My longstanding love affair with stress.

More than a two months ago, I was falling in love with a beautiful country – Kenya. She lured me in, made me feel like I was special, and boy was my guard down. Without my knowledge, a parasite entered my body and one increment at a time, it took over my digestive system and my sanity. I should have stayed away from the salads, but now that I know what I know, I’m glad I didn’t.

 

Cut to a week after arriving home from Kenya, and I was ill. Pain in my stomach and severe cramps. I was in a bad way.

Did I put two and two together straight away? Nope, I quickly and conveniently put it down to a bout of stress because of a particular project at work.

 

Cut to a week even later and I had an on-and-off symptoms mixed with the sweats.

Do I put two and one together? No, I put this bout purely down to stress because of a work colleague.

 

A week later and I was falling into bed at 19:00, exhausted with brain-ripping headaches, and what did I do? I calculated that three and one was still due to stress because of the intensity of bringing a Summit of international scale to South Africa.

 

Now, looking at my attitude of ‘shrug-off’ towards the severity of my situation, it is clear that I’m not the only one who just makes do with barely surviving through each day.  Some of the stats on stress online illustrate how it’s slowly crippled an entire generation as people don’t effectively cope, over long periods of time, with terrible symptoms. And the scary thing is that fright or flight is not a chosen response, it’s natural and out of our control.

 

Now, I believe that after the roller coaster of being in bed and in pjs for ten days, itchy from the welts of infection, and immensely dehydrated, I have some perspective of what a real threat to my survival is.

 

I’d like to launch out and state that I believe that it is my relationship with stress that is killing me, and not so much the stress itself. I think that perhaps for too long now, my stress has been shrouded in mysticism where it’s the big bad Medusa who will grow back another two heads as soon as I cut one off.  Because no matter how many articles I’ve read or how many pep talks I’ve been given by my folks, I didn’t quite get it… until I got it.

 

I finally can claim my belief statement:

 

Unless I’m the president of a developing country or of the USA; or the scientist responsible for the cure for Cancer; the next attorney to represent the state in a case where the husband is the wife’s suspected killer; I actually have no right what so ever to say that I am stressed because of work, more than three times a month.

 

This is not unrealistic as I’m not in any election campaigns, neither do I have a PHD nor have I written a bar exam. Here are the facts: No one has died because of a work decision that I’ve made. No one has been shot at on my watch (other than by a pretend gun on a video set for a corporate remake of the A-Team – pretty intense stuff, right?). Never has someone starved to death due to a late submission of my paperwork or my timesheets.

 

So with all of this extra insight into my own psyche, I wanted to assess what it was about stress that has had me twisted by the intestines for such a long time that I assumed a real threat was the same thing.

 

Perhaps I was using the idea of stress as a crutch?

This was my first hard thought about my relationship with the idea of being stressed. I figured that I was using one blanket to explain the general condition of my working days.

 

Perhaps, I needed to separate out a few things? Instead of being stressed because of another person’s lack of respect for a deadline – perhaps I should think about how a frustrated person deals with their frustration. Frustration and stress are two separate experiences. One is agreeing that I have capacity to change my reaction to it and the other one renders me powerless.

 

And yet again, perhaps I was ‘getting stressed’ because I was seeing the complications of other’s actions and instead of vocalizing my objectivity, I was getting swept up in having to do things the hard way or the long way, when I knew perfectly that there was an easier way of achieving the best outcome. One way celebrates my intuition and ability to communicate my concerns beforehand, the other renders me speechless.

 

And again, perhaps I was feeling stressed because I was taking other people’s notions of how to do business and reacting as if it had anything to with me. As an employee, the way that I do business is only apparent within my scope of work. The responsibility of entire departments and companies is not something that is directly connected to my emotions and therefore doesn’t require as much energy from me as one would think. Perhaps I was ‘getting stressed’ because I was handing over my emotions and reacting, instead of seeing the wood for the trees. All that need be my concern is my own output, my own reactions, my own emotions, and with any extra time or energy, I could ask a colleague if they need any assistance from a work output point of view.

 

And I hear you protest, “But Perrin, this sounds so airy fairy, what about the practical things like my bond repayments and children’s education and dealing with my interfering in-laws?”

 

The same applies: check your relationship with the stress. Once you understand the relationship and look at situations objectively, you’ll know that perhaps you need to chat to a financial advisor or get extra lessons for kids and chat to a psychologist in order to cope. I’m not saying that you need to figure it all out yourself – life’s not about that, I’m saying that you need to remember to carry around your yardstick for what it is that you are giving your power away to.

 

I’m also not saying that you can’t be stressed or (insert the name of your crutch you’re experiencing here). I’m saying that you owe it to yourself to embrace each day with an awareness of what it is that makes you tick and how you deal with stuff.  You owe it to yourself to check the signs, ask the questions, interrogate your conscious and give your unconscious time so that it too can check itself. There are a whole host of marching bands, advertising campaigns and support-your-crutch-causes that your crutch has signed you up to.

 

This is all in the name of ensuring that you carry on buying into your crutch’s apparent values. Mine was to always let something pop up that needed my ‘urgent attention’ when I’ve got to leave work on time in order to get to a family event. But not any more!

 

And if you have a crutch that you might need the universe to point out to you, I hope you find yourself in an African country, eating a salad – it might just save your life.

Thank you for this new perspective, Kenya!

 

 

 

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The future of legislature – reframed

With more and more households leaning toward a minimalist way of living, I’d like to acknowledge how we’re all going to have to make another reframe in our approach to living in society. You see – there is an urban, middle class trend of living in closed communities. This ensures safety and higher lifestyle standards, but it also almost secludes members of said community from being connected to, and accountable for anything outside of their lifestyle village.

With governments and municipalities also embracing a minimalist way of governing; they don’t replace balustrade around parks, they don’t attend to call outs to illegal tree felling; neither do they have sufficient staff to clear debris on the roads after flooding or heavy rains.

Now this might go by another name of neglect, but it really is a form of minimalism, if you use your imagination, and bear with me here. It is the responsibility of our government and municipalities to maintain standards, without spending too much money, or generating too much waste, and drawing on too many resources.

Maintaining standards is vital, what I’m saying is that maintenance is going to take a fair amount of creativity from the governors, which currently might not be something that they’ve figured out yet.

So, the ideal situation would be to have balustrades replaced, in a minimalist way that ensures resources are used sparingly, and the environment is impacted minimally and that the time of staff is efficiently used; all providing that the balustrades are in fact the best solution for an area.

But I believe that maintenance also needs input from the citizens (other than in the form of paying taxes and voting).  I believe it’s going to take a hefty step-up to the plate from citizens, where we’re going to have to give up our attitudes of existing in society at ‘arm’s length’. There’s no use in complaining about deterioration, if you actually don’t do anything for the prevention of deterioration.

The onus is on all of us, to be clearing away soil run-off in our intersections. The time for all of us to question people, on the spot, who are illegally dumping, is now. I’m not endorsing getting into fisticuffs with law breakers, I’m just saying, make time to gather other community members and hold the perps to task – as a team.

In order to truly be minimalists, we’ll need to spend a lot more time fixing, mending, assisting in areas that we never had to previously, when we were living lives of excess.

Not only do we have to figure out what to do with the waste we’ve made to date, but we have to engage with the nuances of how we’re going to make our new minimalist future work in society.

Our creativity extends to how to join forces with like-minded people from your areas and how to develop relationships with them so that they can be on your speed dial when you need back-up in an illegal dumping situation. I’m also talking about creative negotiation techniques and disaster management, so that you are properly equipped for any situation.

By being fully equipped, you are responsibly fulfilling a role that was previously occupied by an appointed authoritative figure. The point is not to try and understand why that authoritative figure is no longer doing their job (even though we feel they’re overpaid and not fulfilling their roles); nor is it to question whether the legislative position even exists anymore, I’m saying, step up to the plate.

Give, serve and utilise your time, skills, money, energy, resources all for the benefit of the community, even if it seems like you’re the only one giving and all the rest are taking. Get involved at municipality meetings, join a party and rally people, use your rake and spade on that piece of municipal land, be active in the movement for the cause for greater good.

Guaranteed, if you exemplify your desires for your neighbours, community, city and country; your deeds will have a ripple effect.  Let’s all be responsible for legislature – because if we aren’t, it means we might only be complaining about it from the comfort of our industrial-styled lounges.

 

 

 

What I learned on a year-long Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner’s course

Last year, I attended a course to understand just how heavily entwined our language is to our behavior and how deeply we affect the people we surround, just with our thoughts.

No, we didn’t sit around listening to David Whyte tapes, eating deliciously decadent organic snacks and lighting intention candles… That was only part of it. We did a lot of crying and trying of new methods that are massively uncomfortable. We journeyed down our own timelines and discovered the vastness of our futures, and that was only the half of it.

 

I learned to appreciate my point of view.

The deep appreciation that I garnered for my point of view was surprising. Surprising because the NLP course only partly helped me define what that point of view is. The fact that I now unconditionally celebrate a point of view that I don’t fully understand, is liberating. It’s liberating because I showed myself that I love the very essence of myself, even though I don’t 100% get what that essence is. It’s pure magic – it’s my high, and it’s mine all mine, but I know how to share it because it’s abundant.

 

I learned to think thoughts that enrich my experience of the now.

If it doesn’t serve me, then it has to go. I still regularly find myself being mentally harsh on myself but I am now equipped on how to gently steer the conversation in a more productive direction. I’m elegant in the dealings of inner chatter and I’m very aware of external sources that lead me to fall into a mindset that is unfriendly toward myself.

 

I learned to be ok with not knowing what it is that makes me happy.

And isn’t it fun to explore, realizing that there’s pleasure at every turn and tumble?

I am the fun person that I’ve always been chasing, I just didn’t know that my particular brand of fun was so acceptable to me. Now I know that wearing pink and red every week day, accompanied by glitter lipstick, doesn’t make me a crappy product of the nineties, it simply makes me feel closer to the me that I am. And if someone doesn’t like it, then that’s not really my business. And on that note…

 

I learned where I’ve been allowing my energy to fizzle out.

All the things that I haven’t been able to control: colleagues that are rude by continuously handing over work late, thereby creating a knock-on effect; people who swear at me in traffic, even the ones that I want to swear at in traffic; worrying about all of the homeless kitties in squatter camps and business parks; anxiety over things that are not my business, because the whole world is important to me, but it’s not all MY business… these were the vampires that drained me and left me without energy to do what it is that I felt compelled to do.

I am only one me, the difference that I can make, is only the difference that I can make, and THAT IS ENOUGH, that is my business.

This lesson was particularly fierce in my relationship with my husband and his weight-, debt-, lack of self-respect-‘issues’ (and I use the inverted commas because I now know that there is no failure, only feedback). All of those things I previously perceived him to be struggling with, are not actually my business. I learned that I can be supportive of his causes, by preserving my energy to be the best wife that I can possibly be.

 

I learned that I make up the technicolour of my experiences.

It’s not about the people I’m hanging around with, it’s not about the car that I drive nor is it about my salary. It’s about having a bright and authentic idea and allowing my system the freedom to explode that idea into the manifestation that it needs to take in my life. It’s not about dreaming up something and then pinning pressure on myself in order to achieve. It’s more about allowing myself to be there now, and see if it still suits me as it does manifest in the physical.

 

I learned that I am made up of many parts and that those parts are seemingly in disagreement with each other, most of the time.

Sneakily though, all of my parts actually want the same thing – the most dazzling outcome for Perrin. Each and every single fibre of my being wants me to be ecstatic, and I realise now that I don’t need to be anxious about this sense of dissonance because I get to the Emerald City, no matter what. I get there because I celebrate the rhinestones on my clothing, the numerous disco balls in my home, I play with glitter and dabble in the semi-precious stones in a Zulu meat dish on my coffee-table – all of these little ways remind my neurons that this life of mine is shiny, shiny, shiny.

 

Thank you Universe for my dazzling life and thank you Sue Corbett for being an elegant NLP Sensei.

 

 

I believe that water is our future.

I am an extreme worrier. I worry about the fate of stray animals; construction vehicles parked next to rivers for long periods of time; the evidence of an area’s decay; where moles and hedgehogs live because there is so much ground cement these days; and what is going to happen to us all when we run out of water? With age, I’ve realised that worrying about things doesn’t actually make the issues better. So I have started to occasionally do something other than simply shed the tears. Occasionally, I stop and let the stray animal into my car and drive it to a place of safety. Occasionally I strongly voice my opinion to colleagues who have plans to ‘gas out’ the moles who decorate their garden. With regards to the water shortage, however, I’ve really upped my game. I decided that it was time for me to rid myself of a practice that had been deeply ingrained in me, a practice of ‘one wear, one wash’. I could never possibly tell my mother that I was rebelling against her extreme cleanliness, but I’ll tell cyberspace and then run with it should she find out.

I have started wearing clothes more than once, before putting them into the quick wash cycle. Socks, bras, pants, skirts, stockings, jackets and jerseys, they are all pretty much re-wearable provided your place of work is not a sweat lodge. Which mine isn’t, so score! So in order to change the world, I’ve changed myself. And no-one has really commented about me wearing the same clothes over and over. And why should they? I smell and look fine, and my rotation system is pretty sneaky.

Here are the other ways that I am trying to preserve this precious element of ours:

1)      I use the water from the cat’s water bowls, to water my plants (the water from my hot water bottle shares the same fate).

2)      I shower as quickly as possible. I also brush my teeth in the shower so as to avoid the water wastage that occurs when one waits for the basin tap water to warm up before rinsing the old ‘pearlys’.

3)      I use a pot of water to boil eggs for breakfast, and that same water steams veggies at night.

4)      I don’t always need to flush the toilet, not every time.

5)      When I run a bath for my husband (who loves to wallow in a filled-to-the-brim-bath), I run them as low as I possibly can without him noticing. If, however, I fill the bath too low, then he cottons onto the fact that it’s low and fills it right up. It’s a psychological trick of the mind for me to get this point right but so far, I’m reigning champ.

I know there are loads more ways to preserve our water; I’ve only scratched on the surface. The point is that we all need to start thinking of the small habits we can change to make a big difference in the long run. What will you do today, to make sure that water is available tomorrow?

30 days of minimalism

The after effects of six months of thirty days before thirty were rather enlightening, if I had to sum it up in one word.  Enlightening; because I learnt even more about myself as I planned one of the milestones of my adult life.  My wedding.  Thirty days of deprivation and addition was the build-up to my thirtieth birthday, the aftermath was the build-up to my character.  You see, I don’t think that anything can quite prepare you for a day that has had much weight added to it by everyone other than the bride and groom.  I mean, when one decides to commit to one person ‘til death does one part, it is a big deal.  But the act of getting married should be as natural and relaxed as a butterfly on a gentle breeze.  Yet, it isn’t.  The mother of the bride wants three pairs of shoes (for the bride, on the day), the gran of the groom has great ideas but is just a little out dated on pricing and purchasing, the groom wants an elephant cake, and the bride just wants world peace.  It gets hairy, like at a beauty spa hairy.  From an angle that you don’t want to see hair from.

Being the bride, only the most important person at the wedding (other than the groom, of course) there were a few times when I wanted to scream: “Are you sure you want to be complaining and tantrum-ing when it’s not even your big day?”  And yet, there I quietly sat gnawing on my tongue whilst soothing and pulling the divas in for hugs.

So I did learn that the strength within Perrin is far mightier than her imagination.  I thought not eating meat for 30 days made me a little cooked in the head. Nay, it was the mother of the bride who nearly did my head in.  I suspected that 30days of meditation would put me on the same plain as the meditative greats – one times day of matrimony and I could easily be called a saint for smiling the entire time and not punching a bridesmaid, whiny guest, bossy aunt in the face, with my bouquet tambourine.

Yes, the six months leading up to my thirtieth was preparative for me, because I was so immature when it came to getting married (you see, I’d never actually gotten married before so how does one really know) that I really did need all the mental and physical stamina I could muster.

The fact that I abruptly stopped doing all forms of meditation, art and meat free-ness once I’d hit the dirty decade, didn’t bother me too much, I had a December wedding to plan.  Luckily I did keep up the exercise and I did mentally chide myself every time I ate meat – but that doesn’t really count.  But something did infiltrate my very being and I’m convinced (with hindsight) that something in me was practicing 30 days of minimalism during the month leading up to our wedding.  I suspect this because I detested the idea of anyone going bankrupt in order to pay for one day in my life.  I digress, but I understood my mom’s point of view and everyone else in the “It’s the most important day of your life and it has to be perfect for you” camp.  I understood it, and detested it too because sometimes it felt more like “It’s the most important day of your life and it has to be perfect for me.”  This sucked a bit.  And the more I experienced, the more I understood how it all worked.  You see, people don’t get married to show each other that they are committed to, and love each other.  People get married for everyone else’s sake.  For granny who can’t bear the idea of a couple living together out of wedlock, for aunty who really still likes the ex-girlfriend and is convinced that he still will get back together with her, for brothers who still think their little sister is a kid, for father who hopes that he did right by his son and really taught him how to be a man, for friends who feel like their group needs to progress to the next level as a whole, and so the list goes on.  And as we got closer to our ‘big day’ I grew calmer in all this new-found knowledge.  But Baby, unfortunately, Baby got more irritated with the interferences, which made it even harder for me to stay calm (the movies always portray an edgy bride; you can only imagine what a testosterone laden edgy bridegroom is like).  But back to my actual point at hand – the minimalism.

You see, with all the heated, loaded conversations, the more I tried to explain that I desired simple, minimal table décor, dress and accessories, the more my mom suggested three pairs of shoes, two wedding cakes (so that we could all have our own way), and tons of cut flowers (because you can’t only have live lollipop trees on the tables) the more I realised that the idea of minimalism needs to be trained at a mass institute.

With all that in mind, I feel that thirty days of anything must be darn easy in comparison and so, I have decided to continue in that line of thinking and continue with an endless supply of thirty days.   I think that my first achievement will be thirty days of true minimalism.  Here, I will endeavour to not let food go to waste, not even the crusts from the bread.  Water must be considered too, along with rethinking how to reuse my bath water for our washing.  No more bag lady for me (truly I walk into the office and people call me bag lady due to the fact that I have a laptop rucksack, portfolio bag, handbag, and lunch bag on my person).

And even though I was spoilt by rocking up to my wedding in a limo, courtesy of my brother who wanted to surprise me in a big way, and even though we had plenty cut flowers, cake and food that ashamedly went to waste after the fact, I know that some part of my being will one day be capable of achieving minimalism even though I loved every single minute of my sort of over the top wedding day.  I loved it because I too got sucked into the excess and hand wrapped tissues and tied them with bows for the ladies in the front rows, I also bought in to the craze by purchasing fifty rolls of ribbon which means I will have to wrap every single birthday present I give with my wedding colours, and we have enough sequins fabric (that I don’t really know how we will re-use) but I’ll be damned if I let it go to waste.  Perhaps I will have a “thirty days of using all the stuff I horded”, right after I celebrate “thirty days of minimalism” again.  But I will only start that when I get back from my honeymoon because packing lightly for an unknown beach destination is a hard thing to do when one has so many scarves and sun hats in one’s possession.

It’s an odd world, out there.

A new sort of understanding has begun within me. I am not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that I am practicing the art of meditation and stillness daily (you can read about that journey here) or perhaps it has to do with the fact that I have started following the readings of Scott Dinsmore. Scott started the movement Live your Legend which you can read up on here: http://liveyourlegend.net/  Very basically (I do not presume to sum up another’s teachings in a couple of sentences – I only wish to put into context the impression that his work has left on me) Scott teaches people to find their passion and then make a living off that passion. He speaks of how we need to be creative and courageous to take the leap into working at our passions. He also suggests that we surround ourselves with the people who are already living their passions. The reason for this is because we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with (so best you choose your five people wisely).

His writings got me thinking about the people that I spend the most time with. That answer was easy – Baby, my work colleagues, family and my friends. The problem came about when I thought about those people and whether or not they enjoy what they do for a living.

To be perfectly honest, I can say that none of my work colleagues seem too enthralled with the way they spend their time in this corporate events industry – where budgets are minimal and clients don’t know what they want or how they want it except they that they wanted it yesterday. My family and friends are mixed cases and require some unpacking. For example, my one friend (and this friend could possibly stand proxy for most of my friends) hates her job, always complaining about it, always developing a new illness because of it, and is always on the edge of a break down because she has no apparent control over it. Another friend loves the fact that she helps people maintain and retain their vision. As an optometrist, some of her days are filled with annoying patients (with personalities like the first friend I mentioned), and other days, she has easy-going patients. The point is she is invigorated by what she does on a daily basis.

Now my first brother is a chartered accountant and financial director of a foundry. His job is highly stressful due to the nature of the iron industry and the fact that he manages many people. The welfare of the company rests on his shoulders and he is often weary from working intense hours. He is extremely good at what he does, he provides for his wife, is an upstanding citizen and member of his church, a salt of the Earth kind of man, but his general unhappiness is obvious. My other brother is different in that he qualified as a catering executive, moved to work in hotel kitchens in Dubai, once there, he started to coach swimming classes, he came back to South Africa, journeyed to India, returned a Yogi, embraced personal training classes, became interested in keeping bees, and is now a grounds-keeper who makes gardens beautiful. I’ve noticed, with all his ‘upping and downing,’ people find my brother unreliable. Unreliable because just as he seems to settle, he thinks of something else that he wants to do, and then goes for it. Unsteady, because he only ever commits to something at the very last minute (understandably so because he only knows where he will be once he finds himself there). Sure he gets stressed about things, but he is pretty happy with the way he spends his time.

Then there are a couple of people who have interesting careers that I don’t personally know, but would still like to discuss them. I have only crossed their paths by chance and now that I am exploring this notion of passion, am I able to understand what it is that I have learned from them. The first, is a man of music. No ordinary musician is he. He travels around giving workshops that send patrons on a journey of sounds. Many view him as ‘hippie’ and odd. A leader of a bunch of people sitting in a circle with their eyes closed while he plays a multitude of strange instruments (including his vocal chords). I heard (upon telling my second brother about the amazing sound journey that I went on with this muso) that about twenty years ago, this musician had been playing on a stage, and preaching his unique way, only to be misunderstood and sort of ignored by the audience. Imagine how hard he has been working all these years? To be fine-tuning one’s craft for such a long time and not even really get into the ‘mainstream’ must take a hell of a lot of stamina. And yet, there was Chris Tokalon http://www.soundman.co.za/, traveling the world just so that he could show others his way and fine tune his methods.

The other case makes my heart feel sad because after searching online and actually attending the Mystery Ghost Bus Tour that Mark Rose-Christie offered, I noticed the attitudes with which he was received. Online reactions came over superior, hoity-toity and downright negative. Patrons on the tour insulted, laughed and played tricks on him. I understand why he had such bad reactions, culture likes to compare. Why not compare him to his English counterparts who have castles and dungeons to illustrate the ghouls? But if you gave him half a chance, you would understand that in our South African context, this man is doing what he does, and owning it with his dramatic appearance, props and acts. I enjoyed his tour and found it offered just enough scare and just enough information to be a good night out. I suppose that is what Scott is talking about when he speaks of having courage to stick to your passion in spite of the popularity of your ‘act’.

I implore you to look from the angle of ‘pursuing one’s passion’ next time you want to judge, doubt, chirp and disrespect those ‘oddballs’ who seem to be playing according to a different tune. Admire them instead, let them inspire you because ultimately I’m not sure which scenario is more odd: doing something that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold but makes you happy, or doing the same thing every day that you despise.

Encouraging people to pursue their passion = Ha’pea-ness

More than just a bunch of moments.

My life seems to be governed by a bunch of moments. Sometimes the moments flow quickly into each other and sometimes there is a waiting period before the next one arrives.  Whether it be from one event to another, from party to party, meeting to meeting, meal to meal, the significance can fall by the way side and it simply becomes from one end to another.  Unfortunately, I find myself wondering aimlessly once A to B has occurred, and the next B to C is nowhere in sight.  You see, it’s the in between moments that render me, well, daft. I feel purposeless and unsure of my place when there isn’t ‘a something’ to anticipate.

Now, everyone knows you cannot live for the next week-end / holiday / pay raise / grandchild / whatever, and so my mission for this year is to learn to appreciate the in between.  My goal is to make something more of the interim – not to create more drama in my life, simply to acknowledge everything (and the everytime) that makes up my life.

It was when I was I was recently chatting to my babe’s younger brother, Davey, that I stumbled on a potential action plan.  You see,  Davey is an exceptionally talented graphic designer, potjie chef, and a striving minimalist, so he rates highly in my book.  He explained the method that effectively banished cigarettes from his life.  This method was nothing other than that of mind trickery, if you will.  He practiced installations of 30 days of deprivation.  The first 30 days he practised the art of not shaving.  While his beard grew bushy, I am sure he learned tolerance for that itch.  The second 30 was meat free and the third set of 30 was smoke free.  He has mostly maintained his cleaner habit even though he now religiously shaves and eats plenty of meat – the point he proved to himself is that he could do without.

His method was extremely personal but it got me thinking that perhaps this could be my method too.  My chance to enjoy my in betweens could start with a challenge of deprivation or even take on good habits in a challenge of provision.  What if I was to challenge myself to 6 types of deprivation or provision before my 30th birthday in July? They say you can’t change too much too soon so I think that the only way to handle such a large assignment would be to treat these installations as one long in between moment.  As if, by denying it any sort of identity (for example, the Great-Pre-Thirties-Mind-Control-If-You-Will-Challenge) I will numb the fact that I am doing something outrageous and I will just get on with it.  Furthermore, if I do set these challenges for myself, I will also learn to appreciate the me that I am, even in the seemingly aimless in between moments.

I began to strategise and came up with a plan:

 ·        In January, I decided to take on a good habit – to exercise for thirty minutes every single day.  Now for some people, this practice is not out of the ordinary or even that big a deal.  For me, who considers a walk from the parking lot to the shops as a way of getting my heart rate up, this would be a (ahem) hefty challenge.  January came and went and even though I didn’t stick to 30 days straight, I was blessed with a new sense of energy and purpose.

·        In February, I decided to tackle my neglected spirit and meditate every single day. Child’s pose, hanging upside down, lying in the bath, it doesn’t matter, so long as some sort of mental quietness engulfs me, it’s all good. (you’ll be pleased to know that I am achieving my 30 days, even though it is bringing up a huge anger issue that I wasn’t aware of).

·        In March, I will have to release my creativity in a manner that is out of my comfort zone.  Sketching, drawing, painting and sculpting etc.  Every single day, come hell or high water, a creation needs to be unleashed in a big way, regardless of my insecurities of it being ‘good enough.’

·        April, I will up the ante with deprivation, meat free all the way.

·        May is reserved for the toughest challenge – wheat free.  This extends from white breads, sauces, Italian breads, crumbed anything, seed loaves, biscuits, French loaves, baked experiments, did I mention the breads? One of the aspects of this challenge that I am excited about is the joy of finding an alternative baking outlet.  A very dear friend, Jess who is also Davey’s girlfriend, showed me how to make cupcakes from beetroot and while they might look like baked faces of old men, they sure don’t taste like the faces of old men.  For other alternative recipes, follow Jess’ blog here: http://www.intolerantkitchen.com/index.html

·        June is reserved for a large once-off challenge.  I will have to perform one task that scares me to smithereens.  I’m still undecided because pathetically, I’m petrified of everything.

 And so, I have started a series of moments that will be on-going during the course of my life’s other moments.  And, if I accomplish this mind trickery (if you will), then the result will be that I won’t focus too heavily on the challenges and I won’t mind the emptiness too much either because there won’t really be any.

Toss It!

To some this is a rude retort, an expressive outlet of frustration.  In this blog, however, it is to unlock sanity (not that cussing doesn’t sometimes ensure that the offender feels better after an outburst). In this context, it is meant as an inspiration and neither rude nor offensive.  Here, I endorse ‘dispose of’, ‘chuck it out’, ‘bin it’!

I endorse this, because I have had the realisation that I cannot continue in the manner that I do, do.  You see, one of my psychological issues is that I am particularly clingy.  I simply cannot throw anything away.  A chunk of wood for instance, cannot be chucked just in case I happen to learn impressive carving skills and am able to craft that hunk into a fancy foot stool or something equally unnecessary.  This extends to empty wood glue containers (you never know when you’ll need that nozzle shape again), buckled chipboard, palettes, old bread boards, used bubble wrap, chicken mesh wire, etc.

Where do I find said items, you ask? Well it doesn’t really matter.  I take things (with permission)  from my friend’s “to-go” piles next to their dustbins, I scavenge the left over-anythings from gigs, the side of the road, and my mom’s house.  I do not have one power tool to my name, but  one day I feel I would like to create all my furniture from scrap.  Never mind the fact that I will then need to re-repurpose my current furniture.

My wardrobe also takes up a helluva lot of space.  Not because I’m a fashionista, but because I still have t-shirts, skirts, belts and shorts from my youth.  Impressive that a ‘bordering-on-30-year-old’ can still wear clothes from her mid-teens?  Only slightly.  But maybe not so impressive is the fact that a ‘bordering-on-30-year-old’ is still rocking up in the atrocities and fashion crimes of the entire 90s era.  I’m experiencing true enlightenment here, bear with me.

Other clothing that I hoard includes items that I cannot actually fit into any more and perhaps it’s because I hang onto a time when I didn’t have to suck-it-in/lie down/safety pin myself into certain lower sizes.  Let’s face it, these hips have never lied and the chances of them shrinking at this stage of my life are absolutely impossible.

Socks and jerseys with holes also stay safe just in case my slumbering darner awakes.  I don’t yet even know the ins and outs of darning and to be fair there is a very blurred space in my head when I think of the borders between sewing, crocheting and darning.

This “maybe one day I will…” mentality extends to my urge to be an up-cycling ambassador.  If I could transform my stuff into working and pretty goodies, then I would be one happy, green camper.  The problem is that it takes me a lengthy amount of time to conceptualise a ‘new-old item’ from an ‘old-old item’.

Only once in a very blue moon do I take the metal scraps from the bottom of a fridge and transform them into a mounted filing system.

It is also rare when I actually use the kept empty coffee jars and create a magnificent gift holder.

The fact of the matter is that I collect junk at a faster rate than I transform it.

Deep down inside I’ve always known the answer to my problem, but for the time being I will present one final case for pro-hoarding.

Every time I do bring myself to trash an item, the very next day I find myself in the situation when I need that same blasted what’sit.

Anyway, the bits and bobs that make up my fantastic cabinet of clutter, have actually started to bother me and this mentally outweighs any of my reasons for keeping the junk.

It became so clear to me the other day (and I’m not the first person to say something like this):

“What if I never came across another awesome skirt that I could customise with a beautiful piece of lace (from my mom’s cabinet of clutter) because I could not let my now tattered skirt, that was awesome-of-yesteryear, go?”

 

And it was this dropped penny that caused me to finally gather up:

  • the two dilapidated couches on the patio (dilapidated because I had ripped off the fabric and taken off the arms, lost momentum and left the single-seaters to rot in the rain)
  • the clothes I had not worn for more than a year
  • all my skew-soled shoes
  • the semi working egg whisk
  • the wonky can opener
  • the computer keys
  • the milligrams of all my hand creams
  • the left over candle wax (clearly I was never going to melt it down and make one huge candle)

I threw away what needed to be thrown and I gave away what someone less fortunate would use.

The point is, I released myself from an annoying (mostly for baby because he also tries to live in this house with me) and insecure habit.

I tossed it!

Being free from unnecessary clutter beat the anxiety and that is where I found some Ohm.

The name’s Cake Anderson.

 This last push towards the end of the corporate eventing year is always a long drawn out and tough one. It goes without saying, you work so hard and you pull so many rabbits out of a bevy of fascinators and yet you still don’t seem to reap any rewards. You dance on the verge of trading in your soul because deadlines threaten to gobble you up. You feel out of control and you can’t see any value in the slog because the final products are not quite done yet, hence the push.

By the time last weekend came (the first weekend I had had in a long time). I needed to realign my inner Zen and to make a significant impact on the timeline of my life. I was craving instant gratification. And so, I pulled out our new pie tins because I was about to show the world what action and reaction looked like.

I was about to make my version of a great vegetarian pie. Watch out pastry chefs of the world, you with your reputations of how you defy gravity and such when you bake a gooey substance and it transforms into a light and airy tart/pastry/puff/etc. The point is: how hard could it be? I was dedicated and I was seeking finite results, forget a need for a seemingly never ending vision, I was about an hour away from being a part of greatness.

So I started to mix the ingredients together (technically I didn’t have a recipe as I had not thought that through, I simply took the instructions that the pie tin manufacturers had generously placed on their packaging). Once the mixture was clinging to me right up to my elbow, I remembered how my granny had rolled her mixtures with a rolling pin and on a plastic sheet. I looked for something that vaguely resembled a rolling pin but then got caught up in a tussle with the mixture. I was adamant not to let this get the better of me, and I definitely would not let the mixture in on the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing yet. Yet.

I managed to eke out the goop into the pie tins, squished it with a floured thumb, and then generously filled my base with some cut up stir fry veg. I then contemplated how to cover the mound of veg, as mixture-veg ratio seemed a little off kilter. I proceeded to spoon out some of the veg and then squished in the dough without it lifting back off with pieces of veg clinging to it.

When I finally got the tins into the oven (which I had remembered to pre-heat) I was mighty cuffed, so they didn’t look that nice but I bet they would taste great – just like pure vegetable wholesomeness. As time passed, and after looking into the oven many a time, something was not sitting right with my baked delights. They seemed more biscuit-y as opposed to pastry-ish. As if I had made millionaire’s shortbread but instead of the chocolate and caramel, I had placed vegetables which, by this stage had dehydrated beyond recognition. At the taste test, I realised that the pies tasted like a sweet biscuit that had somehow lost its identifying sweetness. I ate one wholeheartedly just to show baby that he was missing out on my pâtissière skills. I oohed and aahed over my tasteless dry-crunch, but baby was having none of it, he was going to call in for a take away.

The remainder of the pies stayed in their tins for the rest of the week end, untouched by everyone including the cats, and that really is saying something.

Come Saturday I was adamant to beat this baking thing. I was not about to let a minor slip up get me down, I was determined to show the world I could control this controllable.

My next mission was to bake a chocolate cake, yes a full-on cake with icing and sprinkles and such. I was not too perturbed about taking ownership for something that was packaged in a step-by-step box and all you really had to do was mix all the elements together and then bake it and then mix some more things together and then pour the new contents over the baked good and then tah-dah, bob literally is your uncle. I was in the process of folding the mixture which seemed to be extremely toffee-like in texture. I had absolutely given up on using my hand wound egg beater, and was practically using my fist to stir. Real upper body workout material this.

Luckily my mom rocked up and had a go and it all seemed to get better. The baking part seemed ok as the cake rose and didn’t look like a flop – I sensed imminent glory – finally. We took it out of the oven and left it to stand for a while. After tipping it out of the mould onto a cooling rack, it seemed to sit for a minute and was then taken over by a tremor and literally quaked into four rugged pieces. Luckily, baby had a suggestion that stemmed from his building industry – cement the cracks with the piece of sticky cake that had somehow been left behind in the silicon cake mould, genius I tell you. I had wondered what we were going to do with that extra piece that hadn’t directly come from the bottom but had somehow come from inside the cake. My mom had stepped back by this stage, something to do with too many cooks and broth which I didn’t quite appreciate because it seemed a bit of a jinx in light of yesterday’s savoury dish that had come out sweet and I didn’t particularly want todays sweet to be savoury. [Later our suspicions were confirmed, just one speck of the sponge and we knew it was on the slightly salty side].

Anyway, I pasted the cake together and then proceeded to pour the fondant my mom had mixed, over my patch work. Fondant cools fast I tell you and further more, it kind of fills up the negative spaces of a cake. So after the majority of the fondant disappeared somewhere into the sub surface well of the cake, I sprinkled the gold goodies on the top and marvelled.

It didn’t look too bad but I was not sure I wanted to eat any of it just yet, perhaps I would take it to work as incentive for fellow colleagues to help push towards the end of 2012. If you get the fondant blob then that sugar rush might kick you into 2013, alternatively the now confirmed slightly-salty-cake part might impact your new year’s resolutions – to never eat cake again.

By Sunday, the cake was packed away and ready for the following morning to take to work, and I was slightly depro at my culinary disappointments. In one last attempt to boost my self-esteem, baby suggested that I cook a meal that I actually had confidence in and did know how to make (since even before I met him) – a chicken and veg stir-fry. That’s it, I thought, get back on that wooden spoon and show that big hob in the sky that I can cook. Sheer liberation, those carrots were getting the julienne of their lifetime. I owned it and for a split second I took my eyes off the road, you know, a little bit of kitchen cruise control and I chopped the knife blade right off itself. I was feeling like the time had come to bow out gracefully and leave the adventures in the kitchen to baby – he really does make magic when, without even a poof of smoke, a stunning rib eye and tsasiki is served.

Needless to say, once all my ingredients were simmering, the mysticism continued. Somehow, the stove-wok-chicken combination seemed to spark some sort of chemistry. My tried and tested chicken and veg stir-fry crisped to a blackened coal substance. I wailed with incredulity and baby moseyed into the kitchen to see what this last bit of commotion was about. He chuckled as I showed him my charred dish. All he offered me (not so much a shoulder to cry on, but words that I later interpreted as a double entendre): “Yep, that’s my Cake Anderson.”

Sure, baby meant that I should not give up my day job in the corporate events, and I guess that you can’t take your corporate frustrations out on the delicate ecosphere that is the kitchen.

But this was not the last of my attempts.

As I type this, funnily listening to American alternative rock band, Cake’s version of I Will Survive, I know the making of an awesome persona. I envision a continuous stream of pastries, marbles and puds, for everyone, but most of all, I envision a Great Cake Anderson.

Ha’pea-ness.

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