I have the house to myself for an entire week. My family have set off on a whirlwind motor home adventure up towards Mackay, leaving me to look after the house. I haven’t lived on my own for more than a night in over a year, and the prospect of being able to work on my own schedule with no distractions for an entire week is a dizzying feeling. Unfortunately living alone has also turned me into a complete psycho. Did I mention that it’s only been 24 hours so far?
Friends are good to have. Whether it’s a flat tyre, babysitting, or someone to ring up crying about the itchy red rash you’ve got crawling up your leg, it’s comforting to have someone there to bounce ideas off. In school most of us spent a lot of time cultivating friendships, and the good thing about the school week was that it meant that maintaining these relationships was relatively easy, because you’re all pretty much stuck there together.
Once study is over it’s a whole new game, people get jobs, have kids, and that’s when it gets harder. Plans get cancelled, things pop up, and suddenly you realise you haven’t seen your best friend in over three months and have only chatted via Facebook or tagged each other in video posts of dogs and their unlikely friends. Which is so damn cute, but not at all fulfilling when it comes to making real connections. What feels like “chatting” with a friend through instant messenger just doesn’t fulfil that need most of us have to be social, and when something like a concert comes up and you’re absolutely stumped as to who to take, it sucks. The friends that you used to have are just names in your facebook feed, and not people you would really want to hang out with anymore. That’s when it’s time to reach out and make some new connections.
So how do you go about building up a new social circle to scratch that itch we all have to make connections and find our own little community? Assessing hobbies is a great place to start, as the people you meet whilst pursuing those hobbies are likely to enjoy them and you’re already starting with something in common. The upside of making friends at an older age is that you’re more likely to have a friendship based on common interests and as a result are more likely to be strong and long lasting connections. The need to make friends is a good chance to sit back and evaluate what really makes you happy, and the kind of people you want to meet.
Something that really opened up opportunities for me to meet new people was the pottery class that I took on. It was an 8 week program for wheel throwing so it offered that repeated contact that we would get with a school class in a setting where people let their guard down – because we were all fucking up and making wobbly penises out of spinning clay – it’s a great ice breaker. While i’m still making phallic shapes on the wheel past the conclusion of my workshop, i’ve met some really interesting people.
I’ve also found volunteering to be a great way to meet like minded people. I’m very much into ocean conservation and animal protection, so joining conservation groups has been a great way for me to meet people that I already have a lot in common with. Most volunteer groups have monthly meetings/events, so it’s a great way to get to know people that you are sure to see regularly.
For me, the realisation that it was time to reach out and put in some effort was the hardest part. So go and do what you love, and talk about it often. The people that you’re supposed to connect with will be there, and they’ll most likely be looking for exactly the same thing. If a dog and a duck can become best friends, surely there’s hope for us.
So today is RU OK day. It’s a day in Australia where people are encouraged to reach out to friends to check in and make sure that they’re coping mentally. I think it’s a great initiative. That being said I think we should be checking up on people all the time, not just on one day a year.
Today was particularly poignant for me in that I lost a friend to depression a couple of months ago. It was sudden and unexpected. I didn’t know that she wasn’t ok, and i’m so so sorry that I didn’t ask.
I don’t write a lot of poetry, but when I wanted to express my sadness about M this seemed like the most natural way. She was happiness. She was cheeky and always welcoming. She was the kind of person I wanted to be. A few lines just don’t seem enough. I could write about her forever.
Greeted by blank stillness,
in the hazy comfort of a quiet morning.
forgetting is impossible when i’m awake,
because you are everywhere.
Standing at our secret cliff,
gazing in awe at the ocean below.
Sitting at our hiking spot,
dipping your legs in cool bottomless water.
I can’t forget your lover’s face,
when he said goodbye to you for the last time.
Or the queer calm,
when we drank without you in the hours after.
A quarter of a lifetime,
was nowhere near enough for you.
But we’re never really apart anymore,
because you are everywhere.
It’s only within the past year or so that i’ve discovered the true joy of liberating my boobs from their wire-framed cage. Nothing signifies the end of a hard day quite like the snap of a clasp, closely followed by a dull thud as it hits the wall with force. I remember the excitement when I bought my first bra, I couldn’t even wait until I had anything to put in a bra, and for a few years they did a great job of doing nothing other than making me feel like part of the club. Now bras cost more than my clothes, and there’s nothing remotely exciting about strapping myself into one. So recently i’ve sort of just stopped wearing them unless I feel I’d like to, and my comfort-based decision to get the girls out regularly has been liberating in more ways than I expected.
Was that really awkward? Why did I wave like that?
All the way up to the important stuff like my writing:
Do people even care about this? Why would anyone want to read what I have to say?
And it’s not helpful. It’s a destructive and toxic mindset. Stressing about little things is useless, and fretting over the bigger things does nothing to remedy situations. So many mountains, such tiny molehills.
So last week after a spectacular meltdown of tears and hours lying in bed stewing in my own stress, I decided to let it go. I decided to kill off the parts of me I don’t like. Kind of like when characters chop off their hair and don a leather jacket before going out to beat the crap out of people except a more extensive and less violent reinvention of self. I didn’t chop my hair because i’m still trying to grow it to mermaid-esque lengths. But you know, whatever works.
I started by going to yoga. It is four houses down from me so I don’t have any excuse not to go. The instructor is this teeny soft-spoken woman who talks with her eyes closed and a calm smile on her face. She’s also hilarious and surprises people by warning them to “not fuck up their knees” and that “if it feels like you’re being suffocated by your tits, it’s the right position!” She’s a hoot, and her classes focuses on posture, breathing and relaxation. I used to be skeptical, but post session all of the chatter that drowns me daily is dull and almost nonexistent. So i’ve made a promise to myself to keep it up, and i’m sure being able to touch my toes comfortably will be an added bonus.
I then opened up to my partner about my fears about success and disappointing people. He already knew how I was feeling, but hearing his suggestions as to how i’ll move forward in regards to my career and happiness was really comforting when in the past I would have automatically been defensive and guarded. We’re very different people, but he’s a gem and has been instrumental in my journey towards becoming a fully-fledged adult.
Social anxiety is something that has popped it’s filthy little head up over the past few years, and where I once was a bubbly outspoken person I had become that person that shrinks and avoids eye contact. Dinners and social events usually have me scrambling for excuses as to how I can avoid going. New people always means questions about what I do, and i’m always left red-faced and stuttering. But i’m so done. We went out a few nights ago and I was completely forthcoming and relaxed, and it was such a weightless feeling, and I genuinely enjoyed myself. After a few drinks, inappropriate jokes and sex talk I began to feel right at home.
I rounded up my little week of changes by doing my volunteer work and chatting to heaps of people about ocean conservation, and then coming home to write emails, reach out to people and make enquiries. Today is a new week, and it’s happening all over again. It’s crazy the difference a week can make, and I intend to keep culling parts of myself I don’t like.
I try ridiculously hard to perfect everything that I put out in the world. Sometimes I feel that I can’t even show people what i’ve done because to me there’s some sort of flaw that I’m not able to remedy. Doubt holds me back and sours what should be an accomplishment. This isn’t just limited to my writing, either. Everything from my pottery to the cake I baked for my two year old sister’s birthday was judged so harshly by me, yet not a scrap of cake was leftover and multiple people asked for the recipe. I was too busy scowling at the murky green buttercream to shut off my brain and just eat a piece.
My partner recently saw all my little notes and ramblings on index cards and asked again to see my blog. I casually skirted around the topic last time it was brought up, but this time I was just blatantly making excuses. I made the blog with the full intention of letting those close to me know what I was doing, partly to hold myself accountable and stay true to my promise to write prolifically. But once I started it the thought of just throwing words out into the atmosphere with people I don’t know reading it was sort of comforting. I didn’t have the desperate need to impress these people because i’ll most likely never see them. I can create without fear. But the thought of someone I know reading it? My family, friends? Insert .gif of Steve Carell screaming “NOOOOOOOOO! GOD NO PLEASE!”
This is hindering my productivity, and I know things in life aren’t meant to be perfect. So i’m making a promise to myself to move towards letting go of this stupid, crippling fear and sharing more. Both by posting more and letting those close to me know that I have a blog.
An exercise that I think will help with this is an exercise inspired by Of Opinions, which is a 30 minute stream of consciousness blog post that I plan to do weekly and will come up with some clever name for later. This piece is the first.
So here’s to not burying myself in unfinished pieces!
Running out of material is something that threatens to leave a bit of pee running down my leg. I want to be in it for the long haul, but what if one day the words just stop? This fear is something that hinders my writing, or more accurately, stops me from writing at all. I worry that I will write everything i’m capable of, everything about me and my experiences, and have nothing noteworthy or interesting left. Instead i’ll sit down and write about a pivotal moment in my life, or a piece that i’ve been sitting on for weeks, and i’ll just let it sit all sad and stagnant on my desktop.
Recently i’ve come to realise that in order to be a writer you actually have to let people see your stuff, and in order for people to see your stuff you have to put on a brave face and throw it out there. Read More »
I love the ideas of lazy days, of sleep ins and homemade breakfasts and staying in your pyjamas all day. But when I try to emulate that ‘Sunday vibe’ everyone seem to have down to an art form I feel anxious, like I should be doing something more productive.
Today was a public holiday in most of Australia. Everyone on instagram were sharing their sleep-ins, day trips, and movie marathons. It’s really nice to see people kicking back and enjoying themselves, and I wish I could do the same without that little niggling worry that i’m being lazy/wasting my day.
But I was adamant that I would relax and do the things people were all out doing. I went to a cafe and sat with Baxter and had a coffee while reading Anne Lamott’s Some Instructions on Writing and Life. We then ventured to the crowded dog park so Baxter could bound around and be the schoolyard bully he fancies himself as. And it was fun. Coffee and dogs is always something guaranteed to make me happy, as long as I can ignore the little voice in my head telling me to get home, buckle down, find my dream job as a freelance writer and stop faffing the day away. I’ve started calling the voice Barb, and our one-sided conversations usually go a little bit like this:
Barb: “Hey, is drinking coffee going to get shit done? We can sit around drinking coffee when you’re 70 and retired, you know.”
Barb started to get really loud and nasal, so I headed home with the mindset that I would smash out a few articles to submit, write a couple of blog posts, finish my book and then relax.
Instead I came home and ate, did laundry, scrutinised my split ends, and ate some more. I wasn’t hungry, I was stalling. I stymied myself with worry and ended up not getting much done at all. After I was done mentally berating myself, I made a coffee and watched an episode of Wentworth. I actually watched it without trying to multitask and relaxed, and it was so good. I sat back afterwards and wondered why I had stressed myself out so much. If I had chilled out, told Barb to shove it and let myself do what I felt like doing without over-committing with a massive to-do list, I probably would have got a lot more done.
So this is my promise to be a little nicer to myself, and work on quieting that little voice that hurries me along instead of sitting back and enjoying myself.
If anyone ever feels similar, I’d love to hear about it and know that i’m not the only one with an inner Barb. Although if you call your niggling little voice Barb that would be freaky and we’re probably soul sisters/siblings.
My love of clay began when I gifted my Nan a metallic green pig I had sculpted in art class at school. It had little beady eyes and an altogether unsettling body composition, but I was so proud of it, and the deformed little sentinel still stands guard in her foyer.
I didn’t touch clay again until I discovered the joys of oven-bake clay in November 2011. Clay that you can cure in a little toaster oven in just 15 minutes? Magic! From there I began making miniature food sculptures you can wear as jewellery. I realise that sentence is a little confusing for someone who doesn’t spend hours sculpting a carrot the size of a matchstick, so it’s probably easier for you to get the gist by having a quick squiz here to really understand what i’m blabbing about. Yes, it’s an extremely niche market, but thankfully yes, people really do buy/wear them.
For as long as I can remember wheel thrown pottery has always mesmerised me, but classes were few and far between, and were almost always booked up well in advanced. For my 23rd birthday I was determined to find a class with open spaces, and a new studio opened up just a suburb away. The thought of trying to wrangle a hunk of clay on a spinning wheel using nothing but centrifugal force and my hands was a dizzying concept, and more than just being fun, it would be functional! I might be able to make things that can hold water and food and look aesthetically pleasing – unlike my metallic pig.
I struggled through my first couple of classes. Getting that little lump of stoneware clay to sit in the middle of the wheel-head seemed near impossible, and being left-handed added an exciting little learning curve. My instructor insisted I was a natural, but I felt more like a fraud as I did in music class, holding up the clarinet and pretending to play without having a clue what I was doing. After a few lessons of me gritting my teeth trying to make things that looked less like stunted little vessels that were either too thick or dangerously thin, it all started to flow much more easily.
Wheel throwing has forced me gather a modicum of patience. I was so used to having a near instant end result with oven-baked clay. I could start and finish a piece in under an hour, but now it takes more like 3 weeks, as I only have one day a week in the studio and things need time to firm up between trimming/bisque firing/glazing. I started classes almost two months ago and it was only last week that I sent my first two little planters to the mercy of the kiln gods. They’re not perfect, but they’ll be the first thing I’ll be able to hold in my hand as a finished product. As I put them on the firing shelf I muttered my goodbyes, telling them to “Make Mummy proud or don’t bother coming home.” One of the resident potters happened to walk in at that time and had a good giggle, noting that she too had that same nervous feeling when she started.
In just two days i’ll be able to see how they went on their little journey. They might have exploded, or the glaze might have run and turned them into a permanent art installation in the kiln. I’ll admit that the waiting is killing me, but the process was half the fun.