what I was reading!  I want to continue with a similar level of reviewing here, but I’m also giving myself permission to review directly on Goodreads for some books too if that’s what I want.

I use reading for stress relief, for pleasure and leisure and as part of my bedtime routine – those things mean that I do read fiction throughout the year, not just study books and it’s been one of my best mechanisms for self-care for several years although its importance to me is something I’ve sometimes taken for granted.

Midwifery - art, science, care - quoteMidwifery

I just want to do well. I want to do well, I want to learn. I want to be the best midwife I can be. I want to regain my confidence on prac. I want to explore how to rework an essay from last year into a piece I can submit somewhere as a formal publication piece. How do people actually learn to do this? I’m halfway through my second undergraduate and I have no idea. I want to pass all my units with good marks. And along with regaining confidence, I want to impress the hospitals I’ll be doing pracs at while I’m there – and I must remember to ask for recommendations ahead of third year and interview preparation stuff. Also I’ll have my halfway degree review this semester and I must  somehow get past being petrified about it. I’m so passionate about midwifery and feminism, their importance to healthcare, to women, and to families. I want this so much it *hurts*. Although this is second on my list behind reading, it’s one of my key priorities for the year and everything else needs to work around it.

Self Care and Development

A slight change in focus for this topic this year. I want to focus on self-care and resources to shore up my own resilience to stress and difficulty. I’m looking less at things that are about pushing my boundaries and painful growth – they may happen anyway, but I’m not going searching for it, it’s not an overt priority. So, gentleness, small things, joyful things, connection, health.

I want to maintain connection and the chance to be social with loved ones this year, I expect this will be hard with scheduling between classes, prac, assessment, exams and energy levels. But I’m doing what I can to promote the success of this by asking for help from those I’m close to in Melbourne so that catching up is as easy as possible. I also want to go to Continuum, I’ve got my supporting membership – just need to make it full and I’m good to go! Bonus if I can stay in the hotel for at least a couple of nights, but that’s wishful and a bonus. Going to the convention last year was one of the best things about the year and I hope this year yields similar joy.

I want my partners to have a better year in all the same ways I want to have a better year – less stress that is hard to manage, less mental health concern and more coping. Less energy needed for coping. I want to smile seeing them enjoying things more and I want to do everything I can to contribute to their joy. I love our household and I want it to continue to be the haven and sanctuary that we rely on and trust each other with. I want to do fun house things and enjoy family rituals around events/times of the year that add to whimsical joy. I want there to be more photos of me, more photos of us together – there are no recent photos of us together and since it makes me feel sad, I’d like to remedy this.

I want to do some de-cluttering and organising of my stuff that’s still packed (mainly because I don’t have bookshelves, but not entirely). I might ask for help from someone to come and keep me company while I do it (I don’t mind doing it and I don’t think it will be emotionally hard, just company during would be a great impetus to get it done. I would like to come across bookshelves that I like and work for the small amount of space I have in my room for them – I want to unpack some of my books so I can read them. This is about my bedroom as an optimal nest, for relaxing and quiet time, but also study, depending on what’s needed.

I want to try and get to some Wheeler Centre events and other easily accessible and cheap/free things throughout the year in Melbourne. I enjoyed this when I was able to manage it last year and it made me feel more connected to my beloved city and less like I had to miss out on everything because of budget. I’ve already booked in for some things in February and March that I’m looking forward to as well, so this is on track already. Melbourne-ness, I want to enjoy it, because I am so in love with this city.

Health stuff, I just want to do the best I can and gently followthrough on things as needed. I’m dealing with some reflux stuff that’s unpleasant, but my doctor is awesome so I’m in great hands. The rheumatologist at the Royal Melbourne has been great and is happy to provide specialist support even though I don’t need much to help manage and improve what is possible with my hypermobility – I don’t have anything that would qualify as a chronic health issue with any degree of seriousness – the steps I’m taking is to keep it that way. My pain is very manageable and fatigue is rare.

I want to increase my activity levels, not just for the physical benefits, but also to find ways of prompting the emotional benefits. I enjoy walking and would like to see how I go with swimming – I find exertion triggering/distressing and I’m aiming to avoid dealing with that bucket of stuff at present. My plan is to use podcasts to help with motivation for walks – I am really enjoying listening to them and short of an actual person to talk to, they’re excellent company for walking. Also, there is a huge and beautiful park local to me that I can also take better advantage of. Plus, zoo visits – I have a membership and enjoy casual visits to see what’s happening and changing with the zoo. Plus, walking distance from my house so actually pleasurable excercise!

Image of a series of vertical book spines showing the twelve planet books in various colours. Header text white on transparent black overlies the image with the title 'A Journey Through the Twelve Planets'.I want to continue to keep up my blogging efforts, both here and my ‘5 things a day’ effort on my Dreamwidth journal. I’m looking forward to the blogging review projects that I’m involved in like the Journey Through the Twelve Planets, I’ve wanted to do something like these for ages so they’re definitely a priority in this area. I also want to review books and write about fannish things if the mood strikes. I want to talk about movies and television, about podcasts and new-to-me stuff! I want to try and host the DUFC once, I want to write about feminism pretty much at all, and same about midwifery if possible. I want to blog about cooking and family thoughts – poly stuff and budget stuff. I have a bunch of ideas noted down – hopefully I’ll find some time to write about them. And if not, that’s okay too.

I would like to make it back to Perth this year, to see partners, chosen family and friends – and I’d like it to be any other time than Summer. I am hoping to have Kaneda over here for our 19th anniversary – I didn’t get to see him at all in 2015. I’d also like to make a to visit other friends who live elsewhere – Adelaide, Sydney or Brisbane maybe? This is a wishful thing as it’s not likely possible with budget constraints, but I’m making space for it. I want to spend a few days with Mum – I didn’t manage that at all last year mainly because of study things and related stress, plus work. I’d also love to do a few days away in regional Victoria by myself on the cheap as part of my plan for self care – I’ve figured out that in a bunch of ways I need to be away from home for it to be a holiday, preferably where I don’t have to make my own food.

Also, I still want to get my license. I want to get past this. I want it because it will make prac and followthrough things easier, it will give me the chance to apply to do the continuity of care program prac next year for my course. It will give me a sense of achievement to have *finally* done it. I still want to take a mini-road trip by myself to celebrate. I think the way to get through this is to do a couple of lessons about passing the test. In the meantime, I need to encourage Ral and Fox to take me out driving so I can get comfortable with my own sense of competency again. This is one of the harder goals I have for this year, but I really want to get it done this time.

Cooking

This focus is as  much on framing as anything. My major household contribution is around management of meal planning and food decisions, and a hefty chunk of the cooking. Mostly I enjoy this! Some days it’s a bit harder. There’s a lot I enjoy about cooking and I’ve discovered I really like trying new recipes. I also like revisiting familiar ones and just *knowing* what they’ll give me. Sometimes I’m creatively minded to make up something to cook, but it’s not how I operate generally at present. So I’d like to continue to have meal planning work for us, to minimise groceries needed and food wasted. I’d like to continue to have lunches for uni/work easily organised. I’m encouraging Fox to cook more often this year and I’m aiming to get him confident with stir fries, soups and basic stews/casseroles. I would like to keep trying new recipes, but also spread out the rotation of familiar recipes that we liked and that worked well for us in the past couple of years.

I’d like to have people over for dinner as part of my easy socialising desires – especially if on those nights I can encourage Ral and Fox to cook sometimes. Maybe I’m also interested in a monthly dinner that is a general social invite alla the Friday Night Meatballs concept, although I can’t imagine preparing the same dish every single Friday, and maybe Sunday night would work better schedule wise given it would be almost Fox’s weekend and a chance for something easy/low key to be really lovely. The key is ease and connection. I want to increase the amount of meals we eat that are vegetarian and vegan, but again, I don’t want this to be a stick to beat myself with. I want to continue making our own stock – it’s such a time-saver and makes the dishes we cook taste better – the bone broths especially, but there’s no reason not to have veggie stock given it’s largely made out of scraps, so less waste. I also want to see if I can manage one preserving effort of some description this year, although honestly this is a bonus goal.


So that’s my current thinking with Chrysalis – it’s very me focused, and very much looking at ways to promote my sense of wellbeing while managing my obligations and commitments. This focus feels right to me, as at present I still feel too close to burnout for comfort, I’m still exhausted, still feeling acute stress and not ready for everything to start again. But, I will do the best I can – I am surrounded by the most amazing partners, chosen family and friends. Plus, I’m not afraid of asking for help or seeking support where it’s available. I want to get through this year whole, I want to avoid feeling burned out and damaged if that’s at all possible given how intense second semester will be. I want to appreciate the many small moments of joy and use them to help me through the harder bits.

A final note, a huge thank you to Kim C. Smith over at Nature is my Therapy for letting me use her gorgeous photo of the monarch butterfly chrysalis as part of my post. She has some incredible nature photography that’s well worth a look.

 

Moving on from Becoming and 2015

It’s taken longer than I wanted to get to this point where writing was possible. But that happens sometimes and I just needed to go with it. Last week I had my annual conversation with @dilettantiquity about our theme stuff. We have a unique insight and understanding of each other in part because we are so very very different, but there are strong similarities too. I love our relationship and even if this is the only conversation we manage in a year (and recently this has been the case), it is one of the best conversations I’ll have all year. Guaranteed.

Often when we talk, it’s to sort out what maybe the year ahead will bring – a theme for the new year can sometimes be elusive. This time for us, we needed much of the time to talk through the year we’d just been through and what our 2015 enquiry had looked like at the end of things. For me, at the start of the conversation, I didn’t know at all. And then we talked it through, and it all became clearer and now, I can write about it.

First of all, I have such an appreciation for me of January 2015 writing about Becoming for the first time, being so optimistic, hopeful and determined. I love that person, she’s ace! The year I hoped for was so far from what actually happened, so many things about the aims I put forth to focus on yielded unexpected results – some involved no results at all, some were merely different, and others changed me.

Mostly what I can describe 2015 as is, a continuous grind that never, ever let up. When I wrote up my end of year meme post for my Dreamwidth journal, I was struck that there were few really big good things. There was my first baby catch back in January, and Continuum in June, getting a part time job that is actually pretty great in September so more money for the last part of the year in our budget, and Christmas with chosen family in December. They’re moderately big, big compared to everything else, but not that big.

The continual good things were my partners, especially Ral and Fox and our determination to have a good life together as a family and household. That was easier only on some days and mostly just hard because of circumstances. We worked hard at managing on one income between three of us, and that income is not an easy one because Fox is pretty much at the end of his tether with this job, but we need it and so he perseveres. Med school for Ral seems to be an unusual method of torture that tries to talk you out of something you’re passionate about, good at, really worked hard to do, and yet get there and it’s like walking on broken glass the whole time. He perseveres too amidst several difficulties, and despite being awful this year was less awful for him than last which is a win. I’m so very proud of them and I love my Bat and Fox so very much. 

Baturday Fox cub close up

We balanced focusing on making sure all the essentials were paid for first, with then afterwards trying to say yes to each other for little things and treats – a game, a cheap dinner out, a new piece of clothing/shoes/my favourite moisturiser. We also focused a lot on kindness with each other, on making home safe and a haven for each other, on being there for each other and sharing the load – being flexible with that because coping varied considerably. We did the best we could and mostly it worked, most of the time – I think that sounds like faint praise when really given everything that we dealt with, it was pretty wondrous.

So Becoming as an enquiry was less about my journey around midwifery and taking on the qualities and actions of a new qualification and career, less around personal self expression and surety. Instead, it was more about Becoming a household that is even more tightly knit, and one that makes do and works hard at that. It was about Becoming more familiar (and less) with dealing with the effects of mental illness and what that looks like as something ongoing without resorting to blame or resentment. Becoming was about making space – in that way of pouring energy into spacemaking to facilitate home, safety and care. And it was also about my Becoming a midwife and being rattled around in that journey throughout the year – it was gruelling and my confidence remains quite shaken.

Essentially this was a much more inward facing year than I’d originally anticipated – I thought it would be more outward projecting. Inwardly there was lots of digging deep for more energy, for coping, for life administration, for health matters, for mental health (mine and partners), for emotional labour, domestic management, for balancing it all. That’s mostly what I remember, constantly steeling myself and seeking to dig deeper. But I managed. We managed. We all came through it, more or less in one piece. We know that eventually it won’t be this hard and that things will be better. In the meantime, we keep digging in and doing the best we can.

Looking more specifically at aims I had or goals I wanted to achieve:

Reading, Media and Fandom

My biggest area of success last year – by far! And an expansion in scope! I already wrote my wrap up post about my reading commitments from the beginning of last year. They went really well overall. I met my overall reading goal of 75 books (although some of them were shorter). There was more diversity although not as much as I’d have liked. I joined a site as a reviewer and have been enjoying the process of reviewing ARCs – it’s a little different than simply reading for pleasure, but I enjoyed it massively and reviewed much more often than I have any other year.

From Ashes Into Light cover Beast's Garden cover Hexomancy cover

I did more tracking of my non-fiction reading for uni – in short it was a lot. I posted some of it, but unless I have the energy to comment on the things it’s just a bibliography, and while pretty, isn’t that interesting. I absolutely wowed myself with reading and reviewing 17 books for the Australian Women Writers Challenge too! I also had a huge number of books on my ‘favourites’ for the year which was awesome and I also got to write an end of year wrap up for those.

A Trifle Dead - cover The Dreamer's Pool - cover The Disappearance of Ember Crow - coverVision in Silver - cover Ancillary Sword - cover

Mythmaker coverMy favourite movies of the year included Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both movies that just… elated me on a feminist and fan level in so many ways! Is this what it looks like when you get to be the target audience?

There was also some great television that I watched, new to me but mostly not new in 2015. My favourite was Steven Universe, just everything about it in every way. Followed by Librarians and Elementary both wonderful, as was Rizzoli and Isles, Major Crimes and Castle. I’ve also finally started on Agent Carter, Supergirl and Jessica Jones and am also really enjoying Tea Leoni in Madam Secretary.

This was also the year that I got back into podcasts in a huge way! I’ve long meant to get back to listening to Galactic Suburbia regularly and they introduced me to Fangirl Happy Hour which I am so delighted with I can’t even describe. I just want to be friends with both of the hosts and talk about All The Things! Fangirl led me to Tea & Jeopardy and Rocket Talk both of which I am also enjoying immensely. Thanks to all of these I experienced the great book recommendation deluge of 2015, my current ‘to-read’ list stands at 687 at the time of writing and I think it actually doubled this year.


Shifting Shadows - cover
Cranky Ladies of History - coverPrudence - coverThe Price You Pay is Red - coverThe Long and Silent Ever After - cover The Bloody Little Slipper - cover

 

 

 

 

Midwifery

I worked so hard last year on this degree, on this new career I am pursuing. I am so passionate about it and determined. I want to be the best midwife I can be. It was a hard year, but I got really good marks overall. However, my end of semester prac didn’t work out and I have to repeat that which added a year to the degree. This meant a lighter second semester – although honestly it didn’t feel like it. The experience of needing to repeat a unit, especially given the reasons was hard to deal with and has left me really raw. The gravity of what I’m taking on continues to gr

ow inside my head and heart but I also still have the sense that I can really do this, that this is possible. I’m still really enjoying the anatomy and science aspect of things, working hard and doing well. I’m excelling in the cultural studies/sociology side of things though several of the topics were gruelling.

We dealt with hard topics termination, abortion, pregnancy loss – all of these early and late and the contextual reasoning, the medical side, the legal side, the emotional side – as carers and looking at women’s perspectives. We looked at medicines and their impact, their benefits and always the weighing of benefits against side effects. I also learned fascinating things, like the formation of an embryo and its layers, what happens in the first 2 weeks, 8 weeks of life, when congenital abnormalities are most likely to surface, why and the effects depending on what happens. We spent a lot of time on breastfeeding, but equally, as much time on choice and supporting women who don’t breastfeed. Much of the time was spent looking at all the ways in which the whole idea of how infant feeding happens in modern society is a no-win game no matter what. And my heart goes out to all women feeding their babies, however they do so because there seems no way in which it is not a loaded choice – pretty much every day. I hope I am equal to supporting and encouraging women given all of the context. We looked more deeply into pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, blood disorders other disorders and issues related to pregnancy including vaccinations, preventable diseases and their effect on pregnancy/infants and sexual health impacts.

I’m impressed with my cohort – we all work so very hard. Their dedication is as obvious as my own and I think any one of them will be amazing midwives. I do wish I wasn’t the only outward/overt feminist. It was a huge year – so much to learn, question, agree and disagree with – this is really barely skimming the surface.

Cooking

Another area of overt success – for the most part. I did a lot of cooking and mostly it was focused specifically on family meals and everyday eating. This included more concentrated effort on taking lunches to uni/work – which was mostly successful too. Having said that we did have some amazing feasts with friends over. I got to try a bunch of new recipes, added new favourites to my rotation and encouraged Fox to continue learning to cook. He had quite a stressful year so this was a very small target between us, but I think he did really well – he cooked pretty regularly and became more confident in the dishes he was able to produce. Making our own stock continued to be one of the best things for making easy food – I can only imagine how many litres of it we went through – maybe 50L ish each for chicken, beef and vegetable?

I did use more of the cookbooks I have – I cooked a little from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, but not nearly as much as I want to. We spent a concentrated month doing a bunch of dishes from Land of Plenty by Fuscia Dunlop and that was absolutely outstanding. I’m so in love with Sichuan food! I cooked a bit from Jamie Oliver’s older books but sometimes he and I disagree on what is ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ (I’m sure I’m not alone in this). The downside of using the physical books is that it’s not as easy to put into my meal plan (a google to-do list of no frills and all awesomeness). I mean, I put the name, the title and the page in there – but it’s not as easy to click through and see if we need any last minute shopping items.

Meal planning was the big success this year, it’s one of the ways in which we got through the leanest fortnights budget wise, and still managed to eat good and interesting food. Previously Ral and Fox struggled to plan ahead food and didn’t much see the point, but seeing the difference it made to our grocery spending, and the reduction in stress because most of the decisions were already made, most of the shopping already done was pretty convincing. We fell away from it in the last couple of months of the year – but given exams, assessments and illness it’s not surprising. Also I think it’s a little different in Summer and we haven’t quite gotten the knack of it – it’s improving in the most recent iteration.

I was delighted to discover the awesomeness of Instagram (you can find me as the usual username there) and regularly photographed the meals I made. It was a delight and I’ve got such a great visual record of how much effort I put into cooking, and the joy that yielded as far as delicious eating is concerned. I spent a little of the year doing more bread-making as well as making my own creme-fraiche. I also made a batch of preserved lemons. Tiny forays into preserving, but ones I’m pleased with, and I hope to continue improving this.

Homemade Pizza with Slow Cooked Broccoli and Buffalo Mozzarella - Oct 2015 http://www.transcendancing.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Sichuan-Feast-Gung-Pow-Chicken-and-Sichuanese-Green-Beans-Nov-2015.jpg Petits Pois à la Française Redux Quinoa, Broccolini, Snowpea and Cashew Salad - Nov 2015 http://www.transcendancing.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Sichuan-Feast-Gung-Pow-Chicken-and-Sichuanese-Green-Beans-Nov-2015.jpg Fish and Chips in Summer - Dec 2015Fish and Chips in Summer - Dec 2015

Blogging

I blogged awesomely last year! I maintained my streak of ‘5 Things About Today’ posts on my Dreamwidth journal – I’m well into the 400s now! I also posted more regularly here, mostly book reviews, but I posted an update on my theme and also on meal planning/budget stuff. Plus I hosted the Down Under Feminists Carnival. I’d have liked more energy to write about feminism stuff, media stuff, and feel like I could write more about midwifery but those things needed too much energy that I just didn’t have. And there will be time again for them later. I’m proud of my efforts – I sincerely met this goal even if there were topical aspects I wanted to cover more.

Self Development

Oh this topic. This largely is what gave in the year just gone. I just didn’t have energy leftover for a bunch of this. I didn’t get my license – I was just too stressed to get over the humps. I need to get comfortable with being familiar with driving again – I’m not driving often enough at present for that. I also think I need to do a driving lesson or two on passing the test. I know I’m a competent driver, but actually doing the test is just a stress barrier I’ve noped out of several times. I still want all the things I wanted at the beginning of last year regarding having my license, but it just didn’t happen.

Unexpectedly, I ended up with a job in September! I’m doing similar stuff to what I’ve done before – content management for websites. The organisation is as far from government and public service as is possible and I’m loving it because of that. I like the perks of this style of organisation – an ad agency. They’re actively seeking to retain people so we have free drinks and snacks, a coffee cart on the floor with super cheap and amazing coffee. Plus everyone is enthusiastic and works hard – it’s actually really nice to be around. I get to feel competent and valued, plus earn money to contribute to the household! I’ve been doing that mostly part time but with chunks of full time and it may continue ad hoc throughout the year until I hit the point of study where I just don’t have a day free to do that any more – we’ll see. I’d like to keep doing it as long as possible as the extra money makes a huge difference right now. Working has meant I could replace clothes and shoes that badly needed replacing, I got a portable air-conditioner for my room – the heat sink of the house which has meant dealing with the heat this Summer just that much easier. Mostly it’s gone on groceries of the non-meal-planning kind, because that fell away when I had less time, and that too is worthwhile and a luxury.

SeClouded Leopard Close Uplf-expression and letting myself be myself. I think this took a hit this year, but there were things. I got my hair cut short and am enjoying it immensely. I replaced clothes and while my style is still a little bit all over the place, I like the clothes I have and have acquired – especially my dresses with POCKETS! I bought more things with cats on them to wear! If I was a cat, I’d be this cat.

I didn’t do dancing, yoga or Pilates, but I did do a reasonable amount of walking – not as much as I’d liked. I visited the zoo quite a lot. Sexuality largely wasn’t a priority – mostly I expect because of stress. But I love my partners and feel loved by them in return. Actually, we all had a hard year last year which seems uncanny given the number of us.

Socialising

I did manage social stuff this year, I made a concerted effort and it paid off. I felt like I still missed opportunities to enjoy time with friends and loved ones, but I also know how limited my energy was. I am grateful for the wonderful people in my life, I have the best friends both here in Melbourne and elsewhere, I treasure you all so very much.

Community stuff, it really didn’t happen – something had to give and I just noped out of this in the end. There is only so  much time and energy – I am not doing so well in having enough energy for myself and those immediate in my life, so it isn’t realistic to think I can volunteer extra time and energy. Actually, I expect this will just have to wait until I’m no longer studying.


How to conclude after all of that? An epic post if ever there was one, but I feel like in writing this I’m properly putting 2015 to rest. And that’s necessary because it’s time to embark on my theme for 2016, which is less of a clear beginning and more of a transition. But for a genuine transition to take place, there has to be reflection, evaluation, an accounting to oneself, an awareness of how far you’ve come, who you are at the end of all this and how to face forward for the future. If you’ve gotten all the way to the end of this thank you, it means a lot. Next will be the reveal of my 2016 theme, but that post is still percolating. Finally, if you’ve done any kind of new year theme, focus, word, resolution write up, please let me know – I’d love to read it. Also, if you want to do something but are not sure how, feel free to comment and ask me, I’m happy to talk about it and share thoughts.

2015 is Becoming

Time for my annual theme reveal post! If you’re unfamiliar with my process of taking on a theme, take a look at this previous post I wrote. I know it’s February and usually I get onto writing this post earlier, but this one took some time. Not the idea, but the space to think about it and write about it. I’ve been on prac for my Midwifery training all throughout January which meant my focus was there and not on the bigness of the year ahead. Now that’s done, I am ready to really let this year take flight, so to speak.

So as you may have guessed from the title, this year is about Becoming. That notion of being in flux, of transformation and being in-between. Not finished, but in progress, and beyond the bare beginning too. I think this is a perfect theme to extend from last year’s Expedition, because this sense of being in-between, not finished and in the middle of something is very true for me right now. I start my second year of training as a midwife, and doing that training will continue to be my focus for many of my goals and actions. I also think that there’s some personal growth in the wings as well – old sore spots I’m hitting up against that I’d like to resolve further – or try to. Things like that.

In my mind, when I think on this year’s theme, this idea of Becoming, I do think of the caterpillar into the butterfly, working hard doing what’s necessary and emerging later, triumphant and with wings.

So what things am I looking to include as part of Becoming?

Reading

I want this year to be about reading and I want to track that more deliberately. I wrote separately about my reading goals for this year, but in in summary this is what I want to achieve. I already keep a record through Goodreads of what I’m reading, and I have been doing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for a few years and still love it. I also want to increase the diversity of the books I’m reading to read more books by Indigenous authors and people from other non-white backgrounds. I want to do more reviews especially of these books. I also want to write more from the perspective of a midwife in training, track what I’m reading for study and post a list of that. I guess that’s partly about wanting to be transparent about being evidenced based in my practice, but also to make visible how hard I’m working to train for this career I want so much.

Midwifery

I want to do well in my second year of study, of training. I want to take every learning opportunity possible and do the best I can. I want to learn in depth and well. I want to be able to rely on the evidence we’re given – I want to get through as much extra reading as I  can to support my learning and training during clinical placements. I want to do the best I can for the women I’m supporting as part of the continuity of care program (we generally refer to this as followthrough). I want to keep enjoying learning about science – anatomy and physiology. I want to continue to do well with the mathematics required. I want to spend a lot of time and energy working toward my transformation into a midwife – at some point I won’t be a student any more and I will have to decide things and sign my name to things and take responsibility in important ways. I want to be ready for that and I want to understand the gravity of that role I’m taking on.

Cooking

I loved all the cooking I did last year, I explored a bunch of new recipes – a whole bunch that are for special occasions and pack a huge punch. I also discovered some delicious really simple recipes. I want to especially concentrate on that latter category, stuff that is easy to do for dinner when we’re all busy so that I can also ensure myself down time. I also want to encourage Fox to continue to learn how to cook and gain confidence in this area. Ral will hopefully be so busy with med school that he won’t have any time to cook (this will be a good thing, I know it sounds unbalanced but if things are going well that will be a good sign of it). My main contribution to our household is the cooking and food planning, so I’m going to view it as a joy and try and minimise my experience of it (or the kitchen) as a chore.

Last year I started regularly making my own stock, and what a huge revelation! All kinds of things suddenly became easy and accessible any day of the week because of the weekends I’ve spent letting a big pot of deliciousness simmer away. I’m going to keep that up, also get back into making our own creme fraiche. I’d love to get back into bread but it might be a bit ambitious all things considered. More veggies, and continuing to prioritise ethical meat and eggs.

Additionally, I have some wonderful cookbooks that I’d love to take advantage of, so that’s another cooking priority. Not only would I like to use them more but I’d like to blog about it – I’d like to say with pictures but I’m not always great at remembering to photograph my food. However, it would be wonderful if I did manage to blog and photograph things and come away feeling like I’d really gotten something out of these books that I so carefully chose. I almost never buy recipe books, so I make a point of using them – especially when I know they’re good even though the internet is right there and so easy. A friend once upon a time would do a month cooking from a particular cuisine and I’d like to do something similar but from a particular cookbook, and probably not so intensive as every meal for a month but aim for 5 recipes a month or something if I’m concentrating on a particular book. Not every month either, I want space for this too – joy, not a chore. Exploration and fun, not work.

Blogging

This is kind of summing up a bunch of things I’ve said – I want to do more blogging. I’ve really enjoyed in recent months being more active both here and on my Dreamwidth journal so I’d like to keep that going. I’ve been doing a daily ‘5 things’ post – just notes about the day, not necessarily good things or positive things (though they almost always are) but just things about the day so that people know what’s going on in my life. Now I have that particular habit sorted, I’d like to get more written here, books, movies, television, cooking, midwifery, feminism. The works. I’ve got some midwifery blogging goals but I don’t want to make numbered goals for cooking blog posts on top of the reading stuff because it can become too rigid too fast. I love flexibility and I find that if I provide myself the overarching aim, I’ll do better with it with space to breathe. Numbers are all well and good but I don’t want it to be an obligation, a chore that I resent, I just want there to be the intention for more writing and let myself act on it.

Self Development

Getting my license. This is imminent – it lingered through last year and I’ve come so close. I’m stomping all over the remaining Feelings I’ve been having about failing the test the first time and have some plans to do a couple of driving lessons about passing the test. I can drive and I’m reasonably confident in my overall competence, now I just need to pass the test (and probably do my first official drive by myself somewhere).  I’d still like to take a road trip by myself, explore Victoria somehow just by myself, just overnight or something.

Gently explore job options that won’t get in the way of my study. Right now I’m figuring hospital admin jobs that I can do casually – reception type stuff mostly. Maybe data work? I’m not sure. I’m just going to see what comes up and try and take advantage of it and get some money of my own coming in. Family wise we’ve restructured things to deal as best we can with the fact that both Ral and I have been declared unworthy of receiving basic support, which sucks but.. it just is what it is. We’re past the anger and resentment stage and have moved on.

Me. Letting myself be myself, and that looks a little bit like self expression – what I wear, hair and other presentation things. Maybe it also looks like dancing and pilates and massage if I can afford it – there’s some old and painful conditioning in amongst this stuff that is still hard to talk about, hard to describe but I want to create some space for it to be out in the open more. I’d like to continue to enjoy my sexuality and explore that more, revel in my wonderful partnerships and make sure my partners know how much they mean to me. Indeed, how much the people in my life overall mean to me.

Socialising

I’d like to be better at it this year, and I think it will look a lot like inviting people over for dinner so I can cook for them – it’s good practice for doing something different, and it’s usually cheap and often appreciated. I also have a few TV buddy things planned which I’m looking forward to, and I’d like to make good on the feminist hangout plans I tentatively made with friends late last year where we could enjoy that aspect of ourselves in company and explore it gently – and joyfully. Community, I’m still building it here and I want to be better at that too and ideally avoid volunteering for too much or getting stuck avoiding toxic people/practices – this is not likely to be necessary but I am aware of it as potential in general – good intentions and all that doesn’t always work out. I’d like to go to more Poly Vic events again, I’d like to get to some of the Greens events for my local group and I’m still tempted by the CWA. The latter might be on the too ambitious side given everything else, but we’ll see. I’d also still like to volunteer somehow for Continuum, but I’m not sure how to go about that yet. Again, intention and space so that something can happen without being forced.

Here’s to Becoming, the transition and transformation with all the pain and joy that comes with those things. Here’s to the in between, the ephemeral and the liminal. Here’s to just being, in the moment, being myself, being genuinely with others  with kindness and appreciation.

 

 

Expedition for 2014 Finishes

This will be my final post on my 2014 theme Expedition. I always do a wrap up post, although I know it wasn’t that long ago that I made an update. Still, an update is just that and this is finalising and closing off my enquiry for 2014 so that I can make room for and welcome in my theme for 2015.  If you’re interested to see how I felt about this over the course of the year, you can read about my initial post about Expedition, my middle of the year update, and the update I made just in December.

What a year 2014 has been, many new experiences mostly good and some more difficult. I do think that the idea of an expedition did help me to take on the new things for the year – going to university full time and as an internal student. Starting a science degree and confronting my lingering fears about being terrible at both of them. I completed two placements (one is finishing this week) for my midwifery training and they’ve both instilled within me the elation and joy at the job I’m training for, and if that wasn’t enough: I really think this is something I will be good at.

It’s been kind of interesting thinking of how this enquiry was going to come to an end – after all I still have two years of my degree left to study and what is that if not a continuation of my expedition. And yet, I did feel that there needed to be some fresh perspective for 2015 and that I’ve taken on as much as I possibly could have to learn from Expedition as a theme. So my journey continues, but with a new theme and it’s time to reflect more closely on what I’ve ultimately taken from Expedition as a year long enquiry.

To the dot points! What are my final conclusions? Again, I’m going to continue to speak to what is relevant and not repeat previous conclusions unless there’s something new to say about them.

  •  Successfully complete my first year in my Midwifery degree.

Wow! Now that I’m staring down the barrel of second year, it’s really hit me that I’m doing this! I’ve done really well in both science and maths, and though I expect that to get harder I also think I’m up for the challenge. And more than that, I’m starting to really enjoy that side of learning – not just dreading it. What a change! Such a welcome one though. I’m most of the way through my second placement – this is for second semester in 2014 so it’s technically last year for me. It’s going so well!

I’m loving it, I still really enjoy working on the postnatal ward and I got some of my tools signed off. More recently I’ve been working on the labour ward and that’s a first for me. What an incredible privilege to share such a special moment with people. What an incredible privilege to be able to provide support and care at such a time of intimacy and vulnerability. I’m amazed. While there’s so much more to midwifery than labour and birth, that part of it is something really special and unique – there’s nothing else like it. I’ve learned so much from the midwives I’m working with, and the obstetricians too.

So the ideals surrounding labour and birthing don’t always apply and can sometimes just be detrimental – it’s important to evaluate and support each person’s choices and make sure they’re informed about their choices and that they get the best possible care, with the best possible outcomes for both mother and  baby.  More on that in another post I think.

  • Explore employment options while studyingfull time and internally bothshort term andlong termin addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling.
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office.
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students.

I’m really surprised that I’ve got yet more to update about this. Centrelink rejected my Newstart claim and I’ve had no income from them since mid November, which has sucked. I appealed that initial decision and I’ve just received word this week that the original decision to reject my claim has been upheld. I’m still not entitled to basic support – largely because  I’m studying at degree level and it’s not what they call a ‘short course’ that aims to see people employed.

Honestly I can get behind that in part because I still think that I should be receiving Austudy – I may have a degree but I was able to work and support myself through that and I never claimed Austudy for it. I’m really angry that I can’t claim it now when I actually need the support. But despite having never claimed Austudy, I’ve reached the end of my ‘allowable time’ to study at a bachelor level – never mind I’ve never claimed it, or the circumstances I’m in right now, there’s no flexibility there.

Neither of those options are open to me now though, so I’m in large part dependent on my partners. They’re lovely and I’ve got no actual fears or worry around this, but I dislike being dependent. I contribute to the household in many ways of course, so money isn’t the be all and end all. However, having money coming into my bank account regularly that is mine goes a long way to keeping my stress low in this area and feeling like I am contributing equally in some way (even if the money isn’t exactly equal). The boys are going to work with me on that and will make sure money goes from their joint account into mine so I’m always covered for money and I don’t always have to ask (also awful to do). I have also applied for a job at the small hospital I’m doing placement at right now for a receptionist position – they have one for quite long hours and every day of the week so I am sure that it would work around university studies and so forth. Fingers crossed something comes of that because I could do and would even enjoy the job, and, money!

  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself

So, this I just haven’t managed – I haven’t been doing much driving at all in recent months and I’ve also had an injured shoulder which is getting aggravated enough by everyday stuff without adding in another thing. Still an excuse I know. I struggle with confidence when I’m not driving regularly so I need to just organise a plan for doing that and book the test again. And pass it. And then do my fucking road trip so that I can feel like I actually *have* that P-plate. I know it’s just a test, just an arbitrary line on the day whether my skills are adequate or not, but failing the first time still really threw me – especially as I know I didn’t do the wrong thing and should have passed. This goal is on the list ‘just need to fucking do it already’.

  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt

This is another set of dot points that I’m surprised to have updates for. I’m still doing this, and in particular right now I’ve needed care and I’ve had to just let that happen – and emotional care I can receive just fine, but financial care I struggle with so very much and it’s hard. Getting lots of practice lately and I hope that in future I can return the favour in such a way as to make someone else’s hard time easier.

Adam was here for Christmas and it was all kinds of lovely. I love having him around and close, it was low key and snuggly and lovely all around. I still miss Kaneda so much and wish that he could visit me here and see my life here and have some fun – I wish I had the money to bring him over and do that, but that too will have to wait. We’re both pragmatists though and that never seems to take away from the deep abiding love we have for one another. My life is always forever richer for him.

I’ve also been more social – not so much during placement, but in the lead up to it and I’ve got plans for afterwards as well. That’s been really lovely and I hope to continue and increase that in the lead up to classes starting again. That’s the one thing I didn’t predict and still underestimate about this degree is how much energy it requires from me, and it’s the kind of energy where I need much more quiet recharge time than I’m used to.

  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras

I met my reading goals for 2014! I’m so pleased about this. I read exactly 75 books, and of those 10 were from Australian women writers and I reviewed about 6 of those I think. I also did do some reviews on Goodreads as I read things although I’d like to have reviewed more overall. That said, if I don’t have time to review something I can often put off marking it read on Goodreads and giving myself permission to just give a star rating for stuff was really useful for marking things off and not feeling like I should be doing more. Also, some books I really wanted to review and those are the ones I generally did review, others I was reading for fluff or escapism and I didn’t really have much more to say about them than that.

  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it.

I did write up a post about the TV I’ve been watching, but it’s not that in depth as far as critical analysis goes. I do talk about why I watch and why I like it and so on, but it’s not like any kind of review or comparison. Still calling that a success though – I am watching an epic list of TV and it was good to get it all listed, well… most of it. I also wrote up the movies I’d watched in recent months which was enjoy able too. I still have to blog about the list of movies I still want to watch – that list is rather epic as well so I expect very little commentary otherwise it becomes unwieldy.

  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones.

I don’t have much to add to this except to reaffirm that the zoo membership was so worthwhile and I love having it! I’ve done bits and pieces of exploring and basically I’d like to do more. I do think that given how full the year is that I’ve enjoyed the adventures I’ve managed and hopefully 2015 is a year involving yet more adventures!

  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures

Well I think I’ve certainly gotten on top of this in the end months of the year. My daily journal posts over on Dreamwidth are going strong – today when I post it will be #117 in a row! I’ve also done a bunch of book reviews here and also some movie stuff. Plus, I have some posts in the wings about midwifery and also feminism – that same post is still in draft but I will hopefully post it soon. I haven’t done any more for the Down Under Feminist Carnival, but hopefully I’ll be more on top of that in 2015. I’d also like to do more about how much I love Melbourne and taking pictures – I really didn’t manage that well this year. Although honestly I spent so much of it with my head in a textbook it’s any wonder.

  • Volunteering, community and socialising.

Nothing more on this – I really did let go of this because there were other priorities for 2014 and these were probably a bit ambitious anyway. I still have interest in getting involved with the Inner North CWA, and I still really want to volunteer for Continuum. I also want to attend more Poly Vic events and do more board gaming things too. But this really didn’t come together for 2014 and that was actually a good thing because other stuff had the priority and I’m glad I focused on that.

  • Cook for people to spend time and show care
  • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
  • Explore cooking in new cuisines
  • Blog about cooking, with pictures

I had really hoped to have had a chance to cook for a particular couple of friends by this point in time, but it hasn’t come together yet. I still want to do it though so I will follow that up in the coming months. I did have people over for dinner and Ral and I have definitely cooked up a storm. We did amazing things for Christmas feasting and I’m delighted to have hosted my very first Christmas feast with loved ones. We finished the day by watching Die Hard which was actually perfect viewing.  I tried a whole lot of new recipes and some new techniques – onward and upward there for 2015.

There were two other dot points to do with growing things and the zoo. Growing things still remains a puzzle I’ve yet to solve but would like to – if only to save money on buying kitchen herbs – which we use a LOT of. I’ve already commented on how much I’ve enjoyed the zoo and it was one of the best things I bought this year. Of the dot points I added at the last update, here’s where I’m at:

  • Start transitioning from 2014 and Expedition into 2015 and a new theme.

Well here we are at the end of Expedition and looking forward to 2015. I do know what next year’s theme is going to be thanks to a video call with @dilletantiquity but you’ll have to wait to find out what it is.

  • Play my video games and enjoy them! Maybe blog about what I’ve played and enjoyed and why?

I’ve been playing video games and really enjoying them. I look forward to spending more time this year exploring the games I’ve bought and want to play. My favourite from this year is Cook, Serve, Delicious. It’s a keyboard coordination game where you make food for a restaurant using keystrokes and timing is a major factor too. The food you make gets more complicated as you go along. And just recently there was an update that initiated a ‘Battle Kitchen’ mode with weekly challenges, specific food style challenges and also an endurance challenge – I’m so in love with this part of the game I can’t express. I doubled my hours I’d ever spent on the game in two weeks. Placement has meant I haven’t been as involved as I usually would, but I have managed to do each of the weekly challenges at least.

  • Publish my list of movies to watch – and do a mini review or something for the ones I’ve watched to date (hint, most of them I have not watched).

I have yet to publish my list of movies to watch, that’s still on my to-do list. I did blog about the movies I’d seen so far though which I’m pretty pleased about (scroll up for the link).

  • Finalise all my paperwork to hand in for my Midwifery year 1 including my followthrough report.

That’s a thing for after this week is done. I really need to make an effort to do my followthrough report though – am a bit stumped, not sure what to write.

  • Try and beat my goal of reading 75 books!

I did read 75 books but didn’t beat this goal unfortunately! Close, but not quite.

  • Plan and execute an awesome family Christmas with the boys, Adam, Prky and Tori. The feast will be spectacular! Also, blog about the feast and the planning and feelings about this particular Christmas.

I did this – it was wonderful, we had a great day with awesome food and I’m so pleased with how it all turned out! I did also blog quite a lot about the feast in the lead up to it, and after – not here though, on my Dreamwidth journal (poke me if you really want the link).

So there we are, Expedition is done. I had a lot of specific goals for this – more specific than ever before actually and I enjoyed that for a change. It was nice to be acting outside of myself and doing rather than delving inwards and feeling/exploring. I think that I learned a lot about myself this year but I’m still figuring out what that is – maybe that will surface in the months to come. Maybe it’s something that will only really come together once I complete my training as a midwife – who knows? I’m open to anything really. I think that’s one of the nicest parts of this theme is that I think I finally made friends with uncertainty and being able to trust in my bigger vision to get me through.

Here’s to the culmination of a year that saw so much change, many achievements and a lot to be proud of. Here’s also to the new year and a new enquiry for 2015!

Expedition: Almost there…

This entry might seem almost superfluous given there is so little time left between now and when this enquiry is likely to end. I last updated in July and had a lot to say, but I did really want to look at where things are at even if it’s not quite a 3/4 review point. Usually my themes end roughly at the end of the year but it’s kind of a transition period where there’s definitely lots of background thinking that finalises one enquiry to make room for the next to declare itself. So this check in even if not ideally timed, will still do it’s job I’m sure.

I think this year I’ve done really well with what I set out to achieve, my list of goals was ambitious but I had every reason to be and I’m glad for it. Not everything got done and some stuff definitely got let go. I’m going to comment only on the stuff that is still ongoing and not the stuff I let go of last time because it would be redundant. What I’m hoping by making this update at this point is that I kick start the process of transition to finalise this year’s theme and discover next year’s.

So where am I with my list of goals and aims?

  •  Successfully complete my first year in my Midwifery degree.
    • Continue improving my science and mathematics knowledge and proficiency.
    • Work hard on clinical placements to get the best experience and knowledge about working as a midwife as is possible.
    • Do quality work in my Continuity of Care Program being the aspect of training involving recruiting families having babies and undertaking to provide extra support and care much like a midwife would, but in a student capacity. I love this program because the aim is mutuality – extra care and support for the person who is pregnant and their partner and family (where applicable), and experience for me in the ongoing care, education and support required as a midwife and learning how to build rapport with people, but maintain professionalism for everyone’s benefit.

I’ve worked hard on my science and maths and my marks for this year show it. HDs for science in both semesters and I didn’t have to repeat any of my maths hurdle tests. I’m sure it gets harder for maths next year, but I’m proud of how I’ve gone with these things this year. I haven’t done my second clinical placement yet, that’s coming up in January – but I’m looking forward to it massively – I’m definitely assigned to birthsuite this time around! I’ve also managed to gather all of my people for my Continuity of Care program and I’m working hard on that.  So far though, I’m finding this part of things really rewarding – I feel useful and I like providing support and reassurance. Also, I am good at it and that’s a nice feeling too. I have a range of people with quite different backgrounds as well which I am appreciating – it’s teaching me how to be a good midwife to a variety of people with differing questions and concerns.

  • Explore employment options while studyingfull time and internally bothshort term andlong termin addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students

So I didn’t think there’d be anything to update about this – and then about 2 weeks ago, everything changed. Centrelink have decided that I’m no longer eligible for Austudy, despite having never claimed it before now. I’m so furious – they’re counting the time I spent completing my initial degree in their time frames even though I supported myself through that degree. At the time of writing, as suggested I’ve reapplied for Newstart as a jobseeker and am waiting for my claim to be assessed after submitting all the paperwork a week and a half ago.

I’ve had my initial compulsory meeting with the government job provider, and at least I have one that doesn’t seem to be crap which is at least something. Thankfully, they’ve taken into account all of my study stuff, including my followthrough requirements. I only have to hunt for 5 jobs per fortnight, and my employment pathway plan – the compulsory thing you have to agree to in order to get paid – basically sets itself up to be a 2 year plan with being employed as a midwife the main goal – and a long term one. I don’t actually anticipate anyone employing me, and I don’t think the job provider does either, with followthrough appointments, my availability is too erratic. Plus, I have pretty much zero experience in casual things.

And… I also still want to concentrate on my studies. I’m working hard on them and putting the time in is important to me. The only exception to this would be if I got to do online first year university tutoring because that remains a goal of personal fulfilment and not just a money thing. So we’ll see how things go on the Centrelink front – but basically I’m super stressed about it and desperately wish I could have just stayed on Austudy. I will definitely miss the textbook bonus for buying texts – I know I can borrow them, but I’ve found it very valuable to actually have the books and to be able to go back to them any time. Especially my anatomy text book.

  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself

So, I’ve been procrastinating on this. I still have Feelings about failing my first attempt. It IS something I just need to pony up and deal with though because in this coming year having my license will be really important, not to mention useful. I will get this done, and my aim is to do so before the end of the year.

  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt

This still comes under things I’d do regardless, but it’s nice to track the intention, the energy, and the commitment that goes into this stuff. I haven’t had a chance to see K since the first quarter of the year, and he won’t make it over here this year, but hopefully in the new year. Adam is coming over to spend Christmas with us, which will be truly wonderful! Christmas this year is going to be magical – but more on this later. I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with partners this year and I’ve mostly settled into a kind of regularity if not routine of things with different partners. Now that I’m settled into my new place and not in the middle of semester I’m also focusing on being more social which has also been rewarding. I have to specifically mention how much I’ve enjoyed my dates with my partner Omega this year, she’s amazing and adores me, I adore her and we just have the best time spoiling each other. Next time it’s my turn to spoil her and I’m really looking forward to that! Ajax moved in with his partner Tash and they’ve been settling into a new pattern for themselves, and subsequently he and I for ourselves which is nice – I need to make time to go down to where they live (kind of on the outskirts of the city) and spend time there but I haven’t gotten my act together for it yet.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing care work this year, particularly for Ral who has spent much of the year dealing with mental health stuff, and that’s been intensive to say the least. Fox and I have continued to deepen our relationship and the rewards from that are just sublime. I think we’ve reached a point where we really make each other happy – and that’s just so awesome (and worlds away from where things started out). I’ve had more resilience this year emotionally than I anticipated – but the caring and worry about Ral has taken its toll. Also this Centrelink stuff. But then, I’m living with two people who are really good at also taking care of me – especially when I signal the need. Our chicken soup ritual works wonders because we have a default plan for comfort and care when we’re sick (I’ve made a lot of chicken soup this year because Fox works in a call centre). Also we have a well established system of asking for treats (pate is a consistent one for me), and we know each other well enough to pick each other’s favourites of things. This also includes calling ahead and asking for the spa to be run, or discovering when we all get home that none of us can deal with cooking and so we declare cooking bankruptcy and order pizza or something instead. So I’ve gotten much better at being taken care of, not just caring for others this year. I think having specific systems and default agreements about what is desirable or wanted helps with that.

  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras

I have been participating, but not as deliberately as I would have liked – I have read my 6 books, and I’ve written 2 proper reviews and have done basic reviews for 3 others. I still have to do 2 more reviews that are more in depth and specific. I need to get onto that! I am also on track to read my 75 books for the year which is pretty exciting! Mostly I’ve managed this because I’ve been using trashy comfort reading to get me through semester and even though it’s not something I find deeply satisfying it does actually satisfy in ways that are useful for during semester where I don’t have a lot of extra brain or thinking. I look to fluffy and emotionally rewarding reads that don’t ask me to work too hard for the story or enjoyment. It’s a little lazy in that sense, but my focused reading has been in the realm of study so I’m pretty okay with my trashy reading habits overall. I will say that both ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ and ‘Kaleidescope’ are on my best reads for 2014 list.

  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it

I’m actually going to call this done – my reviewing wasn’t as in depth as I might have fantasised about. But, I’ve done a huge television post just this week that looks at all the stuff I’m in the process of watching, where I’m up to and what I like about it, why I watch it. There’s some critical analysis in there, but it’s not necessarily all that deep – maybe I will do more about this with specific show comparisons (like police procedurals or law procedurals or something) next year. Maybe.

  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones

Still having adventures! I’ve been visiting the zoo, I’ve been continuing to try new cooking things! I’ve been playing new games. I went to the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition and found it outstanding. I went to a feminist retreat weekend camp and loved the hell out of it and came back rejuvenated about pretty much all of that. Plus I met some really great people and it was just awesome. I’ve also been having more online conversations about feminism with pretty good success, though honestly I set the bar low. This weekend I’ve been participating in an online summit called Building Better Babies that is directed toward those who are parents-to-be, but also secondarily toward professionals who work in the field. The webinars I’ve watched have been really good and I’ve learned a bunch of stuff that I’ll return to – and also pass onto my followthroughs. Also, this year I followed the entire season of the Formula 1 and *really* enjoyed it! I learned more about the teams, the drivers, the tracks and the competition mechanics. It’s much more interesting than I could possibly have imagined and I’ve really enjoyed sharing this with the boys – particularly Fox.

  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures

Wow! Actually there has been some success with blogging more! Mostly it’s been in my personal Dreamwidth journal, but I’ve also done more posting in this space more recently which I’m pleased about. I still haven’t done any link salads, and I’ve done little for the Down Under Feminists Carnival – I’ve sent in the odd link but until this month I haven’t written anything in ages that I could submit of my own. Waiting to finalise the post I’ve drafted and hoping to include it for the December round up. I haven’t done any picture blogs of food or Melbourne – well I’ve done a little with food but not a huge amount. I’ve taken a bunch of pictures but haven’t had the impetus to actually blog about it at useful points very often. But, I have blogged more about life in general which includes my love affair with Melbourne.

  • Connect with my local community
    • Volunteer with my local Greens group
    • Join my local CWA group
    • Keep  meeting new people in the furry fandom
    • Keep joining in with poly community events
    • Volunteer with Melbourne Supanova

So this is still a bonus and I still haven’t managed much with it. I wanted to volunteer for the Greens for the state election (which went well all things told), but didn’t have the energy to commit. I haven’t looked for my local CWA group yet, but I’d still like to do this. I haven’t bothered with furry fandom stuff and probably won’t for quite a while to come. I have enjoyed socialising with new people, especially geeky ones when I’ve had the chance. I’ve only been to one of the poly events since last posting and I enjoyed myself a lot (though I am still avoiding certain personalities). I am hoping very much to volunteer for next year’s Supanova, but will depend on how things are looking at that point – I suspect all my followthroughs will be having their babies around then, which may put a dent in that plan 😛 Or I may just be too wiped from semester/placement. That was the case this year and it may well be the case next year. I am hopeful though because I love it.

Cooking adventures!

  • Cook for people to spend time and show care
  • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
  • Explore cooking in new cuisines
  • Blog about cooking, with pictures

I’ve continued my cooking adventures! There has been an inordinate amount of soup cooked this year. I’ve also tried to focus on doing more demanding and gourmet cooking when I’ve been able to because it’s challenging and the results are often kind of spectacular if you pick the right dishes. I’m hoping to do a round up blog post of the stuff I’ve spent time cooking this year. I did produce a zine for a Christmas in July event that I gave away with a bunch of the cooking I had done up to that point – hopefully people enjoyed it and found it useful! And, if not I hope they passed it along to others in the hope they find it useful. Maybe I’ll do another one after Christmas this year or in the early part of next year. I’m still exploring new techniques and recipes – more recently I’ve nailed chicken schnitzel which isn’t exactly hard, but it’s fiddly and generally easier to go out and order at a pub/restaurant. I have a bunch of plans for Szechuan cooking in the coming months. Not much picture blogging, though a little. I laugh thinking that I still want to be better at this, but there are still a few weeks left in this year, before I finalise Expedition.

  • Grow a balcony garden of greens, herbs and other tasty things and record it using GrowStuff

Still unsure how to achieve this at our new place, but really want kitchen herbs at least so as to save money on buying them all the time. This is something I’m pretty much going to let be a project for next year (unless something magically happens before I close off this enquiry).

  • Go to the zoo and enjoy it as a form of exercise with easy and obvious rewards. Go visit the Werribee zoo and the Healesville Sanctuary and take full advantage of my membership and the free entry!
  • Try and find the time and money to start a dance class, something like Argentine Tango because I really loved doing it once upon a time ago.
  • Let my Midwifery degree continue as my main focus in energy, get the most out of the different experiences possible. Keep an eye out for conferences or organisations that it would be beneficial and useful to network with.

So! I’ve been going to the zoo – I’ve been a bunch of times now and I walk there and enjoy it, walk around and enjoy it and then meander home all tired and happy. Have taken some brilliant photos too! I haven’t done any dance class, no money but I still really want to do this – it’s probably a next year thing honestly though. This year, this Expedition really has been mostly about my Midwifery study, and that’s been awesome and I’m really proud of how dedicated I’ve been. I’ve worked hard in semester, I’ve studied hard in the lead up to exams and I’ve worked hard in the practical components as well. I’ve enjoyed the challenges, the chance to learn new things and I’m also really looking forward to finishing and being qualified and having a career to follow – plus a wage again! That will be particularly super.

In the next few weeks the only things I’m going to add are:

  • Start transitioning from 2014 and Expedition into 2015 and a new theme.
  • Play my video games and enjoy them! Maybe blog about what I’ve played and enjoyed and why?
  • Publish my list of movies to watch – and do a mini review or something for the ones I’ve watched to date (hint, most of them I have not watched).
  • Finalise all my paperwork to hand in for my Midwifery year 1 including my followthrough report.
  • Try and beat my goal of reading 75 books!
  • Plan and execute an awesome family Christmas with the boys, Adam, Prky and Tori. The feast will be spectacular! Also, blog about the feast and the planning and feelings about this particular Christmas.

So that’s where I’m at. Here’s to the last weeks of the year and this enquiry, and onto new things!

Expedition: Mid Year Update

I am now just over half way through the year and although I anticipated updating more about this year’s theme given the action and goal driven nature of it, that hasn’t happened. Although, as usual I think time has a way of making the timing for this kind of post ‘right’, so there’s really no stress or guilt here.  My theme for 2014 is Expedition, and when I wrote about it in January this year I had a lot of ideas about what it would look like and how things would go. In many ways, things have gone to plan. In other ways, I’m now laughing at what I thought could be accomplished.

2014 really has been like an expedition, an adventure off into the unknown, but with very firm goals that were situated entirely in an area of uncertainty well outside my comfort zone. I have grown and stretched and my sense of self and my connection to Melbourne has intensified. I suspect that this second half of the year is going to be vastly different from the first half though, not the least of which is because Ral, Fox and I moved in together, into a lovely two storey townhouse in North Melbourne. Our little home is both big enough and small enough for all of us, lots of spaces, nice bedrooms, gorgeous bathroom with a three person spa (it’s like this place was made for us, seriously). I love it. I love living with them and so far it is coming together beautifully – much more so than I think any of us originally anticipated.

The biggest part of my year though has been starting my new degree studying Midwifery where at the end of it, I will be a trained and qualified Midwife! It’s been an intensive course of study – in different ways than my previous degree, not just because it is all internal study, and also not just because it is health sciences based. Despite the uncertainty and the fact that a lot of this is outside my comfort zone, I am enjoying this course massively and am deeply motivated to complete it so that I can be qualified to work and practice as a midwife. In a lot of ways this is the beginning of a culmination of what I started with my previous degree and I am definitely grateful for it daily.

But reflection aside, where am I at with the list of goals I set? What have I achieved, what am I letting go of, and what has changed – and why?

  • Study Midwifery full time internally at Victoria University
    • Improve scientific knowledge
    • Improve mathematics knowledge
    • Improve practical skills for science and maths
    • Increase confidence in the areas of maths and science

So! I am in the midst of this! I have indeed massively improved my scientific knowledge, my mathematics proficiency, my practical skills in both areas and also increased my confidence in both areas. To say I am pleased about how this is going is an understatement.  Now that I’ve completed one semester, I think that I will add to this goal area.

  •  Successfully complete my first year in my Midwifery degree.
    • Continue improving my science and mathematics knowledge and proficiency.
    • Work hard on clinical placements to get the best experience and knowledge about working as a midwife as is possible.
    • Do quality work in my Continuity of Care Program being the aspect of training involving recruiting families having babies and undertaking to provide extra support and care much like a midwife would, but in a student capacity. I love this program because the aim is mutuality – extra care and support for the person who is pregnant and their partner and family (where applicable), and experience for me in the ongoing care, education and support required as a midwife and learning how to build rapport with people, but maintain professionalism for everyone’s benefit.
  • Explore employment options while studying full time and internally both short term and long term in addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students

I did look into this, but really it’s largely infeasible due to the way in which the course is constructed and its intensity. The moving in with the boys means that we’re all going to do better financially though which was the main reason for doing this. That said, I would still love to do first year tutoring as this is a personal fulfilment goal, not just an economic one. Given the current political climate, I’m just not expecting anything to go well in this area whether employment or government support as a student.

  • Co-convene a sex-positive furry convention my partner and his fiance
    • This includes assisting with budgeting and programming as well as assisting with discussion moderation

We tried to do this. We spent a lot of money on it. There were issues with sabotage because people always think they know how to judge others’ supposed depravity and punish others for any inclination they may have had to support it. It was an ambitious project on top of the sabotage but the ultimate result of this still makes me really sad.

  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself

I’m well on my way to doing this. I have made my first driving test attempt. I didn’t pass, but I should have. I managed everything near perfectly during the test, and toward the end there was an unfortunately timed amber light. I made a judgement call that I would have to slam on the breaks to stop safely and so went through it and it went red about 3/4 of the way through. This is apparently an instant fail on your test as ‘failure to stop’ regardless of the fact that I did nothing illegal, did not cause any disruption in traffic, did not cause any unsafe traffic situations. I’m willing to bet that the odds were there that I’d have failed for doing such a sudden stop if I’d done the opposite. I have no reason to expect I won’t pass next time around and I’m looking forward to getting this finished and being able to drive my car by myself. Seriously, everything else was near perfect, my instructor could only comment that she thought I needed to use my rear vision mirrors more. I’m still bitter about this failure because I stand by my decision and it was a good and safe driving decision, but rules. Working on letting it go (I don’t like failing).

  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt

So this is a writing down of a thing I would do regardless of it being on a list. It is going well though, Adam was just here to spend a week with me, I’ve been to Perth a couple of times and hopefully Kaneda will be able to visit some time this year. I am still filled with much whimsy of the moment around my loved ones, so there is much revelling indeed. I have spent a lot of time taking care of one of my partners and being caring in general to the people in my life. I’ve also needed care and support and accepting that is still hard… but I’m getting better with it.

  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras

I need to work out where I am at with this, but it’s on my blogging list to do. I have read at least a couple of books and I’ve planned which other books I want to read for the challenge – I think. I’ve read about 25 books so far this year, so I’m 1/3 the way to my goal – will need to step this up if I’m to make 75, but I have reviewed some as well.

  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it

I haven’t done this yet, and I keep meaning to. I’d still like to get to this.

  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones

Well there have definitely been adventures! I moved in with my partners, I went to my graduation, I started university, I joined the zoo! I’m also spending a lot of effort on cooking adventures and trying new things there too.

  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures

I haven’t posted any link salads, but I have participated in and hosted the Down Under Feminists Carnival – I’d like to be more active in this somehow, not sure how yet, as always I need more efficiency in getting things done. I have done no blogging about Melbourne with pictures or even food with pictures, but I’d like to do more of this, especially since my new phone takes beautiful pictures.

  • Connect with my local community
    • Volunteer with my local Greens group
    • Join my local CWA group
    • Keep  meeting new people in the furry fandom
    • Keep joining in with poly community events
    • Volunteer with Melbourne Supanova

Well this was probably where I was my most ambitious and didn’t realise how much time and attention and focus study would take. That and caring for a partner. I have joined my local Greens, but not volunteered, I haven’t found my local CWA group but maybe I will try that again. I’ve met new people, but given the events around running the convention am a bit off the furry community in general. I did however try and join the committee for next year’s Continuum convention which I’m excited about. I haven’t made it to many poly events but I’ve enjoyed those I’ve made it to. I wanted desperately to volunteer, but just couldn’t with study the way it was unfortunately. Next year hopefully! This area I’m going to keep as my ‘bonus’ area – if I get these things done, great, if I don’t, not an issue – they’re bonus things.

  • Attend my graduation for my BA in Gender and Cultural Studies and take pride in having achieved completion of this degree after so much work and dedication

I did it! I went! Adam and Kaneda came with me and it was a special night. It meant a lot to me to get my degree and be presented.

  • Cooking adventures!
    • Cook for people to spend time and show care
    • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
    • Explore cooking in new cuisines
    • Blog about cooking, with pictures

I have done much cooking!! I have done some cooking as a gift and have at least two specific instances planned for that too. I have been trying new recipes and cooking techniques – most recently, brining. I’m trying new cuisines and am enjoying all the discoveries!  I have not however, done much blogging about it, and not many pictures either – hoping to improve on this.

  • Grow a balcony garden of greens, herbs and other tasty things and record it using GrowStuff

I haven’t done this and I don’t know how feasible it will be with our new house, will have to see where the sun goes and how much sun there is and if there is a way to possum proof the place where we’d like at least to put kitchen herbs.

So this list is already pretty comprehensive, and I think that where I’ve indicated that most of my energy is going is likely to continue. It will be interesting to see if I can get into the habit of blogging more regularly. I do have a couple of other new points that I’d like to add to my list at this point though:

  • Go to the zoo and enjoy it as a form of exercise with easy and obvious rewards. Go visit the Werribee zoo and the Healesville Sanctuary and take full advantage of my membership and the free entry!
  • Try and find the time and money to start a dance class, something like Argentine Tango because I really loved doing it once upon a time ago.
  • Let my Midwifery degree continue as my main focus in energy, get the most out of the different experiences possible. Keep an eye out for conferences or organisations that it would be beneficial and useful to network with.

Here’s to the next 5 and a half months! Maybe I’ll even get in an interim report before this enquiry finishes at the end of the year!

2014’s Theme is an Expedition

With 2013 well in hindsight now, I’ve been pondering the last couple of weeks on my theme for 2014. If you’re wondering what I mean about a theme, basically it is inspired by the practice of an ex of mine and takes the place of resolutions in the new year. The focus is a concept or idea as a (roughly) year long enquiry. If you’re curious, I blogged about this in more detail last year.

Unsurprisingly, it was lunch with @dilettantiquity that yielded the needed insight into what the last loose ends of Bravery were, and what 2014 was really about, at the heart of it. We have a knack for this with each other, and this year was no exception.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my balcony in my beanbag with my laptop. I’m looking out on my view, appreciating the beauty of the city lights while I contemplate what to write about my theme for 2014, Expedition.

Expedition draws into it all my uncertainty for the new decisions I’ve made for my future and new paths I’m taking. Additionally, it also takes into account that this is something of an adventure, and plotting a brand new course into the unknown, and yet is very firmly goal oriented. I also think that Expedition extends on what I began with Bravery last year, such a challenge and yet left me stronger. In the wake of 2013, I feel like I’ve been forged anew, undergone some kind of transformation and rebirth, with all the messy painfulness that implies.

2014 is about action  more so than feelings as an exploration. For me it’s acting on the emotional intelligence and self knowledge I’ve gained and continually seek out and taking on more goals outside my comfort zone. The discomfort of acting outside my comfort zone is something that was very much a part of last year, but this year rather than just trying things and saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’, I’m going for things that I’m much more invested in and passionate about. I’m not trying things on this time, I’m out and out going for something.

What I get from this thought process so far, is that I think it likely that this enquiry will be more specifically goal oriented than other enquiries – but that some of this may only be apparent down the track once I start to check in with things. Meaning, I may add more goals as I go along through the year – we’ll have to see, this is all new to me.

So what does the focus list look like presently then?

  • Study Midwifery full time
    • Improve scientific knowledge
    • Improve mathematics knowledge
    • Improve practical skills for science and maths
    • Increase confidence in the areas of maths and science
  • Explore employment options while studying full time and internally both short term and long term in addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students
  • Co-convene a sex-positive furry convention my partner and his fiance
    • This includes assisting with budgeting and programming as well as assisting with discussion moderation
  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself
  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt
  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras
  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it
  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones
  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures
  • Connect with my local community
    • Volunteer with my local Greens group
    • Join my local CWA group
    • Keep  meeting new people in the furry fandom
    • Keep joining in with poly community events
    • Volunteer with Melbourne Supanova
  • Attend my graduation for my BA in Gender and Cultural Studies and take pride in having achieved completion of this degree after so much work and dedication
  • Cooking adventures!
    • Cook for people to spend time and show care
    • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
    • Explore cooking in new cuisines
    • Blog about cooking, with pictures
  • Grow a balcony garden of greens, herbs and other tasty things and record it using GrowStuff

I think that about does it for what’s in mind for the moment, we’ll see what happens as I check in – I get the feeling that I’ll be doing this much more often this year, but we’ll have to see how that actually works out. I’m both daunted and excited by the prospects for this year and all the things coming up for me!

If you’re also taking on a theme for this year, I’d love to know what it is so either link me to your post or comment about it. Or, if you do something else like keeping resolutions or something else entirely, I’m also curious to know what and how you go about it.

Here’s to a very busy and full on year ahead! I am so ready for this, bring it on.

Completing Bravery for 2013

This is a strange post to write for a few reasons. The first of which is because I haven’t done any kind of progress report over the course of the year. Secondly, it’s because I was initially thinking that this enquiry wasn’t finished, that it would extend into next year. That now feels like it’s no longer true and so I’m doing this completion post in part to make way for subconscious thought to happen around what 2014 is going to hold for me theme wise.

I am finding myself full of feelings as I write, it’s difficult because this year has been so intense and demanded so much from me, and in such unexpected ways. I need to write about how from my initial commitments, things have changed and why. That means coming to terms with the sense of failure and humiliation I feel around certain things, and revisiting those feelings is never pleasant.

So, Bravery… and 2013, where am I left after this year?

Looking at my beginning post for this year’s theme, Bravery tells me that this year was in many ways about my embracing uncertainty and throwing myself into things regardless. This was a year in which everything was so very strongly reflected or focused on my experience as an individual person. I’m really not the same person who left Perth at 6:15 am in January, I can hardly recognise myself, honestly.

I went to Melbourne with a strong commitment to my career as a Business Analyst, and that has proved to be a dead end for me. It took me a long while to get a job, and the one I got I thought was perfect. Then I lost it without warning, just as I thought everything was coming together. My self confidence was shattered and sense of humiliation profound. Losing my job was really just the straw that did me in, I’d been running on determination and commitment all year, and when it all fell apart just as I thought it was coming together I suffered quite a strong resurgence of anxiety, which I am still dealing with. The result of this experience was realising that I didn’t want to be in project work any longer, it wasn’t satisfying and I felt I was getting nowhere. Plus, I found many of the environments I was working in to be highly toxic… and if I wasn’t getting anywhere, and it wasn’t satisfying… and it was toxic, I started to question why I wanted to do it at all, and what it was that I enjoyed about it that I could perhaps pursue elsewhere. 

I realised that what I actually enjoyed about project work was the conversations, the people and the communication, I wasn’t interested in the politics of justifying the importance of the work we were doing and how to go about it, how to make it work time wise etc. I also wasn’t interested in the politics that generally surround project situations, and the toxicity of government departments, funding, jobs and people adding to that… it was never a simple case of go in and get the job done/thing made/implemented etc.

Such a realisation was a huge test of my bravery because if I honoured my desire to leave project work, I was left with even more uncertainty in what to do next… what direction to go in and how to support myself. My counsellor suggested that I should consider counselling as an option, she thought that it would be a good fit for me. I’ve resisted suggestions like this before, for many years actually because I didn’t want to go into a space doing something I was good at but knowing that it was something women were expected to be good at. In looking at the resistance I’ve had to this pathway since I was about 19-20, I realised that it was resistance born out of not wanting to do something I was expected to be good at because I’m essentially female shaped (even if my gender identity is somewhat more complicated than that). At the age of 33, I have better understanding of nuance and how to deal with this kind of stuff better than when I was 20, I can be good at it *and* still push back in feminist ways about specific things I have issue with (like women doing the emotional heavy lifting a lot of the time). So counselling and the associated community services work is back on the table. Also, my partner Ral has spent most of this year trying to convince me to be a midwife, and after losing my job… it didn’t seem such a far out suggestion anymore. In face, more and more the idea appealed to me and so I put in an application to do an undergraduate degree in Midwifery. I find out in mid-January if I get in… (I will talk more about this midwifery thing in another post).

Going through that process of re-evaluation and consideration of if not projects, then what has required an incredible amount of bravery on my part. In many ways (not all) it would have been so much easier just to conquer the initial anxiety out of losing my job, and go out and get another one and continue to work away at that pathway I’d set myself. It has taken a lot more courage for me to say… actually no, that’s not what I want to do any more, there has to be another option.

In re-reading my initial post, in which this enquiry was already well underway, I was feeling lonely and stretched and awful wondering if the year would get easier. My heart goes out to myself, because… it really didn’t get easier. The year wasn’t *bad* but it was consistently *hard*. It was deeply challenging on multiple levels throughout the entire year and at this point, nearly at the end of December, I am feeling it. Bravery has been a relentless experience, but possibly one of the most profound self-refinement experiences I’ve been through. I’m reminded of the fact that you never actually get through refining yourself, or developing yourself, it’s a constant process because you’re always changing and your life around you, the world around you and the people around you are always changing.

It’s kind of like learning to surf the chaos, you can’t control it but you can apply some tools and techniques to get the best of the experience without it overwhelming or drowning you (too much).

Below is the list of dot points that were what I initially wanted to pursue in some way for my enquiry into Bravery. I’ll make some comments on them, and then below that I’ll list some dot points about what I’ve gotten out of Bravery that has been unexpected.

  • Explore options for permanent employment that I might be willing to commit to that allow me to progress my career as a business analyst.
  • Do some sort of training in Agile methodologies, preferably at the expense of some awesome employer that I’d like to commit to.
  • Volunteer with OTW and enjoy getting to hang out with cool people doing something I think is amazing and getting Agile familiarity while I’m at it.
  • Go to a conference related either to my work interests or academic interests.

These things I pursued, and I have been volunteering with the OTW and also with another opensource project Growstuff. I did this to pursue familiarity with Agile projects, but I haven’t got a permanent job and I’ve also decided that pursuing business analysis and project work is no longer what I want. I went to RubyConf this year after attending the Rails Girls learn to code day, it was fun but I can’t say that the programming bug has caught on. I did work at it though, in particular because it was so outside my comfort zone or previous interests. I understand a bunch of things better and I’m glad for the stuff I’ve done, but am also happy to just leave it where it is – if anything, I’d pursue CSS over other kinds of programming.

  • Explore yoga and pilates as things that may have some positive impact on my pain levels.
  • Take up a latin dance class, particularly interested in Argentine Tango, but I enjoy them all and clumsy or not it’s fun.
  • Try (or re-try) a bunch of other different sport/leisure things that I’ve mused about trying for ages, like rock climbing, horse riding, sailing, cycling, swimming.

This is something that is largely still theoretical, although honestly my pain levels are far better than what they were last year – even when they’ve been bad I still think overall it’s been better. I still want to take up Argentine Tango, but haven’t had the spare cash. I have a pool and tiny gym in  my building and I really should spend more time using them, lets call that your traditional new year’s resolution, shall we? Tentative plans exist for rock climbing and horse riding too, though nothing concrete yet.

  • Develop a wardrobe appropriate for the kind of job I envision myself doing, but managing to fulfil comfort and creative requirements.

Well… I didn’t really manage to have a job long enough to do this, so it’s still something I’d like to do. Given I’m about to go back into full time study for the next 3 years though, it’s no longer a high priority.

  • Get my P plates once I’m comfortable driving in Melbourne and the CBD, including on tram lines, hook turns, stop start traffic, and other complexities.
  • Go on road trips, hopefully go on a road trip by myself once I have my license!

I’ve done a moderate amount of driving this year, but I’ve taken my time to get comfortable and familiar with Melbourne city driving – especially since I live in one of the trickiest parts of the city for driving (St Kilda Road, I hate you). I am feeling really ready and confident about doing my test now, but it won’t happen before the new year. I’ve done a little road tripping, went to Airey’s Inlet in the beginning of the year to hang out with lovely people and go to a music festival, the boys and I went to Wodonga and I introduced them to my parents, I also did a couple of trips to Ballarat and back to help my friend move. Looking forward to more trips in the New Year, including going camping.

  • Explore Melbourne, so many festivals and events and random stuff happening – I want to go to a bunch of things and just enjoy that this is possible and happens here!

I love Melbourne – I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that you just can’t explore everything and do everything – there’s just so much on, all the time! It’s a very different feeling from Perth where you feel the lack and have a strong sense of wanting to take advantage of opportunities to enjoy cool things. Melbourne, that’s every weeknight and weekend… depends on your interests, but there’s just *always* stuff, and a lot of it is cheap or free too, which is great. Actually I’ve had to spend more time remembering to take quiet time…

  • Find an awesome place to live with a housemate or two in the area around Brunswick.
  • Nest in new place to live.

Well! I thought it would take a while before I wanted to live by myself. Actually, it turns out that this is what I wanted and focused on doing once I was ready to move out. Especially since I wanted to live in the central city, and at the time had plenty of income to cover my own place. I found a gorgeous apartment off St Kilda Road about two blocks away from where the boys live. It’s a gorgeous one bedroom place with great security, a nice balcony and view, well appointed kitchen, bath and floor boards – making it easy to clean. I’m in love with it and am enjoying my nesting wholeheartedly.

  • Do well in my last two units for my degree and work out where to apply for Honours and talk to useful people about doing that.

I did very well in my last two units, High Distinction and Distinction! I’ve also received confirmation that I’m able to graduate and I’m deliriously excited about that! I did talk to people about doing Honours, but actually it turns out I’m going to do another undergraduate instead, a science one this time in Midwifery. I’m going to learn how to help deliver tiny humans!

  • Read 100 books including completing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013 and also reading some of the texts I’ve bought that are nonfiction that I haven’t found my way to yet.

Well I have read a bunch of books this year – not as many as I wanted though. I’ve read all the books I need to for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2013, but I haven’t done my reviews yet – that’s my next task on this blog. I didn’t get to the nonfiction outside of what I read for study, unfortunately – just not enough brain/coping left for it.

  • Keep involved with the Down Under Feminists Carnival including writing pieces to submit to it.
  • Try and keep up with my blogging both here and at my personal journal. Especially include more personal photos in my personal journal.

This I really didn’t keep up with, in some cases because I didn’t know what to say, and other times because there was too much to say and still other times where I’ve just been too busy…

  • Send out postcards and letters – reduce the stash!

Was really great with this in the first half of the year, also managed to send out a huge lot of end-of-year greetings to people, stash has been dutifully reduced!

  • Explore cooking adventures, particularly in cuisines and techniques I’d like to be more proficient cooking in. Consider doing this similar to how Calli did it once upon a time with a month long focus on different cuisine.

Have been having many cooking adventures, often with Ral and it’s been marvellous. Have since moving in been exploring my Julia Childs cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and it’s brilliant – I’ll blog about that specifically some time soon and post some photos. I live right near the Prahran Markets and a bunch of other awesome food places so I am enjoying the hell out of myself when cooking is involved at present.

  • Nurture my relationships abundantly especially since they’ve all been turned inside out. Be brave and gentle about all the changes.
  • Spend time with my blood family, including introducing boyfriend and girlfriend if I have an opportunity.
  • Support boyfriend in his med school adventures, being a guinea pig where useful.

Have done lots of relationship stuff this year, and have definitely been feeling the effects of turning most all of them inside out. I also formed three new partnerships/connections, one romantic/platonic and the others which both took me completely by surprise but have been wonderful and deeply rewarding. I got the chance to introduce Ral and Fox to Mum and Trevor which was really enjoyable. Also did useful supportive things for Ral as a med student – in particular there was a great blog post he found that I read and must post and blog about as well titled ‘how to date a med student’.  I did spend a little time with  my extended family, but I’m still nervous about the whole poly thing and that makes it hard. Also, they’re very different people to me in a lot of ways and I find that draining and difficult at times. I do love them and they are absolutely, beautiful people – but it is hard to come back to spending time with a group of people that you’ve barely seen for the past 17 odd years.

  • Learn basic chemistry, physics and biology via Khan Academy.
  • Look out for opportunities to have unexpected adventures and say ‘yes’ more often. Share these adventures with others whenever possible.
  • Be my best self to the best of my ability and remember that I didn’t create the art separate from myself, that I get to make a difference just by being myself in the world and that’s amazing (and discomforting), inspiring (and confronting).

So I didn’t really spend much more time on Khan Academy this year – though I meant to and still intend to. I am going to jump into the deep end with science in my new degree though which I’m increasingly excited about. I did take opportunities to say ‘yes’ to unexpected things, trying new things and having adventures. These were sometimes rewarding and sometimes disappointing, but I am glad I did it.

I spent the whole year being challenged in myself, and the importance of the relationship with self, honesty with self was deeply reinforced. I did make a difference to the people in my networks, and I’m grateful that this is possible, but also I made a big difference in my own life and that was more difficult to achieve.

So what did I get out of this year that I want to make particular note of, or that was unexpected?

  • A massive change in my career direction, and also the sense that maybe I’m finally working out something of how and where I’ll get to make a difference in the world and improve things.
  • Deeper and more rewarding relationships with a bunch of people in my constellation network, including adding some people to that network and especially the way in which my relationship with Fox has blossomed.
  • Getting to live by myself, and loving it, though getting to that point required wrestling with learning to sleep again, having my own room again and finding comfort in spending extended time alone again (enjoying time alone is a big casualty of my anxiety when it surfaces).
  • Getting to move into a place so close to where the boys live that it’s almost like we live together – except two blocks apart.
  • I did a bunch of reading on solo polyamory from a few particularly good blogs on the subject and found a lot that has resonated with me about this approach to life, relationships and connection in general.
  • I played lots of board games and even cards with the boys and started to enjoy being playfully competitive with them. So far, I am the Queen of Catan! Also, while visiting Mum for Christmas, I beat her at cards – the game that my family has been playing as far back as I can remember.
  • Realising that I don’t think I ever want to get legally married, but that I would perhaps like to do some kind of commitment thing of some sort with some specific people in my constellation network. No idea what, but the idea is simmering away.
  • I finally changed my name legally, and I’m just getting all the paperwork and such through to really make it official – I’m loving it so much, it’s been a long time in coming but it’s utterly worth it now that it’s happened.
  • Falling even more in love with Melbourne and even though it’s been a hard year away from Kaneda, away from the people I know and love in Perth that doing this was the best decision I could have made for myself.

So that’s Bravery… this post feels a little odd to me now that I’m essentially finished because I don’t think I could have given any better sense of the deeply personal and emotional journey that this year has been for me, but also it’s a general blog post and not a personal diary so I don’t want to go into any of that  in any more depth. I’m glad that 2013 is coming to a close and while I have no idea what 2014 holds for me yet, or what my focus will be… I am looking forward to discovering this.

Thank you for all the lessons, all the difficulty and all the constant reaffirmations of love and support 2013. You were not an easy year but you were a year I gained a lot of growth out of, learned so much about myself and my relationships and also experienced such profound and abiding love from my partners and network around me that I am astounded.

Bravery for 2013…

This is my yearly introductory post to my theme, it’s my way of marking the new year and new journeys, new focuses and personal growth. Last year’s theme was ‘Renewal‘ and it was an intense but ultimately rewarding and beautiful year that delivered all the promise that a word like renewal holds. If you’re interested in themes for yourself, I wrote about how I go about putting together the concept and practise of a theme, which is essentially a year long enquiry. It’s a little about letting the world go to work on you, and a little about going to work on the world as well. It’s all very personal so it can be anything you want, really.

So, 2013. Bravery.

2013’s theme is already well underway though I’ve not tried to write about it to formally open up the enquiry till now. Afterall, how do you write about bravery when you are feeling anything but?

And yet, feeling brave or not I am practising bravery and that’s really at the heart of things. It’s not about *feeling* brave all the time. Instead, the focus is on being aware of myself, taking a moment to consider saying ‘yes’ to things I’d ordinarily decline. Bravery is about operating entirely outside of my comfort zone in massive ways, tiny moments and all the in between. 

The central event that will define this year and this theme is that I moved from Perth where I was living with my fiance and his boyfriend (plus three cats and a dog), and moved to Melbourne. I left another partner and a new love, an incredibly strong, broad and inspirational support network of friends and community.

I’ve moved to a place I am more in love with than I thought possible. I am head over teakettle in love with Melbourne. I also have partners here, one that is for the first time not a long distance relationship and another boyfriend who recently migrated with his fiance from Perth to start medical school. I have other romantic connections here but they’re less defined and more nebulous in feel… they’re potential and that’s open to move in any direction really. I have friends here, close friends and people I want to be closer to. And not just in Melbourne but all throughout the Eastern states… being here in Melbourne I can pursue those connections too. I think Melbourne will be good for me career wise and academically.

But what I’m saying is that… moving like this is the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve turned all of my deepest and closest relationships inside out. Nothing is comfortable and I am in the midst of a liminal, ephemeral experience of uncertainty. It’s also exactly the right thing for me to have done, I know that deep within me no matter how wretched I am feeling right now.

My fiance has been part of my daily life for most of the last 16 years… and unlike when I moved three months ahead of him to Perth, he’s not coming to join me soon. It may be two years before he and his boyfriend make it to Melbourne, though that is the ultimate plan. I’ve never really consciously lived anywhere else than with him, or in any other kind of situation. I’ve never had my own place before.

And even though I am poly, my experience of this has been less a conflict of busy schedules (a common difficulty), and more the difficulty of schedule mismatch and distance. That’s just been magnified in a truly magnificent way, and right now it’s the thing I’m finding hardest to deal with here in my beloved new city where I can’t yet put down roots or nest.

So right now, each moment is a moment of emotional bravery, forging a new path and gaining new understanding of myself and how my connections work, how I work in my connections. The difficulties in asking for what I need both for me and for others. There aren’t really any direct fixes here, just riding out the feeling of being overwrought and lonely, being ruthlessly gentle on myself and remembering that most of this present feeling will shift when I have a job and can start to really *live* here in Melbourne. Right now it’s more of a floaty existence.

So bravery is already being incredibly demanding of my emotional and mental fortitude. I wonder right now, does it get easier from here? Does the hard just shift and change as I get a job, find a place to live and start to form patterns of everyday life and nest?

That’s all part of the journey…

I’ve been thinking about this post since New Year’s Eve, since I was packing to move, since I embarked on the drive over here (yes, I drove with my best friend across the country in my little blue car now named the Tardis for how awesomely she fit all my stuff). There are a number of ways in which I want to explore bravery and things I want to do that seem to be part of what I want from this enquiry. In no particular order….

  • Explore options for permanent employment that I might be willing to commit to that allow me to progress my career as a business analyst.
  • Do some sort of training in Agile methodologies, preferably at the expense of some awesome employer that I’d like to commit to.
  • Volunteer with OTW and enjoy getting to hang out with cool people doing something I think is amazing and getting Agile familiarity while I’m at it.
  • Explore yoga and pilates as things that may have some positive impact on my pain levels.
  • Take up a latin dance class, particularly interested in Argentine Tango, but I enjoy them all and clumsy or not it’s fun.
  • Try (or re-try) a bunch of other different sport/leisure things that I’ve mused about trying for ages, like rock climbing, horse riding, sailing, cycling, swimming.
  • Go to a conference related either to my work interests or academic interests.
  • Develop a wardrobe appropriate for the kind of job I envision myself doing, but managing to fulfil comfort and creative requirements.
  • Get my P plates once I’m comfortable driving in Melbourne and the CBD, including on tram lines, hook turns, stop start traffic, and other complexities.
  • Go on road trips, hopefully go on a road trip by myself once I have my license!
  • Explore Melbourne, so many festivals and events and random stuff happening – I want to go to a bunch of things and just enjoy that this is possible and happens here!
  • Find an awesome place to live with a housemate or two in the area around Brunswick.
  • Nest in new place to live.
  • Do well in my last two units for my degree and work out where to apply for Honours and talk to useful people about doing that.
  • Read 100 books including completing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013 and also reading some of the texts I’ve bought that are nonfiction that I haven’t found my way to yet.
  • Keep involved with the Down Under Feminists Carnival including writing pieces to submit to it.
  • Try and keep up with my blogging both here and at my personal journal. Especially include more personal photos in my personal journal.
  • Send out postcards and letters – reduce the stash!
  • Explore cooking adventures, particularly in cuisines and techniques I’d like to be more proficient cooking in. Consider doing this similar to how Calli did it once upon a time with a month long focus on different cuisine.
  • Nurture my relationships abundantly especially since they’ve all been turned inside out. Be brave and gentle about all the changes.
  • Spend time with my blood family, including introducing boyfriend and girlfriend if I have an opportunity.
  • Support boyfriend in his med school adventures, being a guinea pig where useful.
  • Learn basic chemistry, physics and biology via Khan Academy.
  • Look out for opportunities to have unexpected adventures and say ‘yes’ more often. Share these adventures with others whenever possible.
  • Be my best self to the best of my ability and remember that I didn’t create the art separate from myself, that I get to make a difference just by being myself in the world and that’s amazing (and discomforting), inspiring (and confronting).

Dear 2013, you are going to be a massive challenge the entire way through but I am ready for it and willing. I am excited about everything I’m going to learn and hope to make the most of all the joy and love around me through the hard bits. Through this enquiry I will truly reconnect with that experience of myself as a Giant and share this with others. Here’s to a busy, productive, amazing and challenging year. I’m starting without a comfort zone but I am optimistic and determined.

Completing 2012’s theme: Renewal

Wow, I know it’s February and I’m only just writing about this, but I couldn’t quite find the words until now – and things have been so very busy! Renewal was throughout the year an amazing balm, I really did spent a lot of time and energy focussing on rejuvenation, and feeling renewed in myself, both in energy and in my identity and sense of who I am in the world. You can read my initial post and also my halfway point reflection if you like.

I worked hard on myself, but it was work that was measured in joy, not sadness, and the things I put to rest were possible because there was happiness, good memories and joy balancing out all the things I’d been fearful of, sad about and hurt by in recent years. I spent more time experiencing myself as the person I delight in being and less time trying to find where I’d left that person or being afraid of her.

I experienced not only an increase in my inner sense of credibility for all the ways I’ve grown and changed, all the ways in which I felt rewarded for time spent learning in years gone by, but also an increase in external validation. There was a whole lot less room for negative self-criticality. I spent a lot of time practising faith and trust in the words and love of others toward me and have that be so beautifully and deeply rewarded.

I felt renewed in so many ways last year, though particularly in my relationships. I met and connected with beautiful people, and let them into my life in varyingly deep and fulfilling ways. The triad dynamic I mentioned settled into a partnership between me and one guy and a deeper blossoming of his relationship with his other partner with whom I’ve become close friends. It hasn’t been an easy pathway for the three of us, but it has been rewarding, we’ve all learned an incredible amount and come through stronger and shinier. My partnership with my boyfriend just takes my breath away, it’s everything I could have wished for. My friendship with his now fiance is so beautiful and precious to me, I delight in any chance to spend time with them.

Other relationships deepened, a lover became a partner quite unexpectedly and in one of those odd ways where, nothing actually changed and yet it kind of did too. I met an amazing woman who is somehow so incredibly like me, we connected instantly and it’s just like magic – we’re both amazed and bewildered that we found one another and the connection we have. To be in the same room with one another is for us to blush and fumble with words, it is… incredible.

My beloved fiance, I am so proud of him, though I felt like I barely saw him last year, and it’s kind of true as his business took up an immense amount of his time, and knowing these few years are critical for success in that area and for his dreams to come true, I’ve kind of stood back and marvelled, with incredible pride at how amazing he and his vision are. I had such a sense of being polyamorous and getting to live that in a really outward way, I spent time with partners, not just one on one but with friends and introducing them to one another and enjoying their company with me together – that never fails to make me melt with happiness.

In looking at the specific points I outlined, here’s where I ended up and where useful, my thoughts on going forward (though mostly I want to keep going forward thoughts for my upcoming 2013 theme post).

 

Professionally: 

  • Explore the qualifications I may be eligable to pursue as a member of the International Institute of Business Analysts.
  • Continue working professionally as a Business Analyst and seek employment opportunities that align with this.
  • Consider working as a volunteer in an open source project as a junior Business Analyst as a means of gaining development and mentoring, while improving and testing skills and contributing to something I believe in.
  • Remember that I’m studying this year and that particularly in second semester, this will be very intense and I need to make space for study to happen.

Overall, I didn’t get as far with this as I’d expected… but I also didn’t expect it to be so much a year that was characterised by romantic relationships and new connections as it was. So, given I’d been craving and hungry for that, and I got it, I’m not sad about where there was less time and energy, less focus on other things.  I did work as a BA, but it was adhoc and I really want to spend time in an established project office with other BAs and also access Agile training.

Academically: 

  • Complete the 5 remaining units to make up my degree.
  • Aim for distinctions in the work I am doing, but remember (particularly with what promises to be a grueling second semester) that as long as I am passing, I am doing sufficiently well.
  • Read outside the course materials, I have several texts that I have purchased and which to explore in more detail. I’d like to actually do this in 2012, as it didn’t happen in 2011.
  • Do a practise run at writing and submitting either a conference paper or a journal article that accepts undergraduate submissions.
  • If I can magically afford it, go to the Crossroads 2012 cultural studies conference in Paris in July.
  • Remember that I’m likely going to be working full time throughout the year and that I need to take this into account and make allowances for how study will happen.
  • Explore options for post grad study, talk to institutions and their academics as well as friends.

I completed 3 units, and have two left. I got very good marks in first semester, but hated the unit I did in second semester and my Credit mark shows that.  I didn’t do a practise run with any kind of paper or conference submission, but I’d like to explore something this year. I did start to explore postgrad stuff, but it’s really a job for this year. I didn’t really read outside the course materials, the year ended up much more socially and relationship focussed than I’d anticipated, and there is much to be joyful about in this respect.

Culture:

  • Go and see performances because I want to, and enjoy the opportunities I get to see something alone as much as when I get to attend in a group.
  • Blog about the performances I’ve gotten to see over the year regardless of how big or small they were.
  • Read fiction that takes me to a happy place, fiction that enrichens my experience of the world.
  • Read fiction that is fluffy and light, that I can appreciate when my brain is tired from studying and working.
  • Use my enjoyment of television as study breaks so that there is an opportunity just to stop for a set period of time.
  • Read 100 books this year for the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and do reviews of them at the very least using that platform.
  • Publish at least half of the reviews for the books I read this year on my blogs.
  • Participate in and promote the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2012. I’ve committed to reading 6 books by Australian women writers and reviewing 3 of them here on this blog.

I attended arts/cultural things! With people and by myself, amongst them was a talk by Germaine Greer (interesting, though I reject her transphobic notions and wish she would shift in those views), the Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer, Roxette (and that was a childhood dream come true), some dance performances as part of the Perth International Arts Festival including a latin-swagger ballet (so awesome). I saw Meow Meow in a briliant caberet performance, saw ‘Bladerunner’ as an interactive experience on the public screen in Northbridge, and once again attended Swancon and Supanova. I didn’t however blog about it as much as I’d planned.

I read a lot of fiction including completing the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and read 65 out of 100 books that I’d planned to read. I read a mixture of interesting/engaging and challenging work – ‘Ammonite’ by Nicola Griffith and ‘The Courier’s New Bicycle’ by Kim Westwood were stand outs. I also read a lot of comforting fluff, I reread the Miles Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster-Bujold, reread Anita Blake by Laurell K Hamilton, and started reading the Otherworld novels by Yasmine Galenorn. I also loved the series ‘Chronicles of Elantra’ by Michelle Sagara and highly recommend them to fantasy readers who love interesting female characters.

I watched quite a lot of interesting television, focusing in particular on shows featuring fantastic female characters, storylines and relationships (I should probably blog about that separately). Notable was Rizzoli and Isles, Silk, Scott and Bailey, Sons of Anarchy, Castle, Leverage and White Collar.

Online:

  • Read the Down Under Feminist Carnival (DUFC) and submit to it at least 6 times throughout the year.
  • Continue utilising online applications to streamline my information consumption and sharing.
  • Blog more frequently here and keep up my personal blog elsewhere. I need to keep in mind, particularly for this space, that it doesn’t have to be perfectly polished. I can trust myself to write decently and that everyone get’s it wrong occasionally. I can trust my ability to deal with anything like that as needed.
  • Continue to use my online tools to nurture my relationships and connections as well as to form new ones.

This was successful throughout the year, though my posting here did taper off toward the end of the year – mainly because I was so busy out doing things that I didn’t have enough brain left over to sit and write. Also, once the heat kicks in I find it much harder to concentrate, however much I desire to. I hosted the 51st DUFC in August with the theme ‘Personal Positives’. It was incredibly successful with a number of people responding to my invitation to post on the subject. I hope to host again in 2013.

Personal/Other: 

  • Travel to see my interstate partners at least once and preferably twice or three times this year.
  • Celebrate my 15th anniversary with K’ in style.
  • Keep my relationship network map up to date.
  • Do an artistic mindmap on my 2012 theme of Renewal
  • Be gentle on myself with all the emotional intensity and work of last year, allow the healing to take place.
  • Practise asking for more and not feeling guilty or fearful that I am asking too much.
  • Continue to address health concerns with professionals as required, and find ways of building in exercise that doesn’t result in more pain and less coping/energy.
  • Continue to consider and engage with the idea of food and eating patterns and also enjoy any cooking I wish to do but without making it a focal point of the year.
  • Play games, guilt free just because you want to and it will be pleasurable once a week.
  • Continue exploring my talent and commitment for Conversations and being a Conversationalist and whether I could possibly make a living from this at some stage.
  • Maintain integrity with myself as my own best friend, my own partner and beloved and consider holding another ‘Dear Self: I Do’ event.
  • Go on adventures and be less concerned with being well behaved – have fun and let go a little, don’t focus so much on how I look/sound and how I might be judged.
  • Explore new relationship opportunities if they arise.
  • Travel to Brisbane and Sydney if I can magically afford it.
  • Explore how I will move to Melbourne and taking on the challenge of (even more) independent living. This involves grappling with money as well as massive fear of changes.
  • Continue to send postcards and letters to friends, Loves and strangers.

So I didn’t travel interstate after my February trip, although I’d wanted to. Anniversary celebrations ended up being low key and rather belated, but perfectly heartfelt. I actually had quite a lot of updating on my Relationship Constellations Map to do throughout the year, and enjoyed that. I did end up mindmapping Renewal, but not until January 2013 😛  I had less health concerns, and addressed some of them but need to follow up on this as my hiatus from pain has ended. I did some awesome cooking throughout the year, particularly with my boyfriend who is an amazing cook and sharing that with him was much of the happy-making. I played games – if not once a week then quite often! Also more boardgames! I was consistently kind to myself, and healed a lot in my sense of pride and confidence in myself, though I didn’t hold another ‘Dear Self: I do’ event. There were new relationships and oh how I revelled in them! Melbourne got put on hold, but is part of the shape of 2013. I didn’t send many cards or postcards in the end, I think that had something to do with turning my energy inwards.

The year was amazing, challenging, empowering and a wonderful reminder as to who I am in the world, how I’m moving through the world and the kind of connections and relationships I want to pursue and delight in. I let myself be a Giant, and I had wonderful conversations with others that resulted in their taking Giant steps too. The year was so much bigger and more amazing than I could have hoped and I learned a lot, gained a lot and really think I got the best I could have out of Renewal as an enquiry. As usual, the actuality in the end was quite different from my imagining – not better or worse necessarily, but I always notice that my original envisioning is only part of the process, it’s not prescriptive, it’s paint on the canvas and that will shift and change over the year – as it is meant to. Thank you 2012, thank you Renewal, we were truly amazing together.

 

Renewal Revisited: The Halfway Point.

What a breath of fresh air 2012 and Renewal has been! I feel like much of this year is becoming a reward for all the hard work that I’ve put in before in the preceding years that were painful, lonely and difficult. This year is not without a learning curve, it’s been really quite intensive but it is a world away from the previous years. The learning is entirely in a space of expansion and joy and getting to be a Giant. So where am I with my enquiry?

 

I set out to pursue recovery, rest and rejuvenation of my spirit. I set out to become reconnected to a powerful sense of myself moving through the world as a Giant. I’d meant to do this check in a couple of months ago, but I’m glad that I waited because the present update is significantly more meaningful.  It’s been that kind of year though, starting out well and it has just kept getting better.

 

I’m always amazed that every time I stand in the present casting my view backwards that I can scarcely recognise the Me that has come before. And yet, those steps and those experiences and feelings are all still familiar, they don’t feel like someone else at all… just that there is distance. Then is not now, time and again there is progression and moving forward.

 

When I last wrote, I described a particular concern that I’d been wrestling with, trying to put to rest fear and distress around feelings of being ‘too much’ and ‘too intense’ and ‘too scary’. I’d reached the understanding where I logically knew that I was none of those things, that instead I am an incredibly engaged and focused person, I am passionate about my life and the world around me, and that the weight of my full attention can be disconcerting. I knew this logically but not in m heart. I was also coming to terms with understanding and accepting that the experiences and reactions of others are sovereign to them and not only are they not my responsibility, but it was often unlikely to be appropriate for me to engage with them about it. My responsibility is to be myself, to be the best self I can be to the best of my ability. My responsibility is to live my life powerfully and passionately, to make a difference and leave my mark on the world and be marked in turn.

 

I have a heartfelt understanding of these things now, that transition has taken place and that space of healing is complete. I was in Victoria at the time when this happened, at a party and spending time with someone incredible enjoying the intimacy and connection available with them. Like a switch being flipped, once on and now off, understanding and acceptance crystallised and I was completely overwhelmed by a rush of emotion, because in that moment… it became utterly absurd to think of myself as being ‘too much’, ‘too scary’ or ‘too intense’. The moment was powerful and I’ll carry it forever, I think particularly given the unusual context for realisation.

 

I’m now practising being done with it, the healing is done and now I am simply being with that understanding and not unravelling it. The results and benefits were pretty quickly apparent though, as I move differently… I am more confident and expressive. I don’t feel any desire to lessen my own impact in a space, and when I say that I don’t mean that I’ve suddenly become a dominating and obnoxious person, simply that… where once I’d have tried to stand out less or worried about consequences of being myself I am now trusting and confident in my ability to navigate spaces with skill and finesse, I can trust in my ability to relate and communicate. I also trust that when I make mistakes, that I can act on that appropriately with kindness as well. I don’t feel small at all… I feel like a Giant again, stretching ever taller as I learn and imagine and grow.

 

I get to be the Art I’m creating. I get to make a difference and I can see the difference I make. I’m not a small impact person and I get to notice and appreciate that too. I get to own that as being part of my super powers in the world, part of the reason I’m moving through the world and not be apologetic or humble about it. I get to be ambitious and passionate about all the things that I still seek and imagine. I get to move in a space of abundance and share that openly, gently and with kindness and compassion.

 

I came back from my trip to Victoria in February feeling more myself than I had in years, which felt literally true – I didn’t feel like I’d made my way back to a happier time, but that I’d transcended my previous experiences of that and had created something new and more powerful still. I created the space for Renewal to happen in my last post, and when I went to Victoria that space came into being powerfully and it has continued to rock my world since.

 

For instance, I’d looked to move to Melbourne after I returned from there this time around, and I’d made firm plans to do so. A significant part of my reasoning was to seek a better relationship balance that involved more physicality, sensuality, sexuality and availability than I was able to access here in Perth. It wasn’t that my connections here were terrible; they were completely wonderful but not able to provide me with the balance and abundance that I was seeking. Then, just as I’d started putting dates into motion, I stumbled into a new connection, a new triad dynamic with a wonderful guy couple that I know, and which has been deeply rewarding in all of the ways I’d been seeking and imagining for so long. This is the first serious connection I’ve formed in a few years… it’s been a big deal for me and the experience has been rather magical. Even the hard, working-things-out bits have been so very rewarding. There has been an abundance of all the things that I’d been seeking, some I’d known about and others I hadn’t imagined. I’m enjoying renewal in my spaces of trust, in intimate relationships and sexual and sensual spaces and it’s a very welcome experience.

 

Where am I with less intangible things… I have quite a comprehensive and specific list of things I’m hoping will mark my passage through Renewal:

 

Professionally: 

  • Explore the qualifications I may be eligable to pursue as a member of the International Institute of Business Analysts. 

Nothing on this as yet, still on the list.

 

  • Continue working professionally as a Business Analyst and seek employment opportunities that align with this. 

I’m working as a BA! I’m getting some great experience and feel valued and appreciated in my role.

 

  • Consider working as a volunteer in an open source project as a junior Business Analyst as a means of gaining development and mentoring, while improving and testing skills and contributing to something I believe in. 

Still looking at volunteering for OTW and the AD&T team so that I can get some Agile training and have fun with an awesome bunch of people.

 

  • Remember that I’m studying this year and that particularly in second semester, this will be very intense and I need to make space for study to happen. 

 Job stuff seems to be edging ahead in priority lists at the moment, more on that later.

 

Academically: 

  • Complete the 5 remaining units to make up my degree. 

 

I’ll complete a total of 3 units this year and 2 next year, and spread it out a bit more than I’d originally planned on doing.

 

  • Aim for distinctions in the work I am doing, but remember (particularly with what promises to be a grueling second semester) that as long as I am passing, I am doing sufficiently well. 

My marks so far this year are fantastic, all at the higher end of Distinction or High Distinctions.

 

  • Read outside the course materials, I have several texts that I have purchased and which to explore in more detail. I’d like to actually do this in 2012, as it didn’t happen in 2011. 

A little. I want to do more on this.

 

  • Do a practise run at writing and submitting either a conference paper or a journal article that accepts undergraduate submissions. 

This is in the works!

 

  • If I can magically afford it, go to the Crossroads 2012 cultural studies conference in Paris in July. 

I won’t be able to afford this, but I will hope to attend this next year or some year soon.

 

  • Remember that I’m likely going to be working full time throughout the year and that I need to take this into account and make allowances for how study will happen. 

This is in practice, I’m going to let job stuff take the priority for the moment as that is what is feeling right, and the other related decisions and needs support this. More time to work out how to approach postgrad and where I’ll be located will be welcome too.

 

  • Explore options for post grad study, talk to institutions and their academics as well as friends. 

I’ve done a little of this, I’d like to do more, some of it is time dependent, and since I won’t finish till the end of next year I’ve got a little more time which I appreciate too.

 

Culture:

  • Go and see performances because I want to, and enjoy the opportunities I get to see something alone as much as when I get to attend in a group.  

So far, lots of enjoyment had. I went to the Dresden Dolls and Roxette concerts, saw Meow Meow at Fringe and then Onqotô and Parabelo and Lauren Childs: Dance! at the PIAF. I’ve also watched a couple of movies too 🙂

 

  • Blog about the performances I’ve gotten to see over the year regardless of how big or small they were. 

Umm… I haven’t managed this almost at all. I managed the two concerts, but none of the theatre so far. I’d like to think I’ll get to it, but I’m unlikely to back date and will hope that anything else I get to see that I’ll manage to blog about.

 

  • Read fiction that takes me to a happy place, fiction that enrichens my experience of the world. 

Some very happy fiction reading! Rereading ‘Evolution’s Darling’ which is a joy as it’s a favourite and one of the best depictions I’ve seen involving AI erotica. I’ve also been delighting in finishing off Tansy’s series, and am enjoying the hell out of ‘Diamond Eyes’ by A.A. Bell right now.

 

  • Read fiction that is fluffy and light, that I can appreciate when my brain is tired from studying and working. 

I’ve been delighting in the fluffy rereading I’ve been doing, lots of LKH and rereading Nalini Singh and Patricia Briggs.

 

  • Use my enjoyment of television as study breaks so that there is an opportunity just to stop for a set period of time. 

Enjoying my television watching too! Picks so far this year include ‘New Girl’, ‘Once Upon A Time’, ‘Scott & Bailey’ and ‘Saving Grace’ as well as old favourites that include ‘White Collar’, ‘Leverage’ and ‘Covert Affairs’.

 

  • Read 100 books this year for the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and do reviews of them at the very least using that platform. 

Gosh, I have no idea of this, and I should really do some retrospective tracking.

 

  • Publish at least half of the reviews for the books I read this year on my blogs. 

This is looking unlikely, but I shall keep attempting to fulfill on the spirit of it which is namely to blog more reviews. Especially in my Retroactive Fiction Review Series.

 

  • Participate in and promote the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2012. I’ve committed to reading 6 books by Australian women writers and reviewing 3 of them here on this blog. 

Two down! One to go! Yay!

 

Online:

  • Read the Down Under Feminist Carnival and submit to it at least 6 times throughout the year. 

My submissions are on their way there, but I am well behind on reading… hoping the uni break will be an opportunity to catch up.

 

  • Continue utilising online applications to streamline my information consumption and sharing. 

Still in progress, phone has definitely helped a bunch of things and I’m still working out tweaks to online systems and so on.

 

  • Blog more frequently here and keep up my personal blog elsewhere. I need to keep in mind, particularly for this space, that it doesn’t have to be perfectly polished. I can trust myself to write decently and that everyone get’s it wrong occasionally. I can trust my ability to deal with anything like that as needed. 

I’ve been really good about this actually and I’m *feeling* really good about it. Yay!

 

  • Continue to use my online tools to nurture my relationships and connections as well as to form new ones. 

I’m still succeeding in that, but my way of using various communication mechanisms to feed my connections is well established by now. Others around me still struggle with it as a quality form of connection, and that requires more energy.

 

Personal/Other: 

  • Travel to see my interstate partners at least once and preferably twice or three times this year. 

Have managed once and would like to manage at least once more. Also hoping to get to Brisbane to see Babalon and family.

 

  • Celebrate my 15th anniversary with K’ in style. 

This is currently in rain check 😛

 

  • Keep my relationship network map up to date. 

This has been a delight this year, and I am amused at my implication in writing this item that it would *need* updating 😛

 

  • Do an artistic mindmap on my 2012 theme of Renewal

Not yet, but would still like to do this…

 

  • Be gentle on myself with all the emotional intensity and work of last year, allow the healing to take place.

I’ve been really good with this actually, lots of gentleness and lots of appreciating that then is not now. I am appreciating now for now and also as a reward for and the result of so much intense and concentrated effort in past years.

 

  • Practise asking for more and not feeling guilty or fearful that I am asking too much. 

This has been getting such a work out this year! I’m so much better at this, and I still struggle with it, but I’m really aware of the space now and while I haven’t conquered it, I’m engaging and processing and unraveling.

 

  • Continue to address health concerns with professionals as required, and find ways of building in exercise that doesn’t result in more pain and less coping/energy. 

Am actually in a lot less pain in the past couple of months, I’m in desperate need of a massage even considering this, but it’s not feeling urgent and I’m not struggling with walking and standing and have even managed a couple of long walks and intense standing/walking/doing days. So I’m not sure what’s behind it, so I’m not sure what’s improving it and so on, but I’m going with it as best I can. Less painkillers is *awesome* though.

 

  • Continue to consider and engage with the idea of food and eating patterns and also enjoy any cooking I wish to do but without making it a focal point of the year. 

Gently ticking over, nothing to really say about this just yet.

 

  • Play games, guilt free just because you want to and it will be pleasurable once a week. 

Time is as always a premium for me and while I’m getting to play, it’s not really in the space of games and… I’m not missing it, the play I’m doing is more rewarding for me as it involves time spent with people special to me.

 

  • Continue exploring my talent and commitment for Conversations and being a Conversationalist and whether I could possibly make a living from this at some stage. 

I am still thinking, gaining confidence but no idea how it ties into income yet. More thinking required…

 

  • Maintain integrity with myself as my own best friend, my own partner and beloved and consider holding another ‘Dear Self: I Do’ event. 

So far going really well, and am still thinking of holding another self commitment ceremony.

 

  • Go on adventures and be less concerned with being well behaved – have fun and let go a little, don’t focus so much on how I look/sound and how I might be judged. 

Dear gods I’ve been so amazingly awesome with this!!! I am so unbelievably delighted with how successful I’ve been in this space! I’ve been doing all these things, going on adventures, saying ‘yes’ to things, trying new things, and trusting myself more, also I’ve been far, far less well behaved and have let myself just have *fun* and be silly and be irresponsible at times. It’s been deeply rewarding.

 

  • Explore new relationship opportunities if they arise. 

Oh my, have they!  My new relationships are so worth the wait, I’m deliriously happy in this space and don’t expect that to change any time soon.

 

  • Travel to Brisbane and Sydney if I can magically afford it. 

Still hoping to do this but Sydney after friend J gets back there after his around the world trip.

 

  • Explore how I will move to Melbourne and taking on the challenge of (even more) independent living. This involves grappling with money as well as massive fear of changes. 

This is still in the works but is looking to be for 2013 and not for 2012, partly tied in with new relationship stuff.

 

  • Continue to send postcards and letters to friends, Loves and strangers. 

I’ve done a little of this but not as much as I’d like and I’d like to get back into the habit now that the post office is so close to where I’m working again.

2012 is about Renewal

I was lucky with this year’s theme, it didn’t take very long before it became apparent. Last year was so deeply inward focusing and so emotionally intensive. It was quickly very clear to me that I needed a space for recovery, for rejuvenation, to be open hearted and at ease with the world. I also needed to turn my gaze outward to tangible expressions of my life and what I seek to create.

Last year was intensive emotionally in ways that were often deeply painful. I grappled with feelings around ‘shame’ out of a relationship break up that went badly. Nasty little ‘should’ cycles and self recrimination because I ‘should’ have known better than to end up hurt.

It was a year that reminded me that I am far from trigger free. I spent most of the year processing and considering, working through experiences that left me distressed, anxious and out of balance with the world. The biggest one, and it is still one I’m grappling with is a fear of being too scary, too intense, too overwhelming — in short, too much.

So while I’m still putting this old fear to rest, I seek renewal in my purpose and understanding of myself. Renewal in my experience of myself as a Giant. Renewal in my trust in myself and also in other people around me that I am not ‘too much’ at all. Rather that I am incredibly engaged with those around me, highly focused and also unstintingly passionate about the world around me and how I experience it.

Back when I was dealing with repressed memories of childhood trauma, my logic required me to remake myself. With the addition of these new memories, my personal experience of my personhood and history was suspect, and required me to choose anew who I wanted to be. This was a magnificent though intense personal process, and I’m still grateful that I undertook it today, over a decade later.

I came out of it many things, this brand new personality. But the relevant aspect for this post is that I came out of it wanting to be the art, not to make it separate from myself. I wanted to make a difference in the world just by being who I was, moving through my life influencing those around me. And what I realised as I’ve been struggling with my ‘too scary, too much-ness’, is that this reaction comes from the place where my choice has come into being – and since this is an old fear, has always been present.

The nature of art is to confront, it’s not always beautiful. It is sometimes confronting and challenging, uncomfortable. So what I see is, having created myself as the art and not the artist, is that how I move through the world provokes people as art provokes people.

So as I battle with upset and worry that I have caused upset or even harm, I have been reminded that I am not responsible for others’ reactions. I am responsible for my own actions and I must let others have sovereignty over theirs without interference. I can engage if that is an option, but it is not always appropriate and often I will be required to simply accept and let go, to move on.

It is this last paragraph which specifically relates to how I experience renewal as a part of putting to rest this old and painful fear. I’m not there yet, but I get the sense that I won’t spend all year on this either. It’s just the first big example of where I am setting the space for renewal – and thus healing, to happen.

Renewal as a year long enquiry means moving through things, allowing transitions to happen, to choose aspects of myself and my life anew. I anticipate that it will mean old patterns are refreshed, and some will be retired. Also that new ones may come into play, and that present aspects of my life and personality may shift and grow and change.

This is a year in which I must pay attention to the flow of things, listen to my heart-intelligence as well as my logic. I need to align these with my sense of self, as a genuine entity in the world, being my best self, my biggest and most Giant self.

2012 will be a year of rediscovery, and though I can distantly appreciate that I’ve grown and changed so much in recent years, I do not have a personal knowing, and so I seek this. I seek to gain new and deeper understanding of my self as a person renewed.

This is a year to embrace myself as a powerful and ambitious person, deserving of all the things I wish for.

This quote is one I came across a couple of weeks ago, and it’s quite apt for my purpose I think:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

So what goals do I want to achieve, what elements do I want to bring into my life, what practises do I want to improve?

Professionally:

  • Explore the qualifications I may be eligable to pursue as a member of the International Institute of Business Analysts.
  • Continue working professionally as a Business Analyst and seek employment opportunities that align with this.
  • Consider working as a volunteer in an open source project as a junior Business Analyst as a means of gaining development and mentoring, while improving and testing skills and contributing to something I believe in.
  • Remember that I’m studying this year and that particularly in second semester, this will be very intense and I need to make space for study to happen.

Academically:

  • Complete the 5 remaining units to make up my degree.
  • Aim for distinctions in the work I am doing, but remember (particularly with what promises to be a grueling second semester) that as long as I am passing, I am doing sufficiently well.
  • Read outside the course materials, I have several texts that I have purchased and which to explore in more detail. I’d like to actually do this in 2012, as it didn’t happen in 2011.
  • Do a practise run at writing and submitting either a conference paper or a journal article that accepts undergraduate submissions.
  • If I can magically afford it, go to the Crossroads 2012 {broken link removed} cultural studies conference in Paris in July.
  • Remember that I’m likely going to be working full time throughout the year and that I need to take this into account and make allowances for how study will happen.
  • Explore options for post grad study, talk to institutions and their academics as well as friends.

Culture:

  • Go and see performances because I want to, and enjoy the opportunities I get to see something alone as much as when I get to attend in a group.
  • Blog about the performances I’ve gotten to see over the year regardless of how big or small they were.
  • Read fiction that takes me to a happy place, fiction that enrichens my experience of the world.
  • Read fiction that is fluffy and light, that I can appreciate when my brain is tired from studying and working.
  • Use my enjoyment of television as study breaks so that there is an opportunity just to stop for a set period of time.
  • Read 100 books this year for the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and do reviews of them at the very least using that platform.
  • Publish at least half of the reviews for the books I read this year on my blogs.
  • Participate in and promote the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2012. I’ve committed to reading 6 books by Australian women writers and reviewing 3 of them here on this blog.

Online:

  • Read the Down Under Feminist Carnival and submit to it at least 6 times throughout the year.
  • Continue utilising online applications to streamline my information consumption and sharing.
  • Blog more frequently here and keep up my personal blog elsewhere. I need to keep in mind, particularly for this space, that it doesn’t have to be perfectly polished. I can trust myself to write decently and that everyone get’s it wrong occasionally. I can trust my ability to deal with anything like that as needed.
  • Continue to use my online tools to nurture my relationships and connections as well as to form new ones.

Personal/Other:

  • Travel to see my interstate partners at least once and preferably twice or three times this year.
  • Celebrate my 15th anniversary with K’ in style.
  • Keep my relationship network map up to date.
  • Do an artistic mindmap on my 2012 theme of Renewal
  • Be gentle on myself with all the emotional intensity and work of last year, allow the healing to take place.
  • Practise asking for more and not feeling guilty or fearful that I am asking too much.
  • Continue to address health concerns with professionals as required, and find ways of building in exercise that doesn’t result in more pain and less coping/energy.
  • Continue to consider and engage with the idea of food and eating patterns and also enjoy any cooking I wish to do but without making it a focal point of the year.
  • Play games, guilt free just because you want to and it will be pleasurable once a week.
  • Continue exploring my talent and commitment for Conversations and being a Conversationalist and whether I could possibly make a living from this at some stage.
  • Maintain integrity with myself as my own best friend, my own partner and beloved and consider holding another ‘Dear Self: I Do’ event.
  • Go on adventures and be less concerned with being well behaved – have fun and let go a little, don’t focus so much on how I look/sound and how I might be judged.
  • Explore new relationship opportunities if they arise.
  • Travel to Brisbane and Sydney if I can magically afford it.
  • Explore how I will move to Melbourne and taking on the challenge of (even more) independent living. This involves grappling with money as well as massive fear of changes.
  • Continue to send postcards and letters to friends, Loves and strangers.

This list may be incomplete, I’m not really sure yet. It *is* comprehensive. It’s more specific and goal like this year too, less focused on bringing certain experiences or feelings into being through an organic process. Much more of the ‘do this’ and ‘take this on’ complete with numbers attached in a number of cases. I haven’t done this kind of list in such detail for a few years, so we’ll see how it goes – as always I’ll revise as it occurs to me that it is a good time to do so.

 

So tell me about this theme thing you do…

I thought that it might be useful to do a post explaining what it is I mean by taking on a yearly theme and what that enquiry means to me. I hope that it will be the useful kind of post that means others can take up the idea if they wish – it’s certainly not mine, I’ve seen it in a dozen different places and ways; this is just my way.

Some people do resolutions, sometimes they’re at the beginning of the calendar year, at birthdays or other siginificant points. (Mine used to run from Swancon to Swancon – annual, but not really specifically a year between them.)

What’s the point? Or, why might you do this?

It gives you a chance to take an opportunity to spend an extended length of time on one aspect of your life that you’d like to concentrate on. It may be something that you feel is missing, or not working. Or, it may be something that you feel particularly passionate about or interested in. Whatever ‘pings’ as significant to you, is worth considering for this.

I find that when I stumble on the thing that is right for me to spend a year thinking on, that there’s an inner sense of knowing. Something just feels ‘right’ about it. I’m inclined to call this intuition and run with it, your mileage may vary.

The point is doing it and that if you’re doing it, there’s something to be gained. It may be that you get better picking your themes – I have. I’ve certainly realised that if I pick something that I think I ‘know’ what it will be about, that I learn far more than I expected and that invariably, what I thought I knew is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. However it happens… is fine. This is your space and it only needs to work for you.

So, pick a theme. Something that resonates with you inwardly and maybe ‘pings’ in your brain somehow. Think about it. Think about it a lot – you can write about it in a private journal too if you wish. Also, talk to those you trust most about it. Talk to those who know you best. Share your thoughts and feelings, your doubts and wonderings about it. The conversation builds the shape of the enquiry.

Not everyone is socially minded or inclined to share such personal things, so don’t feel that this is necessary – do what works for you and adapt as necessary. Have it work for you, because that is the point. You know yourself and if the thought of journaling bores you, or the thought of sharing these kinds of thoughts with others is horrifying, don’t do it.

But think about it. In depth and let your mind open it up like a many layered parcel. I think that the children’s birthday party game ‘Pass the Parcel’ is apt as a metaphor here. Every time the parcel makes it’s way around the circle (otherwise known as your brain), you know something new about it.

Take all those things and write something down as a beginning. Talk about your theme and what it means to you. Identify aspects or elements, even specific goals that form part of what you’ve come up with for your theme. You can do this privately or publically as I have, but it’s really up to you. I’ve gotten to have some of the most meaningful and heartfelt conversations with people asking me about my themes, and that’s incrediibly validating.

Don’t overthink this. It’s an enquiry – it will tick over in the back of your mind. It will be part of what your subconscious is doing in many ways. You may have picked specific and very visible things to happen and let those happen, but don’t stress overmuch about it. In putting the enquiry in motion, it has a life of its own and rest assured it is happening.

Do the obvious things you’ve set and do your best not to over-engineer the other things happening. Instead, notice what is happening around you. What challenges come up, what ways in which you win at life, adulthood – or anything really. Noticing is part of the point. Just let yourself pay attention to your feelings and thoughts.

After a time be it a month or six or ten, you can check in with the enquiry and the things you identified as being part of that year’s theme. Talk about what you struggled with, what you felt you achieved and the expected and unexpected things you noticed. Again, you can do this privately just for yourself or in some measure of public post/discussion.

Finally, toward the end of the year, revisit your preliminary check in thoughts. Think about where you’re at now with the year coming to a close. Think about what you’ve learned overall about the enquiry over the course of the year. Consider what you’re going to take into the future with you and what you’re going to leave behind. This is a chance to evaluate and process as an ending point to the current year’s theme.

Around the same time as you’re winding up for the current year, you begin to think about the new year. It’s the same sort of process as I described above as a beginning. Let it happen and don’t worry too much if it doesn’t seem obvious. If the ‘perfect’ thing doesn’t occur to you, whatever you do pick, will still be worthwhile considering for the year.

Also, while I tend to do enquiries that are year-long, you can adjust as feels right for you – quarterly, half yearly, monthly, really whatever feels right for you. It’s yours. 

So, the summary or ‘tl:dr’ version:

  1. Pick a theme, pick something that resonates with where you’re at right now.
  2. Think about it and find out what it means to you, then write about it either privately or in some public form including what elements or actions, even goals characterise the enqiry.
  3. Don’t think about it too much as the year goes on. Trust that it’s happening beneath the surface, and appreciate what you notice as time passes as well.
  4. Do a check in post, or several – whatever works for you. Again, this can be private or shared.
  5. Review and evalutate what you got out of the theme, consider what you know now that you didn’t before, or what changed, what shifed or what you learned. Write about it, privately or shared and create an end point so that you can be open to a new beginning point.
  6. Rinse and repeat as works on the cycle best for you. Trial and error encouraged!

Also, feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Final Reflection on my 2011 Theme: Conscious Faith

Oh what a year 2011 was, it was a very hard year.I started out last year in such hope for amazingness and it really didn’t eventuate though I hoped so hard for it.

Much of my experience of the year can be appreciated through the two other posts on Conscious Faith that I wrote, mainly because so much of the year was internal and that’s where I set in motion and then realised the learning and experiences. Here is my beginning post on the enquiry and my check in about how it was progressing. Today is about creating an end point so that there can be a beginning point. Transition. Entry and exit. Consciously. 

I spent (and needed) a lot of time in my head and heart working through things. I’m still surprised at how much of the enquiry and the aims I set out were present and acted on throughout the year. Also, as I write this I am surprised at how comfortable I am putting this enquiry to rest, how complete I feel with it. That realisation came only with the writing of this post. Some of what I’ve done has led to things that will be part of next year’s work with Renewal. But there is a lot to appreciate and acknowledge about what I’ve achieved and received throughout this year’s enquiry.

It’s still true for me that Conscious Faith was about how I move through the world, recognising where balance is for me, looking at boundaries and where I spend my energy, looking at what brings me joy and where I want to spend my time. It was a year that allowed me to regain my sense of Being A Giant and recognising that I have something wonderful and vital to contribute to the world.

I’ve learned more about doubting that and coming back from that space of doubt, even if it’s still a work in progress. So in many ways, last year was about healing, cleaning out dark and dank places in my heart and head. It was about listening to myself and becoming aware of what I hadn’t realised, what I was blind to and what I needed to know and learn.

What am I left with looking back on the goals I outlined, now that I’m ready to put Conscious Faith to rest and begin with Renewal?

  • Improving my active listening ability:

This is something that I thought that I’d managed huge inroads into, making it a part of my ordinary, what has also happened that I didn’t really notice at the time was that I’ve become much better at listening actively to myself, inwardly. I’m more aware about what’s going on for me, what I’m seeking, what I need, what I want.

  • Evaluating and reconsidering processes and systems:

There are many ways in which this has happened. Reworking or evaluating systems or adding in new processes have filtered all the way through my life from emotional and intellectual to more practical things such as ways I do exercise, manage pain, job hunt, communicate, employ boundaries and utilise my time.

One of the obvious examples is how the extensive reworking of how I process/consume/share/read information online and store it all (Dear Pinboard, I love you!) At the very least I’m paying a lot more attention to my habits, what feels natural and organic in my actions/schedule. I’m aiming ot make things less of a struggle, less of a fight so that I have more time and energy for things that matter more to me. This has been successful so far and honestly is one of those things that is a continual work in progress, and I’m okay with that.

  • Non-fiction reading, particularly study related: 

So this didn’t really occur outside of blogs. Partly it’s because a bunch of the texts I’d planned to read spent most of the year in Kununurra, but also the emotional toll of the year meant that I really didn’t have the capacity to really go in depth with my reading. I read lots of fluff instead. This is something that I hope to take into 2012 with me.

  • Cooking consciousness around eating and ethics

This is one of those that I think was the past lurking in the present, cooking has been a major part of my life over the years, but I don’t think it has the same priority now. At least, I am sure of that for the past two years. I didn’t spend much of last year cooking, what I did cook was of a high quality but it wasn’t regular. It was most often something quick and easy for dinner with occasional bigger efforts.

I’m still no closer ot having any idea how to deal with food and ethics, I waver back and forth. I have spent a lot of time *thinking* about it. And that was the point, resolution while nice wasn’t the aim. I learned a lot about how I prefer to eat out and my eating habits have changed in that regard. My body and hormones are in process of changing (I think) because what I eat and how it affects me seems to be changing. Trying to just go with it at the moment as I have no real conclusions.

  • Meaningful conversations were a cornerstone of the year, and they were how I felt that I made a difference in the world and to people around me. 

This was one of the central ways in which conscious faith really occurred. This was a year for one on one or small group conversations that meant so much to me. There were conversations I had with people that made an immense difference with them and their lives. There were also many times where I was in need of support and there were conversations then too.

I have come into a space of gentle trust again that what I bring to these conversations, to the world is unique and valuable. I am feeling more and more comfortable with being passionate about my life and the world around me again. My confidence is regrowing itself. All of this feeds into the conversations I’ve had, needed or moderated. Being a conversationalist in this sense is a huge expression of my Gianthood.

I’m very seriously and very gently growing ideas around how I can use my talent and passion in this way to earn a living while making a difference in the world. It’s a tiny fledgeling idea at present, it has lots of growing to do.

  • Goals and wishes and desires

Desires is a big one, I’ve desired so much and am still in a space of wanting and hoping. Some important things I’ve wanted shifts in haven’t occurred despite my attempts to do so, but I’ve learned a lot.

I got to spend a huge amount of time practising with ‘asking’ and it’s not that much less uncomfortable than it was a year ago. But, it has also helped me to unhook unhealthy patterns and collect evidence that demonstrates a much better pattern to take on.

I proved to myself that I could fling myself into a challenging situations, adventures that were huge! I also learned that if they don’t work out, I can totally come back from it and take the best I can from it. Given these intentions were the closest I came to making a list of goals I’m feeling pretty satisfied with how I fulfilled them overall.

  • More on making a difference

Aside from the conversational element, I also learned more about being myself. Being my best self. Not only that it doesn’t happen all the time, but, what my capacity is for ‘best’ is changeable. I am clear that I have throughout things I have done the very best I could do. What I was capable of in doing my ‘best’ at the time varies greatly. Some days are a win because I got through the day, or stayed in bed. Other days, I felt like I conquered all the bad things in my world.

This is one of the most frequent conversations I had over the past twelve months and also ties into letting go of perfectionism and doing things suffiently well, or trusting that I’ve done things sufficiently well.

  • Keeping my vows to myself and being my own best friend

Keeping in mind that I am responsible for being kind to myself and giving myself a break from all the expectation and judgement was a big part of last year. It was a huge reason why I think that I got through so much crap this year. It’s also why I think I was able to notice and address a whole bunch of things that had been in the back of my mind being pleasantly ignored.

I wasn’t always successful, but I was quick to make amends and adjust my actions or speaking as I was called on it. I got better at it as the year progressed too, even as the emotional stuff got harder and I struggled more. 

This was another of the conversations that I had multiple times with others to good effect. I think that having the conversation so often is also why I was forced to remember it and act on it perhaps more than I would have without the consistent reinforcement.

  • Knowing connectionism like I know how to breathe

When I last checked in with my enquiry, I was so thankful because it seemed like this was the gift I’d given myself to get through the year. I still believe this to be true. I couldn’t have gotten through the year without the connections around me and without being as deeply committed to connection as I am.

 

Overall… this enquiry has been the kind of inward and quiet success that is difficult to articulate or point to. But I can feel it. What I can take away from this is a knowingness that I have faith in myself, in the people and the world around me. I also have a better understanding about how I move through the world, and what happens when I consciously consider things or take things on, or even remove them from my life. It’s been fascinating and so much hard work. I’m content with what I’ve gained and learned from it. I’m also eager to move on to the happier space that I hope Renewal will be. 

Thank you 2011, you were so very rough, so very hard and I hope that what I learned and took away from my experience of you continues to grow and bear fruit in the years to come.

Transitioning Yearly Themes

So, this year had been a massive roller coaster. My 2011 theme ‘conscious faith’ has taught me a lot and I’m almost ready to put it to rest. I’m also getting ready to welcome and celebrate my incoming theme for 2012: renewal.
For those of you who also follow this or a similar process, what are your thoughts on the year ending and the potential for the new year?

Checking in on my enquiry for 2011: Conscious Faith…. it’s all a work in progress.

I stumbled upon the entry I wrote at the beginning of the year about setting the space for my 2011 enquiry. I’m still in the midst of it, I can feel that there’s some time yet to have this fully play out. But, I am listening to the the universe and happenschance that I looked at it tonight and thus, updating.

Oh how difficult and sobering and heartening it is to revisit that post. The year was so full of promise and coming out of the last third of 2010 which was horrible, and it overall being a difficult year…. I wanted this year to be amazing. I also knew it would be challenging and it certainly has been. I feel like there have been glimpses of amazing… I hope it means that the really really good stuff is yet to come.

Still, I don’t think this is the update that I wanted to write. It will require me to be a little more personal than I thought I’d be in this space. However, what good is an enquiry if you don’t engage with it? 

I didn’t think I’d engaged with it as much as I have… it hasn’t been as much in the forefront of my mind as past year themes have been. But oh, looking back on what I wrote… there’s been so much to do with this theme going on. So. Very. Much.

Conscious Faith was about my life, how I move through the world, how I run my life and where I direct my energies. I’ve learned *so* much. I’ve shifted and changed so much of what was so at that point in the year. And all of it has been inside the world of trust, sincerity to self and my commitment to my life, to the world around me. I couldn’t be where I am at this point, without that being true.

Where am I with some of the goals I outlined?

  • I wanted to continue developing my ability to Listen Actively

It’s hard to describe where I’m at with this, because I feel like I’m better at this, but it is an overall sense rather than specific events I can point to. It’s about an attitude to listening that has become part of my background thought, part of my ordinary, rather than being something I have to employ consciously and with deliberate intent. It has (to my mind) been subsumed into how I move through the world in general.

  • I wanted to look at the systems and strategies I employ, and at their effectiveness.

I’ve employed some new systems and they’re new enough that I can’t yet evaluate them. It’s all a work in progress, but I can say that decluttering has been a big part of things. I’m also shifting how I do things in my online spaces so that I can streamline things a little better… it’s not there yet, but I’m thinking about it.

I’d still like mechanisms for being able to keep links together for link salad posting… currently I’m partly using whatever social networking is handy and partly my igoogle task list or just having a bunch of tabs open in my browser. See? Still a work in progress.

  • Non fiction reading increase and expansion

If I can count the amount of blog reading, then I can say this is happened. However, I know that I meant books of theorists. I’ve sourced several texts… but with the burnout I haven’t really taken any of them up to read. I’m a little sad about this, I’d still like it to shift and do a little bit of it. I know I’ll enjoy it when I get there… the big thing seems to be starting. Some work to be done there…

  • Cooking, being conscious and thoughtful about ingredients and ethical impacts

This is a hard one. There has been cooking… though not as much as I wanted. I have been conscious and thoughtful about the ingredients and ethics. Am I any closer to a position or being definitive about what works for me? Not a bit. That said, resolution wasn’t a requirement – it’d be a nice bonus though 🙂

  • Meaningful conversations with people that will assist with them working through or shifting hard stuff.

This has been a joy and challenge this year. There’s been a lot more of it than I could have conceived. I believe I’ve done well with it, people I’ve had conversations with where there was intentionality and something of a purpose in mind, there was beauty in sharing and moving through conversation and listening. I won’t say more than that save that it is very rewarding and it fills me up inside with light.

The hard with this is in confronting that I perhaps have something to offer, something meaningful that makes a difference. I do, I am learning to trust this and rather than worry about being egotistical I am concentrating on trusting myself and sharing without imposing.

  • Goals and wishes and desires

Oh I’ve been listening. I’ve been acting on things as well. I took a chance on an adventure to Kununurra for a job. It was amazing and heartbreaking. It didn’t work out… but I took a leap of faith and that felt *amazing*. I’m conscious that my time in Perth is drawing to a close, that it’s time to be in a different living space, a different city space and exploring other aspects of myself and my relationships.

Professional goals and wishes have come with some fruition despite the difficulty that was Kununurra. There have been jobs I’ve done and enjoyed. I’ve worked with great teams. I’ve achieved significant and measurable results. I’ve achieved things. I’ve become more aware of what shape my career might take on. It’s still barely shaped… but it’s there and I can feel it starting to come together.

  • Making a difference in the world… myself and others. Also here is the space where I wanted to live in accordance with my ideals that ‘we’re all an us’ that ‘anything is possible’

I am making a difference in every moment that I am myself to the best of my ability. Authentically, I am an intense person and I have an enormous impact on my world around me. I am an overflowing well of love, of wonder and of joy shared freely with those around me. I am powerful and driven by my visions for equality, for personhood, for connection, for a greater understanding and appreciation of love. I am someone who motivates and inspires, I lead people and most of all…. I am a Giant.

I am a Giant standing on the shoulders of many other Giants, wanting others to stand on my shoulders to become Giants, all of us reaching for far away stars, creating them with our dreams.

It’s not without stumbles and falls, none of us manage to be our best selves all the time. Sometimes, I am learning, it is our less awesome selves that teach us what being sincere and authentic are really about. It is all about the journey, the destination may yet be grand, but without the journey I have no context with which to value it.

I’ve seen people around me take on amazing projects, start inspiring businesses, speak truth and love, connection and community to people. I’ve been part of some of this and some of it just a witness to it… but oh, I get to be around some of the most amazing people who are making the most amazing difference in the world in so many different and important ways.

  • Continue to be my own best friend, to abide my my self dedication vows and promises.

This is a mixed bag in some ways. Or maybe not… I’ve been very conscious of this all year. I started the year in burn out, I’ve discovered a heart-wound as part of my trying to recover my energy reserves (which in part explains why it’s taking so freaking long). Self care and introspection have been strong motivators for me this year. I’ve been working so very hard in my head and in my heart. I’m not done yet. Some of what I’ve been working on has uncovered some really nasty and unhealthy patterns that are not at all keeping with my promises to myself. However, I’m paying that they’re there and working to unhook them and let them go.

  • Know connectionism like I know how to breathe…

This has to be one of the gifts I gave myself at the beginning of this year. I swear it’s been one of the key things that’s helped me to deal with all the hard and all the painful stuff. I know my connections like I know how to breathe. I can feel them and I can nurture them. For most of the year the energy has been rushing outwards in some key spaces and that tide is now turning.

In other spaces the flow of energy back and forth has been sublime abundance. I am surrounded by the most amazing loving friends. I cannot for a moment doubt that love and care… And even in the spaces where the energy has been in ebb and it’s mostly been coming from me… there is a special kind of caringness and building that comes from that. It’s not one sided, just held in trust. I’ve been holding close my knowledge of those connections, knowing that tides and energy flows would revert in time. Knowing connectionism has made the hard that much easier to navigate. So unbelievably easier.

This is where I am at just now. I think the summary is really, still all a work in progress. But oh, I can absolutely recognise far more clearly 2011’s theme Conscious Faith in amongst all the stuff going on this year. That’s actually quite satisfying… I’m kind of delighted by the effort my subconscious has clearly made in this area.

As a work in progress I’m very conscious that it also means… there’s still a lot of work to come. But, I have faith in all the ways I’m negotiating my world and beingness. It is all coming together. I’m still learning so very much. I’m seeking recognition and reassurance in different places and I am letting go of my sense of independence as a fortress around me. I must remember that my best strength is always in vulnerability. 

Here’s to the rest of 2011… bring it. I’m all over this.

2011 Theme: Conscious Faith

This year’s theme didn’t leap out at me with the same kind of vibrant declaration that I’ve been spoiled with – there was a lot of searching and musing involved. In previous years, I’ve started listening and the concept became obvious fairly quickly, like one of those inner moments where it feels like a bell song reverberating throughout your body. This time, no bell. I did get there in the end – and it wasn’t just a case of deciding between my two top candidates as both of them were getting my attention pretty thoroughly. In the end it was realising that neither single choice was the right one, that actually the correct choice lay in embracing both concepts in tandem as a complimentary entwined enquiry for the year.

2011 is about both consciousness and faith. Conscious Faith. 

When I say ‘consciousness’ what I’m referring to is conscious living, looking at the way I’m using my energy, what I’m putting it into, what I’m directing it away from, what I am choosing, what consequences I come across, how I organise and process things, my systems and strategies for making my life work – is it working for me or just running the show? Am I living in line with my values, am I questioning them and thus refining my positions – am I willing to change a position entirely? Am I taking chances, am I playing things ‘too safe’/’too well-behaved’? Am I exploring and expressing myself honestly and with vulnerability?

Those kind of questions.

When I mention ‘faith’ I’m not speaking from any religious or spiritual space. I’m talking about the way you can have confidence or belief in something without tangible supporting facts – without needing to seek out proof, because it is the act of believing, of trust and sincerity that is the key aspect of the concept.

When I think about how these two concepts look together, what it might entail or look like I feel like faith is also about looking around me. It is appreciating what is in my life and being conscious about where my energy is going, where my priorities are, seeking out my wishes and goals, discovering what projects will encompass those things. Really noticing what is happening within my life, what opportunities are available, what pitfalls to avoid. Leading on from connectionism stuff, conscious faith is also about recognising people who cross my path where there is some sort of exchange to take place – learning or listening, teaching, humbling, growing or inspiration, taking actions or appreciating results. It is about recognising that connection moment when it happens and playing it out to its full potential, where everyone gets the best of the experience.

This is all conscious faith to me, recognising and following from intuition into belief and trust and considering or generating what I need from within to meet the challenges without.

What kind of actions and/or goals are going to be part of this at this beginning stage?

– practise listening and continue to develop this as an active ability

– look at what systems and strategies I employ for efficiency and to get things done, evaluate their effectiveness and implement new systems or strategies if required. 

– continue to expand on my reading list of non-fiction study related material, take advantage of the many recommendations that cross my screen on a daily basis and read some of those as well. 

– be conscious about my cooking, look at what I’m choosing to cook, consider what ingredients are involved, what ethics are impacted by my choices, by my family’s choices.

– develop trust in my ability to have meaningful conversations that will assist people in shifting some of their hard stuff, as part of this I should never forget the honour that is being invited in to share someone’s hard and scary stuff.

– listen to my inner desires and heartfelt goals and act in accordance for their fulfilment. This would include my degree and any other major decisions like travelling or moving. 

– practice playing, get more comfortable with being silly and not so serious, enjoy my creativity and imagination and encourage this so that it becomes part of ‘my ordinary’. 

– make a difference in the world, be honest and sincere. Do it because it feels right and not just to look good. Make it contribute to lasting cultural shift and not quick and insincere bandaid fixes. 

– support others in their making a difference in the world. 

– actively live in accordance with the ideals that mean the most to you. I mean, ‘we are all and us’ and ‘anything is possible’.

– keep faith with yourself and your self dedication vows and promises. Give this away to others so that they also have the opportunity to be their own best friend. 

– continue your practice of connectionism, expand on it and know it like you know how to breathe. 

 

This is the beginning of the journey. From here who knows what it will look like? I suspect at times it will be a rollercoaster and other times it will be deeply peaceful and calm. I have no doubt that the year will be challenging, that it will demand from me all of myself to the best of my ability to truly, honestly and powerfully be myself.

I am so ready for this, here’s to 2011.

2010 Theme Reflection: Connectionism

(reposted from my personal blog space)

2010 has been about connectionism for me. How that’s occurred has been both similar and different to how I anticipated and crafted it as an idea. I’m pleased by this having come to the end of the year.

Some of my closest of friendships have become closer still – in that way where you just marvel because you just weren’t sure it was possible to feel closer still.

I’ve become close to new people in different ways and I’m enthralled and enamoured by this.

I’ve come to an acute awareness of connection and when it’s present, not present and various nuances around that. I’ve also become quite expert at creating connection that is based inside of freedom and space. A space that holds no obligation or expectation save respect, a space that people can step into or not as they choose, without expectation or obligation. A space where invitations are freely given, and declining means knowing that I won’t take it personally against me, that it is only about that invitation at that time.

Being able to do this well is important to me for several reasons, in part because I value time spent genuinely and freedom makes that possible, and also because like anyone else, I don’t like to feel pressured or obligated or trapped and I work to avoid experiencing it or creating situations that have that in the background.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about connectionism is that <b>we are all an us</b>.  It’s simplicity masks the importance of the message in some ways, but it resonates strongly whenever I say it, resonates in my heart and through my body – as a statement, it lives for me.

One of the other things that connnectionism has been about is teaching others about creating a space where connection is possible for others to step into. Trying to explain and use useful analogies and metaphors has been interesting for this, because it’s largely intangible. I’ve done well and not so well at this but have learned a lot about it. There’s a difference between stepping into a space – like a gathering or conversation (or something) where it all feels welcoming and friendly and positive, and where you’re unsure of your welcome of whether it will be a friendly or positive space. You can be skilled at recognising a space as welcoming and positive and stepping into it and responding accordingly and yet struggle with creating that same space for others.

I will write more about this aspect in a separate post because there’s a lot to consider and tease out about it, particularly given we’re talking intangible intuitive stuff as well.

So when I picked ‘connectionism’ as my word for 2010, I had an idea of what I wanted it to be like based on my dot point definition of the word. My year was all of that and more, and though I had a secret and unspoken desire inside of those guidelines, it wasn’t fulfilled. Overall the year was excruciatingly hard work and demanding. The things that I set out to do or experience or practise involving connection have been rewarding and challenging and I’ve learned so much.

 

The definition from the first post back in January:

– being connected to people

– promoting things that mean others get to be connected

– learning about what connection means, looks like, feels like etc in as many ways as possible

– connecting with new people

– deepening my connection with current friends

– being and living a life that gives people an idea of what connection is and can look like

– sharing what I know and have learned and experienced about connection with interested parties

 

Based on what I’ve written above, I’m quite surprised on how strongly that vision and understanding has been fulfilled.

Additionally there was the list of dot points on things that I wanted to do around fostering connectionism, lets revisit them shall we?

– cooking… the year has only passingly been about cooking and I’ve enjoyed what cooking I’ve done and have at various points had the opportunity to impress people with my cooking but not as much learning new skills, and not as much teaching new skills.

– getting to know my friends better has been deeply rewarding and I’m delighted by it frequently. I value it deeply and am still actively creating opportunities for this to happen.

– have met amazing new people this year! This has been successful beyond my wildest hopes.

– did really well throughout the year at Uni, got almost all the marks I really wanted, learned so much and came to see the body of skill and knowledge that is my own understanding and offering to the world  separate from all the bits and pieces I’m learning.

– alas have not loved on Fremantle as much as I would have liked, though there has been some lovely experiences there nonetheless.

– falling in love every day… can honestly say that this is true… as I’ve mentioned in the previous posts it’s something of an ordinary experience for me, part of how I move through the world. However, it’s something I take pains to appreciate and value consciously and not take for granted.

– spending time less well behaved… well…. partly successful? I struggle with this, not unsurprisingly I think. But I have been in situations where I have practised it and the sky hasn’t fallen, I haven’t ended up being hated by everyone I know etc… and so bit by bit I’ve plucked at the strings of conditioning around this, starting to unravel this idea of being ‘good’ that I feel locked into sometimes.

– still interested in learning French but have not done anything on this.

– travelling interstate pretty much didn’t happen – only for Worldcon which was quite low an experience for me though there were specific and amazing highs.

– doing my hippy student travelling thing didn’t happen, but is still on the cards.

– inspire others in themselves… this has happened in a thousand little ways and no matter how small or large… each moment just awes me and I am teary. People are amazing, and those who’ve invited me into see their hurt and jagged bits, the not so pretty and struggling bits… have truly wowed me. They have humbled me even as I know I’ve contributed to them.

So that’s it. My year in connection. Not small or simple or easily explained… but complete and valued beyond measure.

On taking on a yearly theme…

One of the ways in which I organise my focus and learning over the course of a year* is to choose an overall theme for the next twelve month period. 

When I say theme, what is it that I’m talking about?  I mean, a concept that you use as an overarching focus to what’s going on around you, something that ticks away in the back of your mind as you move through the world. A theme is something that motivates and inspires you, something that you’re in some way hyper aware of whenever there is hard stuff, big stuff and good stuff going on in your life. It’s a way to pay attention to something going on that needs that concentrated energy for an extended period. 

Past themes I’ve had include ‘Exploration’, ‘Expression’ and last year was ‘Connectionism’**, and I’ll tell you more about this year in a follow up post. Mostly in this post I wanted to set up the idea so that if you wanted to, you could try it for yourself. 

A theme is in some ways aspirational, but more tangible in that it’s a space you’re creating to step into, awareness you’re cultivating and knowledge/experiences that you’re valuing. 

Sometimes you might choose something that you’d like to work on, something that you’ve been stuck on or something recurring that you’re not all that happy with. You might also choose something positive that you actively want to bring into your life. You can choose anything, but in thinking your way through this, you’ll likely stumble on a concept that feels ‘right’ and clicks with you and where you’re at. 

When I take on a theme for the year, I have a strong sense of what I’m bringing to it in the beginning – even if that appears to be little or nothing. For me it’s important to be aware of what some of the ideas and thoughts, desires and assumptions I’m bringing to the theme, because invariably the best of what I’ll learn and grow into, won’t be any of what I already thought I knew. Knowing what I bring to the beginning of a journey like this (and it is a journey – a treasure hunt in a lot of ways), allows me to see more clearly what I really got out of it, expected and unexpected. 

As part of setting up the treasure hunt, I also find that listing actions, habits, wishes, goals or projects I want to include as part of the journey is useful and inspiring. This list motivates me to go searching and delving into the theme I’ve taken on, allowing me to really connect with it, immerse myself in it and commit to it fully. These things also give you a way of reflecting on the progress of the journey as you go through the year. 

Once the year is done, reflecting on what went on over the course of the year, how it related to the theme, what I learned or saw, felt, appreciated, valued, struggled with, is deeply rewarding. It’s also a great way of letting go of the journey completed in order to embark on a new one! Thus are traditions created. 

What kind of journeys and treasure hunts are you embarking on? What do you think these will entail? What do you look forward to on the journey? What are you fearful or nervous about? What actions/habits/wishes/goals/projects are you taking on as part of your theme?

Happy themeing! Stay tuned for my post on 2010 with ‘Connectionism’ and what my 2011 theme is all about! 

 

* When I say ‘year’ I mean that this is generally a useful timeframe with which to go about this theme business. However, if you feel like you’re done with a theme inside a year, great!  See what occurs to you as the next theme you might want to take on, perhaps it will take longer, shorter or be much the same – go with what feels right for you. 

** I’ll talk more about connectionism in a follow up post but the way I look at it, it takes the idea and concept of connection to a bigger overarching level that I find more interesting and engaging to play with.