Friday, 4 March 2016

finding my way / existential angst

When I am struggling to put things into words, that is a problem because writing is the one thing that helps me to clear my head. I have a lot of questions – probably the same questions we are all asking ourselves. What am I doing with my life? What do I want to do with my life? What direction should I take? What am I interested in? What is the point? How can I make a difference? When all of these questions feel overwhelming it can be really hard, impossible in fact, to trust that things will just work out. I am a strong believer in the idea that the universe will take care of me if I let it. Perhaps that is na├»ve of me. But I don’t believe in a God, I don’t pray. And there are a lot of questions that cannot be answered. What is the meaning? Of life? Of anything? So having a bit of trust, a bit of hope somewhere, whether it is God or a spirit or the universe, it calms me. 

I find it very easy to get lost in my tangled thoughts. And because I feel unable to straighten them out, I just start playing the victim, because that is easier to do. I think for me, the challenge is not to try to untangle and organize everything (literally and mentally) but to be okay with things as they are. And that is where trust comes in. 

One morning, I woke and instantly felt nauseous, terrified by the thought of the day ahead. Every little thing caused me anxiety. And made me question ‘what is the point?’ Henry held me tight and said that I was experiencing some existential worries. Being stuck in my anxiety I did not ask what he meant by that. Today, the sun was out and the weather was a bit warmer and I felt okay. The worries, the questions, they don’t go away but I just feel stronger and more able to accept them. And so, I started reading a little about existential angst. 

Funnily enough I ended up on a website called Quora (which Henry has been encouraging me to look at for months and months). Jeremy Arnold explains existential angst in terms that I think I can wrap my brain around… 

The main schools of existentialism bond around the core idea that existence precedes essencewhich is to say that any descriptions of man are only historical and carry no value in defining what man might (or should) become. Man is whatever he decides to be. He has gone from a type of creature to a living experiment.

If true, that leaves all of us with a massive sense of responsibility; for we, by how we choose to live our lives, will redefine what it is to be a man. We have no guidebook, no scorecard, and no moorings. We are completely alone in our freedom, bearing infinite responsibility and yet without any possibility of feedback, criticism, or validation. 

The exhilarating, unprocessable, and mostly crushing feeling of that realization? That's existential angst. 

I began reading about Jean-Paul Satre's book Nausea. (It is so easy to buy things online!) So I guess that will arrive in the mail soon. I also began reading about some wonderful women who are doing their own things, pursuing what they are interested in and making a difference, a small one, but a difference nonetheless. And on top of that they have families to look after. I know that I am capable of doing that - of following my dreams and having a family. But, I don't know what my dreams are yet. I'm not sure what I am interested in. What do I want to pursue? 

I always intend to write here with some kind of reminder to help me next time I face the same problems. So that next time I am inconsolable, paralysed by anxiety and unanswerable questions, I can look back and be reminded that it is okay. And it is okay. It hasn't changed. I haven't changed. I just feel stronger. As Henry so rightly reminded me today, these women are a good 10 years older than me and they have probably faced the same problems, had the same unanswered questions and come to the conclusion that it will happen. Whatever 'it' is. And once we find 'it' then we can pursue it.

But for now, I just need to be. And enjoy being. And be okay with it. I have to remember that I am not in a rush. Everything will happen in good time. Don't rush the precious moments that are happening today. Don't be so focused on what might or might not happen tomorrow.

It is a constant battle. A constant struggle. It doesn't get any easier, but I will get better at understanding it.

We are coming out the other side. The long winter is finally over. I feel a sense of hope. The seasons over here really affect me - this winter more than any others I have experienced. But I have made it. And for me, that is an achievement in itself.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Four Fs for happiness

Recently I have been feeling incredibly frustrated by the challenges life has been throwing at me (perhaps not challenges of life...perhaps challenges from the government). I don't even want to waste my energy going into it because it will just get me all riled up again. The point of this post is for me to see and be reminded of all the good things in my life, and to be thankful and remember that its not so bad. 

The best things for me are friends, family, food and fresh air. 

Friday, 27 November 2015

accept sadness and create your own happiness

I have been depressed. That doesn't mean that great things haven't been happening to me. That doesn't mean I have not smiled or laughed for the last few months. But my thoughts have been tangled, knotted up with my emotions and logic and the more I fought it, wondering why I was feeling that way, the tighter the knots became. I've had reasons to feel anxious and sad - we all do. Just reading the news gives you reasons to feel shit about the state of the world. Most of us feel completely helpless as individuals. But we can't take on the burden of the world, not by ourselves. 

I can't take credit for what I am about to say. My most excellent Mum and my beautiful boy Henry (gosh, they are wise and patient) told me to be kind. I hear this a lot 'be kind'. Yeah whatever, we should all be nicer to each other, I know that. But we should also be kind to ourselves - and I have heard that a lot too. However, I am not the best at actually being kind to myself especially when I'm feeling down. That is a huge challenge in itself. I'm learning to accept sadness - not deny it - but also not dwell on it and not wallow in it. I'm trying to treat myself with kindness & forgiveness - I'm only human. I think when I'm feeling down there is a process I go through and all the stages are there but I choose when to move on to the next stage. It's not clear cut and I go up and down and backwards before moving forwards. 

For me -  these are the stages I feel I've gone through over the last few months. (I could draw an incredibly complicated diagram for this - with examples.) 

Trigger (This could be one thing, a comment, a bad day or months of struggles.)
Sadness (The initial reaction or a feeling slowly seeping in over a longer period of time.)
Confusion (Why am I sad? What has caused this? Why has it happened to me - it's not fair! Or... i deserve this!)
Worry, self loathing and blame (You worry that you're sad and you dislike yourself for it - you might also dislike other people.)
Realisation (Okay - this is not fun for anybody. Something's gotta give! Sure, some shitty things have happened or maybe still are happening... But you know what, there are always going to be shitty things happening and there are always going to be excellent things happening. You choose the filter in which to see life through.)
Decision ("I feel shit!" - What the hell am I going to do about it?)
Motivation (I'm doing it! I'm making decisions and getting on with things because great things exist and if they don't... then I'll damn well make them exist.) 
Levelling (All that sadness and then suddenly: revelation. Don't get worn out by that motivational high... shitty things will happen but take it in your stride.)

Oh goodness - doesn't that just simplify something that is ridiculously complex in an insultingly easy way. Why yes, it does. But no, it is definitely not that easy. Ah, the beauty of hindsight...

And as a little note for myself...

Things that are challenging:
- being far away from my family and friends in Aus
- college, group work, assessments
- money & not being allowed to work
- relationships - its all a big learning curve 
- how to fill my time
- learning about life
- having to turn down work
- figuring out who on earth you are

Things to be grateful for:
- my family and friends, despite the distance
- Henry & his loving, welcoming family
- friends!
- college, group work, assessments - learning!
- money & not being allowed to work (but now I have time to volunteer)
- relationships - its all a big learning curve but I wouldn't change it for the world
- how to fill my time (now I'm going to stop talking about learning the ukulele & playing volleyball & just do it!)
- learning about life - wooooooaaaaahhh, what a crazy ride!

Oh...okay. So turns out there is a silver lining to pretty much everything...if you look.

Don't forget about these things...

Thursday, 10 September 2015

6 Weeks In Australia: The Original Home

After two years living, working and travelling in the UK and Europe, I have come home to Australia to visit my family, get a new Visa for England and organise myself and my things to move to England more permanently. It’s less than two weeks until I return to England (providing my Visa is approved).

Coming home has been wonderful and challenging and has brought up a lot of emotions. During my first week back I felt really uncomfortable; so much has stayed exactly the same here. Part of me felt like the last two years hadn’t even happened; had I even been away? I’ve grown up a lot over the last couple of years; I’ve learnt a lot, experienced a lot, travelled a lot and become aware of other cultures and how people live. My priorities have changed, my wants and needs have changed, my perspective has changed. My outlook on life has changed.

Travelling has helped me to see what is important. I have lived a privileged life. I have been lucky. I have been spoilt. I still am. I have things in my possession that I have no need for, no use for. Two years I ago I could not part with my stuff. Moving around has shown me that stuff that is not important or useful and has no sentimental value is a burden. Coming back and unpacking all my boxes of stuff was so liberating. I don’t have this unhealthy and over the top attachment to stuff anymore. It was easier than I thought to sort my stuff out, to part with things that once were important, to pass things onto people who need it or appreciate it more than me, to keep just a couple of boxes full of memories and to select things to take back to England.

However, it hasn’t all been easy. I have to sell my car. I do feel slightly silly about how attached I am to my car, but saying goodbye to her symbolises saying goodbye to something much more important than some metal and an engine on wheels. My first car gave me freedom and independence. Living 30 minutes out of town meant that I had to get a lift with my parents if I wanted to go anywhere. I got my first car for my birthday and all my family helped put in money for it. This car has gone to festivals, loaded up with tents and sleeping bags on the roof-racks. It’s pulled other peoples’ cars out of the mud. This car has gone to parties in the bush, hours away. It has jump started friends’ cars. It has had baby seats in it for looking after my nieces and nephews. It has carried all my things when I moved out of home. It’s picked friends and family up from the airport. It’s taken me to work everyday and allowed me to earn a living. I’ve learnt how to change a tyre, how to reverse parallel park and how to check my oil and water! I had this idea that I was going to have this car for a while. That I’d have it when I settled down. That I’d have my own baby seats in it. Yes, it may seem silly to have such an attachment to it, but I do, and it’ll be hard to see her go.

I guess packing up my things means that this is real, I am really properly moving back to England. And I am so excited about this. I love it there. But I also love it here. Being back has reminded me of all the things I love here, at home - The Original Home. The open space. The freedom. The warmth. The birds. The wallabies. The small community. Memories of growing up. The schools I went to. Waterholes we used to swim in. Mountains we used to climb. Friends we used to hang out with. I am saying goodbye to that part of life and moving onto the next bit. That is okay, but it has taken time to let it sink in, and to welcome the idea of new opportunities and possibilities life brings. I am looking forward to it.

While I’ve been back in Aus I’ve caught up with a few old friends - the kind of friends that you might not see for a while, you might not keep in touch with, but they’re still your friends and that won’t change. I’ve been able to catch up with all my nieces and nephews; we’ve been playing and wrestling and cuddling. I’ve been spending lots of time outside. I’ve realised how much being cooped up inside affects me. Give me fresh air over screens any day. I got to explore my own town and surrounding areas and go swimming in waterholes I used to visit as a teenager. I got to be a tourist in my own country, adventuring around Sydney catching up with family. We had a picnic with my Aunt and cousin (on my Mum’s side) - we got to sit and eat and look out across Sydney Harbour with the Bridge and the Opera House sparkling in the sun. I got to see my 90 year old Grandpa! He is super cool. We ran to keep up with him tootling along on his scooter.  We stayed with my Aunt & Uncle and my cousins (on my Dad’s side). We got to go on a little road trip to my brother’s farm south of Sydney. We got to stay in a caravan. I got up at dawn and watched the sun rise and listened to the rooster crow. We picked vegies from my brother’s farm to sell at the market. We picked vegies to make our dinner. We ate homemade vegan chocolate brownies made by my brother’s partner. We went to a party and carved spoons around the fire. We were well fed - our bodies and our souls. Thank you to my awesome family for looking after us so well!

I’ve applied for my Visa and so now it is just a waiting game. Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly. If all goes to plan I will be arriving in England on 24th September.

Thanks for visiting my little online space. Below are some photos from the last few weeks here in Australia.  See you very soon! xxx

Lemon tree and chair

The old blue ute

Mt Warning

Joel in Byron Bay



River and me

Libby and me

Flying into Sydney

Picnic looking out across Sydney Harbour

The Opera House

View from Sydney Tower


On the road to Cobargo through Kangaroo Valley

The Caravan

Washing vegies

Thea selling fresh home grown produce from Fishbone Farm

One of the dams at Fishbone Farm

Sunrise through the trees

Bermagui Wharf

Nelson's Bay

L-R: Thea, my brother Tim, Joel & my oldest nephew Tal at Nelson's Bay

Nelson's Bay

Nelson's Bay

Party near Bega

Party near Bega

Party near Bega

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

The best brother

Party near Bega

Party near Bega

Tim and Thea