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.

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.

DUFC Retrospective – Call for submissions for the 88th Down Under Feminists Carnival

DUFC LogoI’m proud to be hosting the 88th Down Under Feminist Carnival, to be posted in the early days of September 2015. I wasn’t planning on a theme this time, and then one jumped up and bit me!

It occurs to me that it might be a good time to take a look at some past DUFC posts, or things that were previously missed. A retrospective, or redux if you will. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who have favourite posts from some time back, now would be a great time to remind people about them. Send me past favourites or things you remember fondly, things that are still applicable now from when they were written.   (This theme idea brought to you by my cleaning up my Pinboard tags…)

So here’s my call for submissions. Send me awesome Australian and New Zealand feminist blogger content written any time in August or a retrospective post! You can send me something someone else has written, but please also consider writing something and sending it to me – I really want to read it! You can leave a comment here with a link and some details or email me transcendancing [at] gmail [dot] com.

I enjoy hosting the carnival a whole lot, it’s really rewarding. There is a need for some additional people to host the carnival from October onwards – if you’re interested, leave a comment here or you can email the coordinator Chally directly: chally.zeroatthebone [at] gmail [dot] com. Hosting is not difficult, you get to read some awesome stuff and there’s lots of support.

Any questions? Leave a comment or email me – happy August blogging!

Update on Becoming

Back in February I revealed that my theme for 2015 was Becoming. It was a thoughtful post – one I spent a week or two thinking on before writing because it was all about being in-between, in the middle, in process, a work in progress… how do you look at that? How do you embrace that? What does it look like if you’re setting up a year long enquiry on that?.

Reflecting on where I am at  half way through the year (just over), things are pretty well aligned with the goals I set out as part of my original post on Becoming. However, the year has been anything but smooth sailing – it’s been more like climbing a cliff with my bare hands, without a safety net. The year has been raw and intense, brutal in places. It’s also been wonderful in places too… but I’ve had to deliberately focus on that at times because it’s seemed a bit sparse.

So where am I at with my list?

Reading

Currently I’m at 29/75 books for my Goodreads Reading Challenge, 11 books behind schedule. I anticipate being able to catch up given that next semester’s schedule is much lighter given that I’m going to a half study load. Looking at the books I’ve read so far, nothing meets my goals for reading more diversely yet, so I need to make a plan around that because it’s an important part of my reading goals for this year. I’ve posted twice with regard to my academic reading, one on administration of blood products and one for assignment reading. So far I’ve done very little that’s been over and above what’s required by my units, but wow has it been an intense semester so I’m okay with this. I’ve read and reviewed one book for the Escape Club YA Bookclub, ‘Pawn’ by Aimee Carter.  I’ve also read 3/6 books I plan to for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and I’ve written up reviews for all of them: Tara Sharp Series by Marianne Delacourt.

So far, so good as far as reading goes. Still a ways to go, particularly for some of the more important intentional goals.

 

Midwifery

I had a setback in that I wasn’t able to pass my prac this semester – which means I have to redo it next year, and that will extend my studies by a year. That’s the downside (and all the mess surrounding it). The upside is, a less intense schedule, the ability to study half time and concentrate on those units I am doing, which might also afford me the opportunity to actually do some paid work, which would make a huge difference to our tiny budget. I can say that I have done my very best at every moment. I’ve dedicated myself to connection, to woman-centred care and evaluating the evidence for practice, and I feel like even in just six months, I’ve come a long way. We’ve started looking at more complex pregnancy and birth, at ethical practice and what’s involved in that, there’s a lot to consider here. I’m still enjoying learning so much about the anatomy and physiology of humans, particularly around pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period. There’s so many interesting changes that go on! I am still dedicated to doing this job I’m training for, I want to be the best midwife I can be.

 

Cooking

Well! Cooking has continued and I’m still enjoying it a lot. Some days I will admit it’s a little like a chore and I struggle a bit more – but I’ve also tried to put in place things that combat that and make it easier. I’m still doing lots of easy weeknight type meals, this year has been so full on that I haven’t had much energy for more in depth special occasion cooking. Also, that tends to be beyond the budget more often than not. I still want to go through some of my cookbooks and do some concentrated cooking from them, but I’ve not really managed that yet.

One of my big wins has been doing more meal planning for a fortnight at a time – it’s been fun to plan out what I’d like to cook and some of the best results are in the savings on groceries which is fantastic! Also, it’s nice knowing I’ve already done a lot of the deciding and I just have to pick something from the list based on the stuff we have in the fridge/cupboard. I’ve blogged about the two proper meal plans I’ve done so far if you’re interested, one for a fortnight in May, one for this fortnight in July.

However, as far as achievements go, I have managed to get into the habit of regularly photographing my food I’ve cooked! My friend Pia is responsible for this as she sold me on Instagram (same username as usual) which I’d been avoiding. I love it! It’s so easy and I am loving it as a low key, low effort/engagement social network. Also it connects to all the other things and I love the easy sharing options.

I’m still making my own stock, due to make a batch of both chicken and beef stock – but the last time I made it was in January some time I think? Maybe December… So it’s lasted wonderfully! I’ve recently visited my friend Skud and been inspired by her home cooking and preserving endeavours, so I am hoping to try and gradually increase the amount of stuff I do in that area mindfully. Even if I only add one preserving effort this year, I’ll be happy – hopefully preserved lemons as they seem easy to do. As we speak I’m working on fermenting my own starter, and today I made bread again for the first time this year – a yeast bread because of the lack of sourdough starter, but it worked beautifully.

Some pictures of recent food I’ve cooked:

Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies

Curried Satay Chicken with Noodle Medley

Curried Satay Chicken with Noodle Medley

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani

Kasundi and Coriander Egg Scramble

Kasundi and Coriander Egg Scramble

Balsamic Glazed Lamb Shanks with Julia Childs' Garlic Mash

Balsamic Glazed Lamb Shanks with Julia Childs’ Garlic Mash

Quick Yeast Bread

Quick Yeast Bread

Shakshuka on CousCous

Shakshuka on CousCous

Blogging

I’m still doing my ‘5 things about today’ posts, nearly 300! So close to doing a whole year of posts! I’ve managed to post a bit more regularly here, but not as much as I would have liked, I’d still like to do that more, but I’m not sure what that looks like. Work in progress and I’m happy with it.

The only thing that’s a bit up in the air is blogging about midwifery stuff, it’s been impressed upon us that we shouldn’t be talking about stuff generally speaking – the thought is that it’s too easy to say too much somehow. The problem is that… I don’t think secrecy about our profession does any good as far as community level health promotion goes and advocating for better practices and systems of support and care for people. How does that happen if no one knows what’s really going on, what’s there to be discussed, agreed and disagreed with? In any case, I’m feeling a bit concerned about discussing stuff critically so I’m not likely to do it for the moment.

 

Self Development

License… it’s still something I have to do. The year has been so intense, there’s been so much that has happened and it’s been one thing after another. I will get this done. Urgh.

Job stuff is looking more positive though, especially given I’ll be studying half time from now on. I interviewed for a potential job a couple of weeks and I should hear soon if there’s work for me – I liked the organisation and it’s in the line of work I used to do so there’s potential for a decent income even at part time hours. Plus, getting to feel useful and like I’m contributing financially – a win for mental health and for our budget.

As far as being ‘me’ goes, I feel like this year hasn’t left me much room to do much more than… react I guess. I’ve been myself but it’s been a me largely under stress, or recovering or staving off crisis. Honestly it’s sucked even if I’ve managed to come through it intact so far.

I will say that one of the best things this year about being myself and getting to really feel at home in that was getting to go to Continuum 11. That was possible because of a dear friend of mine and words fail to express my gratitude. I got to see so many people I’ve missed so much! Spending time and soaking up amazing women being awesome at their stuff. Listening to them speak and admiring them, it was awesome. I played games, had conversations, got hugs, shared time and felt at home. For the first time I felt like Continuum was *my* convention – that’s been Swancon for so long and I’ve missed it so much. It’s welcome to me that the convention in my state now feels like ‘home’ to me.

 

Socialising

I’ve been better at this so far this year. Even with things being kind of hard and stressful fairly constantly I’ve managed to be more social. I’ve hosted people for dinner and I’ve been better at making time to visit people I went to a party, and I spent a few days away with another friend who lives out of Melbourne. So it’s improving… well, sparingly. But I have worked at it, and I expect it will be a bit easier this coming semester, again because of studying half time. I’m hopeful.

Community stuff is still something I’d like to be better with but I’m still unsure how it will come about. I have made it to a couple of Poly Vic things and I will continue trying to do that. I am unsure about volunteering for this Continuum committee as I only know one person on there. but maybe that’s a reason to do so as well…  Greens stuff and CWA stuff is still attractive but might take more energy than I have to give at present so it’s a bit up in the air. Sometimes I wish I was a bit more like the people I admire who seem to have energy for All The Things. I do the best I can.

 

All in all, it’s been a hard year so far, one that’s been trying and has tested what little resilience I’ve had. I’m grateful for the people around me, for my partners, my friends, chosen family. I couldn’t get through all this without you and your time, care and quiet support means the world to me. I’ll get through this and I’ll get on top of things – you’ll see. I’m determined! In the meantime, not only will I continue to work hard on my study, but I will also concentrate on taking the best care of myself that I can, and building on things that add to the quality of my life – who I am and what I’m doing in the world.

I had thought that this year was about ‘becoming’ in the sense of becoming a midwife – but I actually think it’s more than that. I think that it’s ‘becoming’ also in the sense of who I am as a person and who I am growing into. That’s a both terrifying and exciting really but… I have faith in myself, fundamentally so I’m just going to see where this enquiry leads. Here’s to the rest of the year ahead, may it be gentler but remain a learning experience that is fulfilling, generous in all that lifts me up and sparing in further harsh lessons.

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!

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.

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.

 

Authenticity: Letting the world make its mark on you…

This post is for Azhure. 

Some people talk about their desire to make a mark on the world, to leave something behind that tells the story that you existed, and made a difference. I’m no different, that idea holds a weight in my heart that keeps me honest with myself. 

However, I also believe that it is even more important, to let the world make it’s mark upon you. We live in this world, in our bodies, with all the trappings of society, culture and so much more. We also get caught up in the idea that somehow, we are to retain an associated perfect burst of youth, of poise, of smoothness and a life unblemished. This is reflected in how we treat our bodies and the expectations around that, it’s reflected in how we remember things and also in the actions we take and how we relate to others. This idea that we can move through the world, negotiate the many ways in which our lives journey, without that ever being visible seems, not only illusory, but disingenuous. 

I say this because, the way the world marks us shows us that we are here, that we live and that this is our life to lead. The scars upon my body, the shape I have, the lines and stretchmarks, tell the story of my life. So do the marks upon my soul, my emotional journeys and the many things I’ve struggled with, failed at, been confronted by, the way I’ve loved. All the moments of my life, are the ways in which I have marked the world – there are changes to reflect my passing, be it only my shadow upon the ground. They are also the ways in which the world has marked me, like ink on the pages of my own story. 

This idea that we can remain unmarked, unmoved seems to imply a desire for some kind of perfection. My view is that, there is no perfection – it is just a word and a concept, an aspiration that is unattainable, but which we recognise by the degrees of closeness to it, where we sometimes find ourselves. Often in the tiniest of moments. I’m a huge fan of moments. The most powerful lessons I’ve learned in my life, are the lessons from tiny moments. 

To be unmarked by the world is to in some critical way, deny your existance – your right to take up space. To understand, to accept, and even to embrace the way in which the world has marked you is a kindness to yourself. It is an act of self love, every time you do it. I find that there is a groundedness, when I take in the myriad ways in which I have been marked – sometimes the marks are temporary like a cut or a scrape, or even an emotional hurt. Sometimes they’re more permanent, scars. Regardless, they tell my story, remind me of my story and they situate me in my body, in the here and now. 

To be marked is not always kind, nor fair – there are no contracts in the universe for this. Our experiences good and bad mark us, the people in our lives, mark us, our choices and decisions, those consequences also mark us. Each step is a mark in both directions. 

If I seek to leave my mark up on the world, then I seek also to be marked as well. I seek the marking of all the joy and sadness, pain and pleasure that is and might be, or will be mine. Being marked also reminds me that I do make my own mark, that I cannot help but make some kind of impression on the world and it also inspires me to be conscious about what I want that mark to say, how I want that to reflect and what I wish othes to take in or imagine having come across my marks. 

 

On my struggle with thinking about my marriage, my wedding…

This isn’t a post about marriage or weddings in general, though it’s drawn from that space. This post is specifically the result of the fact a dear friend was talking about planning her wedding and how the desire and the fantasy and the reality and ethics and values are all mixed up and intermingled. I was making a comment and it seemed better to post it here because it was about me and my confusion and angst, and not about her experiences and planning.  

So. I just don’t know how to come to terms with wanting a marriage and also wanting a wedding (of some kind) but where I’m deeply conflicted about both of those things. 

I’m thinking that maybe what I want is a ceremony and not a legal marriage – because it better reflects my belief that marriage has less place as a legal distinction and that there could be more attention paid to the way in which people consciously choose the contracts they go into (like for property, or decision making in the event of for different things). 

That’s a bit melancholy or overly practical for my usual romantic ideals. And oh, I have romantic ideals… but they don’t seem to fit wedding related expressions and I really struggle with that and feel… out of place thinking wedding stuff. Perhaps it’s just further ways in which I don’t see my life and desires and hopes and dreams reflected around me with positivity and options and acceptance… (like television and media and magazines and books and movies etc…). 

And I *love* K, like I love *breathing* and *laughing*

He’s absolutely the person I want to marry – but I feel like my reasons aren’t good enough or are suspect because of my other relationships and beliefs. 

And there is child-me who also fantasised about the day and the dress and how it was – but not the person I’d marry, just me, and all that ritual and prettyness without substance. And now… at 31 I want substance. And I struggle also as a feminist with all the symbols and ritual associated.

And I’m no closer to figuring it out.  Which is just one reason I’m still engaged and not married, with another significant reason that I just can’t bear to until marriage equality happens here in Australia.

But I still want an aspect or several aspects of both a marriage and a wedding… but I just don’t know how to do this and feel like it’s *me* and *K*, what we both believe and want and what we’re both creating for our lives. 

(And what about cohabiting, and what about other significant relationships that may grow and what if x, y, z… I lack useful context for how to frame and process and think through this as a queer and poly person who never plans to be monogamous, never plans to necessarily cohabit with one, any or all partners consistently.

And…  you see how I might be a bit angsty and tied up in knots about it. I suspect I could logic it all out, but my heart and feelings are not in that place yet. So I shall continue musing and inwardly flailing and talking with K about it so that we do what works for us… and only when and how it works for us. 

Study spaces…

I often find that depending on my mood, the weather, the level of procrastination, how hard I think the work is, that shifting the locale of where I’m studying helps.

Sometimes it’s just from one room to another. But other times I need to leave the house. At those times I’m seeking the gentle bustle of cafe noise, the pleasure of sipping really good coffee while I read, write, or think.

Today the weather was just… too hot to sit at home and get work done. So here I am tucked up on a couch at X-Wray cafe in a Fremantle, actually getting work done.

Soon I’ll meet up with my dear friend Ali and we’ll work alongside each other and that too will be productive. That’s another way of shifting the locale… company.

When hacking your brain or habits for productivity I find that if you shift one significant variable, it’s highly possible that it will be enough to kick your productive brain into gear.

I’m curious how others make study or work happen. For those that embrace cafe study, what is it that makes it work for you?

My Anti-Guilt Force Field

A number of years back I had a conversation with one of my dearest friends. She is loving, wise, compassionate and insightful. We were talking about guilt, my feeling crippled by it and her difficulty in grasping it as a concept. It’s possible that she is the only person I know who grew up without some inherent understanding of guilt and the role it plays in society. 

At the time we were having this conversation I was exhausted by my guilt, I had long thought that there *had* to be a way past the guilt, a way to not feel the crushing weight of it at every moment. My friend and I examined my experiences guilt that I was wrestling with.

The closest we came to me conveying ‘guilt’ and her understanding it was in the context of responsibility and consequences for one’s actions. It was through an examination of these two things that my friend articulated the questions that went through her head in scenarios where I was guilt ridden and how differently she perceived them. 

The questions are simple and with the framing of responsibility and consequences for actions they became a powerful tool that allowed me to unravel my guilt compex. I no longer suffer the weight of crushing guilt as a constant companion. I am free of it. It’s not that I don’t occasionally feel guilty, but I now have the means to deal with it and not let it take over my experience of the day, week or even just that moment.

I don’t suggest that this tool will work for everyone, we are all different and our own experiences are sovereign to us. However, I’m sharing this with the thought that perhaps other people may indeed find this approach useful and allow them some freedom from guilt. 

It comes down to my willingness to take responsibility for the consquences of my actions. 

When I start to feel guilty there are a series of questions that I ask myself, devised within this conversation several years ago with my best friend. 

Is this my responsibility? 

If yes, are there actions I can take that would be appropriate and useful? If there are actions that will help resolve the situation and they are appropriate in the context I go ahead and take them.

If there are no actions that I can reasonably take I can ask myself; what I can learn from the situation? What I would do differently or the same in a similar situation? 

If it not my responsibility I can ask myself if there are actions that would be appropriate or useful to take regardless. If there are appropriate actions, I undertake them.

If it isn’t appropriate I still go back to the question of what I’ve learned from the situation.

Once I’ve examined whether I have any responsibility, if there are actions that can be reasonably taken that are appropopriate and within my capacity to give I can feel at peace with that situation that provokes the feelings of guilt in me. 

Once you’ve reached the end of that question trail, you’re left with a sense of having thought it through and either having done what you can to resolve it or taken the lesson from it for next time. All that remains then is to let it go.

If there is no futher action that can be taken… I can take a deep breath and let go of the guilt. At that point, it has nothing further to cling to. This is when it feels like some sort of magical force field kicks in and I’m free from the guilt onslaught in my heart and head. 

These questions are not an instant fix. It took some determination and consistent practise on my part to have ongoing effect. I started off actually needing to talk myself through the questions, but now I can just take a moment to think about the situation and trust in my experience to make the right decisions about responsibility and resulting actions. 

Guilt, such a strong and destructive emotional force. If you’re struggling with it and reading, you have my heartfelt wishes that you experience ease and freedom around engaging with it, or not as is needful for you. 

I’m curious to know what other tools and mechanisms people use to tackle guilt, so please feel free to share in the comments. I’m also curious if other people have a similar approach and whether they’ve found it has worked or not worked for them? 

Let’s have a conversation about communication and interpersonal skills…

Specifically I wish to talk about the lack of emphasis on teaching communication and interpersonal skills. This is the first of perhaps several posts in this vein.

First of all, what I want to preface this post with, is to affirm that people do learn this stuff. We do think about this stuff – some of us, quite a lot. However, I believe that while some of this is covered in early childhood learning, by the time we get to high school it’s negligible or non-existent.

We go through teenager-hood and then are sent out into the world as brand spanking new adults, where expectations are high but teaching, mentoring and the ability to safely practise are low.

On most job advertisements, there is a requirement for the applicant to demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills. In our daily lives we personally talk to and communicate with many people.  We develop friendships and romantic relationships, we often have families that we relate to as well. Yet we don’t generally get more intensive teaching beyond our growing up basics about how to do all of this.

If we’re lucky we figure a bunch of things out early on and run with them. We learn how to make friends, sometimes we learn how to deal with friendship conflicts, sometimes we learn how to be in a romantic or sexual relationship, sometimes we learn how to deal with conflict here too. However, it’s all by doing, in the deep end when and where the consequences of your actions really make a different and unintentional (or even intentional) harm is very possible. It’s so unnecessary.

There are also those of us for whom figuring out communication doesn’t happen like that. Those of us who fall into this space continually find ourselves frustrated and flummoxed as to why things with other people don’t work out. We may have an inkling that it’s something we’re doing or not doing, but we may be utterly confused about what it might be. For those of us in this situation how are we meant to learn how to communicate better?

I get frustrated seeing people struggle over what I know to be issues of communication and interpersonal skills. I get frustrated knowing that the skills needed are well within reach to anyone who cares to learn – and has the opportunity to be taught in a safe and caring manner. So often this isn’t the case and it saddens me.

What tops this off for me, is that when workplace morale, culture and communication go out the window, we pay (either personally or companies) a large amount to then do a bunch of learning about communication and interpersonal stuff that we could quite easily have learned as a part of our general schooling.

Why do we have to get to a dire point of noticing that we’re missing some key skills and support before we are able to do anything about it? In some cases, we’d rather put on a strong front and deal with it through determination alone. There has to be a better way. I want to see these and related skills (like ethics) taught throughout schooling and before we enter the workforce, take on a trade, go onto further study, go travelling, or become a stay at home partner and/or parent (or any other life choices that we might wish to make that I’ve forgotten to mention).

There is no substitute for the communication skills I’ve (painstakingly) learned – mostly through that gauntlet of getting it so very wrong before I could begin to get it right. I’ve hurt people I cared about, I’ve alienated people, I’ve made situations worse where I couldn’t figure out what on earth I was doing wrong. I’ve worked incredibly hard over the years to turn that around. I’ve become very good at these skills and relationships in general by virtue of the fact that having spent far too long getting it wrong, I was deeply invested in having it go right.

The confidence I have now gained in my communication ability including with interpersonal skills is hard won and I’m proud of it, but more than that… I want to give it away so that other people don’t have to go through that same gauntlet of painful (sometimes traumatic) experiences before it all starts to come together. It’s not necessary to learn by trauma, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – and I have to say again – there has to be a better way.

Everything we do in the world, at some level almost certainly involves another person and it baffles me that we spend so little time teaching communication and interpersonal skills. If they underpin so very much of what our everyday lives are about, how is it that we value the teaching of these skills so little? Is it like that unwinnable equation of motherhood being the ‘most important’ job you’ll ever do while simultaneously being the lowest paid (by which I mean, we pay for the privilege).

I don’t pretend to know, but along with ethics, critical thinking and other community minded learning, I advocate to see communication and interpersonal skills being taught formally as a vital life skill – as important as being able to read or write.

 

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.