Am I loved?

Yes….I know it’s crazy to think about. But yes: people out there love you and they care about you. Everyone needs to hear that, as corny as that sounds. We all need other people, it is a fundamental fact that species of the same type do tend to communicate and gravitate towards one another. Human to human. Echidna to echidna, whale to whale. Here are some ways to tell that you have some people in your corner.

 

They are proud of you. Even if it is only that you remembered one thing in that exam you know you just failed, they celebrate how proud you are with you. One of the best moments of my life was celebrating a milestone achievement with a best friend who was literally as ecstatic as me to have seen me achieve something I was working towards for a very long time. Someone who shares in your achievements like that cares about you quite a lot.

 

They make time for you even when they have a full plate. We are all busy, we know that about society. We are constantly doing things: working, studying, and generally living life. Yes sometimes you know you should be sitting at home adult-ing, you should be cleaning out the fridge and catching up on your budgeting, but instead you have a girl’s night, or go out and get drunk on the town. And that’s what friendship is about. It may not happen every-time, because life gets in the way. But if they show up for you, and prioritise seeing you, then that means they care.

 

They listen to your bullshit. They put up with the ranting, the pointless bitching, the complaining and the generally completely random stories you feel the need to tell them all the time. Listening is a really underrated skill. I personally struggle to listen to any story without interrupting to comment, apologies friends, I try hard to use impulse control but it’s not always successful. But even me, knows when to just stay silent and agree with everything they are saying so that they can get it off their chest. And that is caring enough about someone to listen openly and without judgement.

 

They are supportive. Even of the stupidest decisions. They allow you to make your own mistakes and are there for you when it all falls apart too. Support is a beautiful thing, because even when you are independent and strong, sometimes we all need of positive love thrown our way. Support can come in many forms, but it feels like a warm hug for your mental health. Support is what makes us feel like we aren’t completely alone and can help boost our confidence to try new things.

 

They can survive time apart from you. Long distance relationships are hard, so are long distance friendships. But people who manage to maintain some semblance of contact with you are worth holding onto. Coming from someone who has dealt with a whole lot of long distance, yes it is possible to still care about someone halfway across the world. You may feel more alone if those people are many miles away, but they don’t love you any less just because they live further from you for whatever reason. And with technology these days contact has never been easier to maintain.

 

So if you have a friend who displays any of these behaviors, they probably love/care about you. If they don’t display these behaviors, it doesn’t mean that no one loves you. Everyone shows they care in different ways, and this is not a foolproof list. Just some observations from a writer who thinks too much about the social sciences. And I happen to have some beautiful people who love and care about me.

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Under Pressure

Here’s the thing about pressure.

We need it.

Studies have shown that physiologically the feeling of compression can be deeply comforting to people with autism. The pressure calms their central nervous system and helps them remain tethered to the earth and reality. They train autistic service dogs to lie on their charges, lie on them all night, if needed, to help them feel grounded and anchored. They remain unable to drift away, both mentally and physically, and it has been shown to have a massive calming effect. It’s not like you can move much with a 30kg Labrador lying on top of you.

Water also helps people with autism experience that pressure. Dive into the ocean and you feel the density of water surrounding every part of you. And the deeper you dive the higher the pressure. Perhaps some people with autism would love scuba diving if they could participate as it takes you to the very depths where the pressure gets so intense you have to adjust your eardrums or they might burst. But there are many different types of pressure. These are only examples of physical pressure. Not mental.

I do not have any form of Autism, but I absolutely love pressure. Both physical and mental. It’s a test of endurance and strength yet comes as a comfort somehow. Maybe I was born in the fire and therefore only feel alive when I get to be back in it. I remember when I was younger I was in love with a boy, and one day while mucking around on a bed he lay fully on top of me, and I felt his body weight completely on me. It was the same effect as the Labrador on a child. I felt grounded, and comfortable, and safe. Of course, if I lay there too long, I would start to get antsy, because there’s only so much pressure a girl can take. But the general idea was the same.

In science, physical pressure forms diamonds, and what was once an old piece of black charcoal becomes a shiny beautiful resilient gem. This I can also relate to. Pressure is the only time I feel like I can breathe. Living and working in a fast paced environment and feeling the weight of the world falling onto your shoulders. Some would be crippled by this. But some dig deep and start bit by bit by digging themselves out. Even when the wars been lost, and failure occurs, the pressure is still there, it always remains for me, like the boss who never hired me. I call this productive stress.

Stress takes its toll on you though. Living in that pressure cooker all the time can wear you down, no matter how much you love it. And it’s not for everyone. Some of us thrive on it and some of us buckle under the weight of it. Like straps pulled too taut and about to snap. I spoke to a friend recently, struggling under the weight of both self-expectations and pressure from external entities; her boss specifically. It makes her feel pushed too hard, and causes undue stress. This is a very fair complaint. Maybe we do need to look at society’s structure and expectations. Are we asking for way too much? Are we asking for employees to sell their souls to us? To live in a never ending rat race on a wheel that keeps on turning? Or is this just how we draft the best horses from the herd? Pick the best from the pack.

Pushed too hard, and you stop trying. Not pushed enough, and you become lazy and complacent. Is there a right way to go about it?

Here’s what I think I know, (cause do we really ever know anything?)

I love the water, I love scuba diving as deep as possible, I love a dog lying on top of me, or even a man that I love. I love the fire, and the burden and the never ending self-expectations. They are a part of me, and I don’t know how I would survive without them. I am still charcoal. But I am a diamond in the making. Underneath my surface, greatness is lurking, and it will only come if I forge the fire hot enough.

 

How do you deal with pressure? Do you love it or hate it? Comment below!

 

Afterword: I did my research after writing this and contrary to popular belief it turns out that diamonds don’t actually form from coal. However the formation of diamonds does involve very high temperatures and pressures so my analogy still works. Hooray!!

Sisters

I didn’t always want a sister. Unlike the common saying. I have always loved my brother more than enough to make up for it. Plus my whole life I have wanted to keep up with the boys. Always wanting to be AS strong and AS fast and keep up with them as much as possible. My brother teased me quite a lot, and he very much found me annoying for a lot of years of our life. The same can be said for my “sister” only I don’t have a real sister only an ‘adopted’ one. She teases me just as much as my brother ever did. Underneath I think that she loves me despite of how annoying I can be at times. And she tolerates me a lot more than my brother did back in my day.

She is one of my very oldest friends, and an unlikely one at that. She first thought me to be a bit strange and I had a weird Canadian accent. Despite challenging circumstances and differences a friendship was forged. It’s interesting that for many years as a young child I felt as if I was lucky to have a friend and I was just extremely grateful. At the time I worshipped my new found friend and couldn’t believe that she thought I was cool enough to hang out with her. This came in to play because of my low self-esteem, probably that partially came about from being teased. Sounds like the perfect masterplan doesn’t it. Break down someone’s self-esteem to then get them to think you are doing them a favour by being their friend. I can assure you that the motives were much more innocent than that.

Regardless of how it came about, the friendship continued. And all of a sudden we had a common enemy and that only brought us closer together. We have now shared a friendship for over 13 years. It has overcome all the big stuff. Family trauma, separate high schools, living in different states. We now share dog adventures together, baking and meals and she still teases me, only in a more loving manner.

Her family has been one of the loveliest families I think I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, they have not hesitated to take me in as one of their own. They let me come and go as a regular member of their family. They have always taken me on holidays to their beach house completely free of charge, fed me, and generally always been there as a backup if I am having a tough time at home. You can’t buy friends like these. They are family now. I wish that there was a way that I could express how much gratitude I have for everything that they have done for me. Still to this day hanging out with them is easier than it ever has been with my actual family. It’s peaceful and fun and full of lots of laughter and sibling teasing. It’s my happy place.

I am so lucky to have this person in my life. Not only are we still going strong, but we still continue to spend quality time together, share passions together and generally are able to slot into each other’s lives no matter how much we have changed.  It isn’t always easy. Because life gets in the way. She is the closest thing I have to a sister and she’s the greatest sister a girl could ask for.

What’s really at the bottom of the bottle?

What’s really at the bottom of the bottle?

Desperation.

What do I mean?

I have trouble understanding the partying culture. The drink till you are on the brink of death sort of partying. The stay up all night and do unspeakable things that you then become ashamed of. Or even the minor partying. The “I’ve had a bad day and want to drown my sorrows in dancing.” The no matter what you should always go out otherwise you are a “downer”.

But I think I finally understand why. I think we are all seeking something. And alcohol is the closest we can get to finding it. What I’m talking about is something unique, something that cannot be described in mere words, although I will try my best to express it. I think you all know what I am talking about. It is the feeling of being alive.

I believe that we feel most alive when we are children. The vast majority at least. As you get older you feel less free and don’t seem to do stuff with as much reckless abandon as one might when they are a kid, running down the beach nude with a group of girls past a group of guys. The wildness is allowed to run free, before you have any sense of shame or inhibitions. Which is why as soon as kids hit preteen age they seem to go looking for the wild free feeling in a bottle. Also because it is deeply rooted in our culture but I believe some-part is owed to chasing that wild feeling of reckless abandon.

I can’t say for myself whether or not they achieve that from experience as I have not ventured down that road myself. I like to think that either they get it 1 time out of 10 otherwise they are all just really determined to keep going despite the consequences. Me, I chase that feeling in other ways, because to me some things can’t be artificially created, and sometimes you just have to wait for those moments to happen and embrace them. To me, using alcohol to manipulate reality is not the way to go about it. And I know we desperately need to feel alive to stay sane but it will come when it comes and there’s no sense rushing things.

You don’t live your life in the fast lane, feeling blissfully high and happy and glorious all the time. You have to feel the lows and the mundane in order to also feel the highs. To me drinking is cheating because you are trying to manufacture a high rather than a cocktail of moments and emotions leading up to that. Cheat if you want, I’m just saying that I consider it cheating. I definitely want to cheat sometimes. It is rare to come by these moments and the more I grow up I feel like I laugh less and the frown lines on my face deepen with every passing day.

I still get to feel that though. That high. That free moment. That moment when all the cages and restraints that have been tied around you disappear momentarily. I crave that feeling. And I’m really not sure that the classic night out would fully satisfy that craving. You can’t doctor these moments. Your attitude can help though. Embracing life can help you feel that glory.

The glory of stripping down starkers and hand-standing in the river

The glory of jumping out of a plane and overcoming a fear of heights

The bellyaching from laughing for hours at old videos of yourself with friends that are in tears over your dancing

The happiness in the pit of your stomach as you curl up with a favorite furry friend

Or the freedom that comes from galloping up a hill at top speed on a horse

“These are a few of my favorite things”

Embracing life is how you are going to feel that freedom. In whatever activities that for you make you feel like your chest is bursting with happiness.

You need to have the right attitude going in, sometimes we can’t control what we are feeling going in but it’s your responsibility to get out of your own way and don’t block yourself.
So yeah, the party lifestyle is fantastical. But you could also go with the flow and see how many great moments that you can stumble across naturally.

And that is the real joy of living.

One day…..

I wrote this a few years ago. Just a back of the book casual descriptive piece. I love to give all that extra detail. Enjoy 🙂

Sitting out on my back deck, I watch the loons swimming across the clear lake. The sun is setting behind the hills and the islands I can see in the far distance. Red, my Irish setter x lab, pads up towards the deck and lies down beside me with a heavy groan, I smile as I see the horses running along the fence, their hooves sounding like thunder on the ground in the still evening air. This is life as its meant to be. I think about how my life used to be, dreaming about this sort of lifestyle.

I head down towards the paddocks as I step into the grass of moisture takes hold of my barefoot and draws a dent to the ground, leaving a small footprint. As I approach the paddock Shadow, my 16.1 hand bay quarter horse x TB walks towards me and leans over the fence, nuzzling me. The cheeky bugger is looking for food as usual. I let myself in, slip the halter over his head and jump lightly onto his back. He’s a big boy, but I have years of practice springing myself lightly onto horses as this has been my life since I finished high school.

Shadow moves off with a light touch and I feel like I am in a dream, as if this isn’t reality. I laugh and my voice echoes off the valley, I feel the weight of the amazing animal underneath me as he powers into the lake and then stops, dripping and knee deep, I lean down over his neck. “Good boy,” I am home.

Here’s the thing about gratitude…

I need to be more grateful for what I have. Gratitude is a life-long lesson. We need constant reminding that what we have is actually pretty okay. This concept is troubling in that it challenges whether the validity of even being upset/angry/disappointed/ jealous over my menial problems. Because how can I be feeling this way when I have so many great things in my life.

 

Also I can think that and know that I am very lucky/privileged/well off but the reality is I still can’t stop the flood of emotions when they come. The truth is that I am living in my own world. And in my world I think I’m hungry. Even if I’m not truly hungry because I have only spent 5 hours without food not 5 days. And because I am the one who was in charge of organising my food and therefore it’s my own fault. It is even a privilege to be able to have the control over my own food because that is something I get to choose. Some people find themselves pretty powerless in their own lives and in their own decisions. But some people are just the passengers on the ship of life. This does not take away from the simple fact that I am hungry.

 

I like to complain a lot. About a lot of stuff. I repetitively complain about things. Especially those things that I feel I have little control over. Maybe I have more control than I think. After all, I have control over my food choices and when I eat. And bless my friends for listening to my complaints on repeat. It’s a pretty terrible soundtrack with the same whinging beats.

 

Family is something I complain about a lot. But deep down I know that I am grateful for their existence. Even if their existence doesn’t fulfil the roles that I believe family is supposed to play. So I guess you could say they aren’t the only ones that struggle to meet my ridiculously high expectations. I also fail to meet my own expectations and guess what the knee jerk reaction is to that???? Complaining!!! What a classic. Over something I have full control over.

 

I think it wouldn’t kill me to complain a little bit less. But there is something really enjoyable about venting to someone who truly understands your situation. Or in my case literally anyone who will listen. I’m not very proud of it. It’s a bit attention seeking to make really bold statements that are a little bit too far or to make myself feel better by using dark humour. And I can be quite scathing in my humour. Regardless, it is a self-destructive mental habit. Because once you start your ‘venting’ it can escalate quite quickly. Soon you are hating on a lot of things all at once. Negativity threads through every shrill tone of rising urgency as you try to convey your distress. When does it end? Well I suppose that it ends with you complaining in the hospital on your deathbed about the nurses. (see what I did there?)

 

Maybe we should try to positively complain about things. Sounds crazy. Bear with me for a moment. Maybe match every negative complaint with a really sarcastic positive complaint. It would be a really good tactic for an annoying friend (like myself) who keeps complaining about something. If I am like “my mother never helps me pack my car” you should trill in with “yeah. How annoying that you have a car? What are they even good for apart from transporting you and stuff? No one needs that anyway”. I mean I might get angry at you but it gets the point across. I definitely think I need to use my inner radar to monitor my complaining and if it gets off the charts try and take some time off.

 

I also passionately do not want become like those that I resent the most and complain continuously and repetitively (I’m talking multiple times a day here) about something that is rather easily fixed. Such as the kitchen being dirty. Organise for it to be cleaned. 99% of life’s problems can be solved with organisation and a ‘can do’ attitude. So get in line and solve anything that you can or otherwise avoid the things that upset you. I don’t think I can solve my current situation. Interestingly as I’m writing this one of my main complaints will resolve itself shortly but in the meantime I have to use avoidance techniques. Very challenging for an up close and personal situation. And the rest of the time will just have to grin and bear it.

 

To get some of the more ridiculous stuff out I will trial a bit of a complaint book. Kind of like all the bad reviews a restaurant gets. I will remind myself that one: who am I to judge anyone. And 2: my opinion means nothing. But still. Maybe it will help me let go of the small stuff. And for me it’s more often better out than in. But conflict is very much caused by me giving me complaints out loud directly to the issue or person. A technique I have very much tried and tested in a time where I thought that honesty was indeed the best policy. Turns out it’s not. So if I can’t eliminate complaints from my life completely. Perhaps I can at least keep them from impacting anyone else. And try and minimise the brain poisoning that occurs.

 

That’s a goal for 2018. No more brain poisoning and sometimes gratitude.

Night Terrors

My brother moved out because he couldn’t stand my mother. To be honest, right in this very moment, I can’t fucking stand her either. I can’t sleep. I calculate the hours and count them down as each lonely hour passes and once again I lose another fucking hour of sleep. Started with 6 hours, which is obviously a brilliant amount of normal sleep, I’m currently down to four. But the reason that I lost the first few as well was primarily because of the music, it was so loud, as loud as a 21st thumping and thumping with the sound of the “Doof Doof”.

“Doof Doof”

“Doof Doof”

I closed my window, the sound was emanating from the backyard, surely that was better than the stereo speaker in my kitchen that emanates the beats less than 5 metres away from me. The same song usually, over and over again, like a song stuck in your head all day but instead it’s a real life nightmare. I lie back down, hoping that the glass pane is enough to separate me from this psychotic noise. I love music, don’t get me wrong, but not usually past 2am, when it’s not my music, and I’m not partying, no. I have to get up early and function as a normal human being. I think to myself that next time I need to find another place to sleep.

I groan and roll over. The window didn’t work, I lean up and increase the fan speed, and maybe that extra white noise will be enough to drown me into oblivion. I can still hear it. I look over at the dogs, they sleep soundly as can be, not stirring a once, or a twice. They lie in the fetal position, comfy as can be, on their double stacked beds. I want to be somewhere else, but I also want to be here somewhere else. I just wish for a bit of peace and quiet, a bit of silence. I need to go camping and only listen to the sounds of nature.

The fan hasn’t done it. I turn over to turn on my light and step up. I grab my phones, a pair of headphones, and wait patiently to download a white noise, calming, meditation app. I pray that I have enough godamn space on my dying phone with no storage. It downloads and I play a bedtime story that focuses on breathing and lavender, the headphones with the pillow push into my right ear and is uncomfortable, but I deeply meditate and focus on my breathing, I drift a bit out, and feel like I finally have reached the edges of sleep. But alas, I do not win. I am pulled back out of sleep by the music.

Alright time to pull out the big guns. I walk outside to the stereo, I find my mother, wandering round like a lost little lamb. A lost high and drunk little lamb on a psychotic gardening and cleaning spree. I ask if the music can get turned down and she is too incoherent to figure out how to turn it down so I step in and turn it down myself. At least 10 decibels, from 32 to 22. Surely I will not be able to hear that from my room. A solid 10 metres away from my room. I need a soundproof room.  I lay back down with a sigh. The walking put me wide awake again. I stare at the ceiling in the dark. Filled with self loathing. Why can’t I just sleep like the drunk on the couch in the bali hut? Maybe alcoholism is the way to go, but it clearly hasn’t worked for my mother. It’s more of a stimulant for her apparently.

I put the headphones back in, and I turn on another 24 minute sleepy story. This time it’s about a waterfall, and a peaceful hum that thrills the body and calms the mind. I once again drift off, the doof doof is a lot quieter now, but I can still hear it. Just as I get to the end of it I wake again. Pulled from the arms of sleeping back into waking hell. Fuckity fuck fuck. I try to play a babbling brook but it’s in my head now, I can still hear it playing. I wait a little longer, and then I sneak outside.

 

It’s been an hour since I was last out there. It’s now past 1am. I see no sign of the lost little deer. I turn it down some more. All the way down to volume 14. I see her get back into the backyard but I can’t deal with the confrontation again and I know she won’t notice so I sneak away under the cover of darkness. Finn has followed me outside. And Jed wanted to be let out. I get back in my room and Jed is back in bed after having relieved himself. This night is never ending. I lie down and rest. It’s quieter, but I still can’t sleep. I’m a bit lost for what to do next. Maybe I should sleep in my car.

I wake up, it’s been about 10 minutes. Well at least I got 10 minutes sleep. The music is louder, much louder. It’s coming from the inside stereo in the kitchen. I’m so angry, I have no words. It is 2am. I want to punch the lights out of her face so that she is unconscious and can play no more music, I feel such a deep rage burning inside. I sneak out to the kitchen and turn the stereo off with the click of one satisfying button. Mum enters from the backyard with a basket of washing. “Surely you can’t hear that” she says. Yes I can is my reply. I turn it into a rant about how I just want to sleep and its 2am and surely she wants to sleep too and I can hear it all the time and I need it to just stop because I have to get up in 4 hours and I don’t think I can like this. The next day’s plans weigh over me. I regret even making plans and I know I’m going to feel even worse in the morning. Worse than a hangover.

I storm back into my bedroom, still listening to the sounds of mum petering around the house. So I try a third sleep time story. Surely I can do this. I can sleep. It is possible? Right? I’m not even sure anymore. It’s no use, I still can’t sleep. I give it my last good go, but it doesn’t work. I scream as loud as I can in frustration, hurt and deep emotional pain. I throw everything into that scream. But when it dies out, I am still here. I still exist. And I’m still awake.

I don’t have a happy ending. I’m still here in this moment. It dawns on 3am now. What a lovely hour to be awake. I’m thinking that as my next counter move in this war I will use my technological skills to hack into the stereo and play my music instead. Then at least I won’t have to listen to the same OH, uh oh song again. I think I’ve heard it over 10 times tonight. Goodnight friends, enjoy your peaceful slumber. Don’t take it for granted.

"Until one has loved an animal, ones soul remains unawakened"