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.

Snapshot 2016: Interview with PRK

Snaphot Logo 2016

The mysterious man who has his fingers in many pies, from Worldcon to the Aurealis Awards. PRK is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever had the fortune to meet and the chance to interview him is pretty amazing. This interview was conducted as part of Snapshot 2016 and is reposted from the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


PRK Smaug interview photoPRK is a long time speculative fiction enthusiast who regularly escaped to Middle Earth during primary school. Since then he’s become more omnivorous in his spec-fic reading, enjoying and reviewing works in a wide variety of genres including fantasy, science fiction, horror, cyberpunk and paranormal romance. PRK is an IT Geek by day, which provides him the means to fund his spec-fic habit and devour whatever books he can get his hands on. Contributing to spec-fic in Australia, PRK runs conventions as a hobby, and is on the Board of the Western Australian Science Fiction Foundation, where he is the convenor for the Aurealis Awards. You’ll usually find him roaming the corridors at Swancon and Continuum, or online via Twitter: @prkaye or his website: http://www.prkaye.com/

 

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about running conventions in Australia over the past several years?

I think the most surprising thing I’ve learned is that the community passion and sheer volume of institutional knowledge in the community have frequently lead to a quality of convention organisation beyond that I’ve seen from many professionally run conferences. Conventions like Swancon, Continuum and Conflux are run by volunteers and it’s incredible to see the kind of events that our community produces, out of love for the genre.

You were recently one of the readers for the inaugural Sarah Douglas Award for the Aurealis Awards, what was it like to read so many books for that award and did it give you particular insight into what makes a good series?

It was both incredibly challenging based on the number of novels and incredibly rewarding to read that many series. Reading specifically for series really highlighted, for me, the difference between using the same characters and world with a different plot versus growing and evolving the characters and/or world in a way that a single novel doesn’t readily allow for. In addition, all the novels in the series have to work together to build a story that’s vaster than just the sum of the individual novels. Having read for the Sarah Douglas Award, I’m convinced that the differences between good standalone novels and novels that make up a good series result in the latter being under represented in awards, and I hope to see more series based awards in the future.

There are rumours that one of your long term plans is to bring Worldcon to Perth, Australia. What attracts you to the idea of a Perth Worldcon?

Worldcon is such a fantastic experience for both fans and professionals alike that I want to make it accessible to as many people as possible. The last Australian Worldcon was in 2010, and there’s a growing number of fans and professionals who haven’t experienced a Worldcon. Australia has thriving and varied speculative fiction communities, with Western Australia’s Swancon running over over 40 years – I’ve been told it’s the longest continuously running speculative fiction convention in the Southern Hemisphere. With over 40 years of experienced convention runners and fannish traditions, hosting in Perth would provide a fantastic opportunity for the Australian community to experience Worldcon, and also be a different and unique experience for the International community, compared to previous Melbourne based Worldcons.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I really enjoyed Season one of Cleverman. It was a fantastic use of science fiction targeted at a mainstream audience which examined and commented on the racism prevalent in Australian society and our government’s policies. While distressing in some areas, it didn’t hold back on showing the human impact that policies and attitudes can have. Despite, or perhaps because of that, it also provided a strong and powerful representation of Aboriginal people struggling with the impact of, and fighting back against, injustice.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I hate small talk on planes, people rarely want to be there – they’re either on their way to or from somewhere, and it’s a closed environment with no ability to leave if a conversation turns out to be distressing. Besides, I’d much rather an empty seat for the extra space! So let’s say it was at a convention bar instead, where anyone was free to enter or leave as they pleased. I’d absolutely love to talk with Mary Shelley.

It would be fascinating to discuss with her the current state of speculative fiction, all the sub genres, and her thoughts on the development of it, from the context of Frankenstein. I’d also love to hear Shelly’s thoughts and experiences of the genre over such an extended lifetime (assuming that’s how this has worked, rather than a sudden resurrection), and also her predictions for the future of the genre.

Snapshot 2016: Interview with Sean Williams

Snaphot Logo 2016

This is the first of the interviews I conducted for Snapshot 2016 with the always lovely Sean Williams, reposted from the original over at the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


Sean Williams - Photo by James BraundSean Williams is an award-winning, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of over forty novels and one hundred stories, including some set in the Star Wars and Doctor Who universes, and some written with Garth Nix. He lives up the road from the Australia’s finest chocolate factory with his family and a pet plastic fish.

Although your Twinmaker series concluded with the release of ‘Fall/Hollowgirl’ last year, it looks like this universe still has a hold on you. Is there more to come from within the Twinmaker universe?

The Twinmaker universe, and the idea of the matter transmitter, definitely still has a tight grip on me. Apart from the fantasy landscape of The Stone Mage and the Sea, which I’ve returned to more than a dozen times, this is the world I’ve most visited, with four novels and over forty short stories so far, plus a PhD thesis to prove that I’m taking it all very seriously.:) I have a couple of stories yet to come, and there are still ideas kicking around. One is to write a non-fiction book on the rise and fall and rise of the teleporter. If I could drop everything in order to do that, I would. Then I’d be done with it. Maybe.

Because, honestly, this has been obsession for more years than I care to count. The first “serious” story I ever wrote, i.e. thinking that I might actually have a shot at being a writer, was a matter transmitter story. That was in 1989. Going back even further to 1978, I wrote a mammoth epic, or so it seemed when I was eleven years old, and it too featured a matter transmitter. If anyone’s looking for recurring tropes in my work, this would be the one that stands out. I would justify this obsession by saying that it’s the ultimate science fiction trope, the one that allows an author to explore every imaginable idea, except for travel back in time (and hell, Michael Crichton used it to do even that). But really it’s because I think it’s cool … and the ideas it generates just keep on coming.

Fall - Twinmaker - cover

You’re well known for writing science fiction and dystopia, and I’m a particular fan of your fantasy work. Do you think you’ll continue to work across genres?

Most likely. I’ve always liked moving across genres and styles. It keeps me from getting stale–or so I tell myself. Maybe it’s really just to keep me from getting bored. One thing that’s stopped me from writing much horror lately is the feeling that, if I’ve played with a trope once, it’s time to move on. Of course, given the answer to the question above, some tropes comprehensively break that rule. I’ve also come back to some styles or worlds many times over, but only when I feel like I have something more to say about or with them.

Forthcoming projects include my first ever published 1st-person novel, my first mainstream novel, and my first medieval fantasy (co-written with Garth Nix). At the same time, I have a space opera novel kicking around, and I’m actively researching another book set in the world of the Books of the Change. Plus the non-fiction book on matter transmitters. So there’s lots of old and new stuff to keep me interested for a while yet.

In your blog you mention two YA novels that you’re writing. What is it that draws you to YA?

The first of the two YA novels is In My Mind, a first-person novel set in the present day that uses speculative elements to explore social anxiety and chronic pain; that’s sold in the US, and I’m editing it at the moment. The second is Impossible Music, a mainstream novel about deafness and music. It earned an Australia Council Grant (for which I’m incredibly grateful, times being tough) and is still in the research phase. Both are very personal novels, dealing with things that are very close to me, or things I have suffered myself (particularly In My Mind, which was difficult to write as a result). They’re topics I find easier to write about in YA because they speak to the age I was when I discovered/endured them in real life. More or less. These aren’t memoirs, but they do come from very intimate spaces that I don’t normally foreground in my fiction.

In general, I find a freshness, a vividness, a rawness, and an immediacy to YA fiction that is very appealing to me. As genre writer, and reader, I am drawn to stories that pull few punches in terms of plotting and characterisation. Themes, subtext and style are equally important, but I don’t want them foregrounded to the point where they seem to become the point, if that makes sense. Finding the right balance between the many facets of storytelling is one of the most challenging things about being a writer–and a reader as well. There’s nothing more rewarding than finally getting it right.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Justine Larbalestier’s My Sister Rosa, Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Colours of Madeleine series, Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, Deb Biancotti’s Waking in Winter, Anna Smaill’sThe Chimes, Zeroes by the fabulous Westerfeld/Lanagan/Biancotti trio. I’m also going on a bit of an Elizabeth Knox binge lately; her Dreamhunter duet really hit the spot. (I’m conflating a couple of New Zealanders with the Australians here, but I figure it’s okay to be inclusive. Hopefully!)

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I wish I’d met Robert Anton Wilson when he was alive, so I guess that’s my answer. It would be fair to say that his Schroedinger’s Cat books literally changed my life (more than Illuminatus! although he’s more famous for them). I was a teenager thinking thoughts that didn’t really fit into the box I was living in, and here was the guy writing about exactly those things, but with a sense of humour and wonder sorely lacking in the other pundits I’d stumbled across. He had a joyous knack of telling stories that underpinned everything he wrote. If I had the opportunity to hear some of those stories in person, I would take it in a flash.

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.

 

TV What I am Watching

So first off, you should know this post is long! But it is also thorough! TV what am I watching, and why it appeals…

The Lighter Stuff:

(Also for next time I wonder where am I up to…

This first lot are things that I can watch before bed, during semester, pretty much any time. They’re not too heavy and serious, not upsetting and they are individually in different ways satisfying. That might be because they are fluffy and non-serious, or there may be something that presses an id button, but whatever it is I’m glad of it.

So You Think You Can Dance – Season 9

I love this because it uplifts me. I love seeing people be amazing and be appreciated and encouraged. I love seeing what is possible and the sheer breadth of talent in so many different ways that people exhibit! I love that unlike many other instances of reality television, ratings are not driven by meanness or tearing people down from judges. Instead, critiques are considered and thoughtful and about building people up and helping them to improve their dancing. The sheer volume of work they do is massive and a big ask, but I think they do very well with it, though I can definitely appreciate that the routines with more time could be all truly outstanding. I love this when I’m feeling low and feeling unmotivated – it just makes me feel better about the world and makes me feel like things are possible.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

I’ve always had a thing for My Little Pony, apparently it’s still very much in evidence. I love this show because it’s fluffy and lovely and the lessons about friendship and caring, about boundary setting and so on I think are important for people of all ages, but I am glad that this is for kids and that they’re getting these lessons and these ideas and concepts to consider. It’s not perfect, there are Issues, but I enjoy it enough to overlook them.

How I Met Your Mother

Neil Patrick Harris. That kind of explains most of it really – because he’s him, that he plays Barney makes that character somehow hilarious instead of just plain reprehensible – still reprehensible but somehow funnier because NPH. I also love the ensemble cast and the way they interact. I love the premise and the way it’s set up and that it’s continuous and unfolds slowly – I don’t know why this appeals to me so much but it really does. I enjoy the slow growing and changing of the characters as Ted regales his children as to the *entire* story of how he met their mother.  About to go through S9, I think I’ve watched the first couple of episodes but it’s been ages so will likely rewatch.

Big Bang Theory

I have a love and hate thing with this show, but mostly I love it. I mostly don’t find the geek stuff painful or shaming though I understand why others would. I love the character interactions for the most part, I like the way the characters have grown and changed, I love Penny, Amy and Bernadette’s friendship so very much!  I’m up to the later seasons of this but I’m not 100% sure which one.

Golden Girls

Old but satisfying. The laugh track is a bit much, but it’s the price for sitcoms. Four women and friendship. Four *older* women and friendship. Just awesome. Dated in some ways – especially some of the humour, but actually still really satisfying. Warm and fuzzy, great for mid-semester watching when I need a break but don’t want anything heavy or hard going. Watching S1.

Franklin and Bash

Mainly because I love Boston Legal and I ran out. I love humourous lawyer antics. I love that this is a bit off the wall and a bit ridiculous. It’s entertaining.  Watching S2.

Boston Legal

I don’t even know why I love this so much but I do. I think it’s brilliantly written which is no small part of it. But also, despite all the characters being reprehensible, they are also sympathetic – they have depth and complexity. Unsurprisingly it’s Alan and Denny’s relationship that really gets me about this series. I’m rewatching at the moment and it’s equal parts adorable and bewildering (they’re so reprehensible, why do I like them so much?!). We’re compiling a drinking game as we watch and so far we think that the best rules are any time the fourth wall is broken, and any time a lawyer talks about being disbarred. The boys and I have just finished watching this and I’m so pleased that they enjoyed the ending and it was so heart-warming to see it again. Also, interesting to watch all the political discussion leading up to the presidential election back before I knew who Obama was.

RuPaul’s Drag Race

I love RuPaul, unashamedly. I love the show and I love that it gives some kind of window into the world of drag and all the things that go with that. I don’t even mind the competitiveness and sniping behaviour, though this is surprising. I love the glamour and the over-the-top-ness of it all, I love seeing all the different ridiculous challenges and the looks that come out of it. I love that it’s normalising and mainstreaming playing with gender and interpretation and also bringing into the open in some ways how people who are gay, who are queer still struggle to navigate a heteronormative world.

Iron Chef

It’s just entertaining and adorable. Plus, I love all kinds of different cooking shows.

Say Yes to the Dress

Random episodes, no interest in following things in chronological order – this is pure fluff. People getting a heart’s desire. I may not actually be a fan of weddings and all the to-do about it overall, but I do love it when people get to experience or find or have a heart’s desire. Seeing the consultants put a lot of work into finding the right dress or outfit, in being supportive and helping navigate family stuff or friend stuff, making the person seeking happy with the choice they’re making. It’s just kind of delightful somehow. I like seeing people happy. It’s ridiculous and reinforces a mainstream thing that I have no small issue with, but I can get past that to appreciate the other things about it.

Fairly Legal

I love the focus on mediation and everyone getting something out of the process and where the focus is on compromise. The characters are adorable and I think I’m up to S3? This is on my list of things where I need to re-figure out where I am up to because I really enjoy the show – but I also haven’t watched any since the beginning of the year.

Elementary

I’m actually still on season one with this because I lost track of where I was up to and it was too hard to figure it out during the semester. I mainlined the  end of S1 and I have just started S2 and I’m just loving it!

Castle

Crack. Amusement. A great ensemble cast. Nathan Fillion. This is case-of-the-week, but it’s familiar and fluffy and rewarding because of it. The wit and the humour is also great. I am just about to finish S5 and am ready for S6

Once Upon a Time

Fairytales and the modern world, magic and intrigue – plus lots of female characters being awesome. I love this – I’m part way through S2 and must work out where I’m up to catch up.

Scrubs

Ral and I have been watching this for the past year it’s partly been a rewatch for me, but I haven’t seen the later seasons and we’re up to S8. It’s been interesting – equal parts hilarious and poignant with the occasional moment that I wish had been dealt with differently. Still one of those things that works really well for the need to watch something that is digestible and doesn’t often need a great deal of deeper thought (although sometimes that’s untrue and it really gets me!).

Ugly Betty

I have had a hankering to revisit this for a while and I’m hoping to get Ral into it because I think he’ll appreciate all the character dynamics. It’s ridiculous on the surface – and seems so superficial but the addition of an exceptional character like Betty – played to perfection by America Ferrara really changes things. I loved this show and am enjoying the rewatch – currently up to S1.

Lost Girl

I need to pick Lost Girl up again – I think I’m midway through S3? The writing was shocking in that season any way, but I understand it gets better. Plus! I love the show and the characters so I do want to watch it regardless.

House MD

As if I needed another thing! This wasn’t my idea but Ral’s because he hasn’t watched any since becoming a med student. He says it’s kind of ridiculous watching it now with that in mind. But, it’s generally light entertainment that is impossible to take too seriously. Also, I really do adore Hugh Laurie. We’ve already watched S1 (with Newsroom and Ugly Betty languishing) and are halfway through S2.

One Born Every Minute and The Midwives (UK)

Reality/documentary style shows focused on midwifery in the UK – this is awesome to watch because I’m learning this stuff and it’s quite strongly related to the things I’m actually doing and will be doing. Real people and lives even if it’s through a television process and has thus been edited and cut to tell a particular narrative. It comes across very genuine.

 

The Deeper Stuff:

This next part is stuff that I really enjoy but don’t watch as the last thing before sleeping, or if I’m in the middle of semester and studying heavily. Or sometimes I make exceptions, it’s a mixed bag. There are definite shows on the list that I watch using certain comfort measures only.

Silk

Follows the story of a female barrister, I’m up to S3 now I think and it’s just brilliantly written and acted – everything about this series is understated because the acting and writing are just that good. Up to S3 I think.

Scott & Bailey

Female detectives in London, with a female boss. And they’re so different! And they’re friends! But also professionals – and different kinds of professionals. Love this so hard. Written and acted brilliantly. Up to S3 or S4 I think…

Rizzoli and Isles

I love this, a female detective and medical examiner, best friends, chalk and cheese, in Boston, a mother who has grown and changed throughout the series, and an extended cast of characters that are great with each other. Love this, once it grew beyond an episode of the week series it really came into its own and it really shows now that it’s a few seasons in.  I’m up to S5 I think.

Covert Affairs

A female spy, a female boss, competence all over the place! A prominent character with a disability that gets to be both competent and attractive in ways usually reserved for able bodied characters. This is utterly bubblegum and a bit trashy, but I do like it. Watching S4 at the moment, enjoying it.

Blacklist

This is on my list of ‘watch with comfort measures’ (no exceptions). It’s amoral and twisted and James Spader is great in it (when is he not?) It starts in such a way that for 1.75 episodes you think that the plot twists are going to be exactly the kind you’ve come across from American television before. At the culmination of episode 2, that assumption is blown out of the water. Also, you’re clear that Reddington is very much acting on his own agenda but you know very very little about it. Plus the cases that he helps the government to solve *are* interesting and well plotted – and they’re the kind of scary that one can imagine are really out there. Or not. I hope not. I’ve finished S1 and I’ve got the first chunk of S2 ready to watch.

Downton Abbey

I loved season 1, the character interaction, story and all the setting and costumes were just glorious. S2 is much more slow moving and I haven’t managed to go back to it yet – but I’m planning to.

Newsroom

Ral and I finally finished S1 earlier this year and we’ve just now started on S2, it’s especially heartbreaking to watch at this point in time with all the Australian media being so decidedly awful. It’s just so disheartening every time we watch and see what’s possible…

White Collar

Matt Bomer. Wow. Love this. It’s like crack to me. I’m going to inhale S5 like there’s no tomorrow this week or next. Thief honour and friendship with a government agent, and Elizabeth is awesome! And Mozzie! Love this show so hard x eleventy! I’ve started S5 but I’m waiting to be in the right headspace to just mainline it.

Offspring

There are many reasons why this is an unlikely show for me to like, there are plenty of others whom have related TV taste to me who dislike it intensely. But, I really like the hodgepodge of the family. I love that it somehow manages to ping as alternative as it does mainstream. I like that they’re there for each other no matter what. I actually notice the characters growing and changing – even if I wish that Nina would hold onto some of her growth. That said, I love her uncertainty and her angsting and wrestling with stuff, all the stuff we all kind of wrestle with or wonder – or bits of it.  I’m up to S3.

Flashpoint

Canada’s answer to SWAT – special forces, trained to do all kinds of reacting to extreme situations, but they actually spend most of the time talking. Negotiating. Trying to ‘keep the peace (their motto) and preserve life, lives. I really like that they have an awareness that as a team they’re meeting people in the worst 15 minutes of their life. I’m eking out S5 because I know it’s all about to end.

Sons of Anarchy

Honour Crack. I shouldn’t like this as much as I do. But it’s brilliantly written, and for a premise that is so misogynistic the array of female characters are deep, complex and three dimensional. The non-white characters also have presence – though they’re not part of the main cast enough to really fully be realised like the female character. Brotherhood and intimacy between men, deep friendship and overwhelming emotion. Also a whole lot of self-created badness of epic Shakespearean proportions 😛 This is another one of the shows I watch with specific comfort measures (Prky), and not late at night.  Currently Prky and I have plan to get together and mainline as much of S6 onwards as we can to catch up.

Fringe

I’ve just started watching this with Ajax because I promised and so far I’m enjoying it (4 eps in). It’s interesting enough to get me past the 3 episode trial I give but the downside is that it’s a bit too horror-y for me to have picked up myself, though no more so (I guess) than Blacklist. I’m told that Olivia’s character improves and so far I’m most enjoying watching her face off with the exec from Massive Dynamic. Walter is creepy as fuck but an interesting character. I don’t know that I’d keep watching it without Ajax, but I am enjoying watching it with him, we’re partway through S1.

The Honourable Woman

Wow – this show packs an incredible punch. Maggie Gyllenhal is incredible in it – truly exceptional. There’s a lot of women characters, Jewish and Palastinian characters. The white British people are very much supporting characters and that’s awesome. I love the family interactions and the importance placed on them, I love the unfolding of the story – it’s just so brilliantly written. It’s also heavy, and some horrible stuff happens but I also think it’s well handled and not gratuitous (for example a rape). I’m really enjoying this, but it’s another one I don’t tend to watch last thing before bed. I’m currently watching S1.

Scandal

This is something that started off really interesting and my interest has kind of waned a bit. It does have multiple female characters and the central protagonist is a woman of colour, Olivia Pope (and the actress does an awesome job of the role I have to say!). The scandals being dealt with are less political and more sex related which kind of impacts it in my head making it seem a little soap-opera-ish. I’ll probably still finish S2 though.

Doctor Who

I’m midway through S7 and need to sit and watch – I haven’t enjoyed Moffat’s oversight of the Doctor’s story as much as I wanted to, but I do love a lot of the things about it, I feel like it overall falls short. I will get there though, I’ll mainline it when the fancy takes me.

 

Things I’ve yet to try:

  • Some of these I may or may not get to, but the first three are a definite.
  • Orphan Black
  • Orange is the new Black
  • The Mindy Project
  • Perception
  • Cold Justice
  • Magic City
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Gotham
  • Constantine
  • Agents of Shield