Hiatus

Jeez it’s been AGES since I last wrote anything. I took my laptop away on holiday with me, thinking I might get a quiet five minutes here and there, but nope. I either didn’t get the chance, or I didn’t fancy it. What I did do though, was read, a LOT. Oh, I ploughed through so many books. It was glorious.

Then I was away being support crew for Emma’s run, and that was Hectic with a capital H. In a good way, mind. But I didn’t get five minutes to myself, let alone time to write or do anything. Then I moved house.

I’ll be writing about it all, when I get a chance. I’ve got all the Tales from Lockdown – Revisited interviews to write up first – I’m hoping to start that next week. It’s the middle of Summer which means lots of plans and socialising and all that jazz so time can be a bit scarce.

So much has happened and I’ve not had much chance to make sense of it all, I’m just bouncing from one day to the next at the minute, but again, in a good way. I’m feeling energised and positive, and life feels good right now.

My 40th year – December (month #8)

I first met Vix when we ran around London together about 5 years or so ago, dressed as colours of a rubik’s cube completing random challenges. It was an odd, but hugely fun, way to meet and we’ve been connected on social media since then.

Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed following as she’s launched her embodied coaching business, and have found a lot of her content really resonates and intrigues. I’ve been keen to learn more about cyclic living and authentic relating, and so when I saw Vix offering some complimentary end-of-year coaching sessions, I jumped at the chance to learn a bit more and see if it’s something I’d want to pursue.

This year for me has been full of constraints and stress, but also a lot of ideas, thoughts and possibilities and no real plan or thoughts on what to do with any of them. Add to that the aim of getting back in tune with myself a bit better over this 40th-year, and I thought this’d be a perfect chance to dip my toe in, and see if it might help clear the noise, and potentially reduce the overwhelm.

The first thing I noticed is how calm and gentle Vix is, and how much she can pick up in such a small space of time. It’s wonderfully validating to have someone understand and acknowledge what you think you’re giving out.

We spent the time doing some embodied coaching exercises on 4 different approaches to the same question/scenario. I really enjoyed tuning into how I felt as we talked through each one, rather than using my brain to work through all the possible, logical options.

I felt energised, uncomfortable, excited, uptight, relieved, awkward, unsure, relaxed and clear, and it was wonderful to be more present and feel all that through my body.

Vix had a great way to bring me back to the point in question if I headed off on a tangent, and helped me hone in on some ideas and priorities.

I’m excited to take away a few things from today’s session to put into practice and see how I go, and will then decide how I progress from here and whether I commit to further coaching. It wasn’t a take-the-free-session-with-no-intention-of-doing-anything-else, as I know it’ll be beneficial, it’s more a question of timing and working out what I’d focus on to get the most out of it.

(You can check out Vix’s work at https://vixanderton.com/)

My 40th year – November (month #7)

These past few months have been pretty intense and my main focus has mainly been on just trying to keep afloat and keep a handle on everything that’s been going on. There’s been little time or energy for much else, but over the last month things feel like they’ve started to settle a little bit, and in November I returned to a book I’ve had for a while to continue reading.

Katie bought me The New Relationship Blueprint by Nancy Levin quite some time ago after I’d remarked to her I still wasn’t sure what relationships looked like for me. She thought it might help me work through some of my thoughts and help me understand what I want.

The first chapter starts with Nancy’s thoughts on wanting to be alone. “Truth be told, I believed I was 100 percent finished with romantic relationships. All I wanted was to be alone. Gloriously alone……Singlehood suited me. It was truly wonderful to have no one to answer to.”

I was hooked from the first paragraph; I could have written the words myself. I read on.

All of my emotional issues had just been lying in wait, and I realised I’d been isolating myself in part to avoid them.”

BAM. That hit me right in the feels. I resonated with that. Just before I met Pete, I was truly happy being alone, but I knew there was some work to do to understand what I wanted from a relationship because I knew, really, I also didn’t never want to have one again either. I knew there was probably a lot of unpacking of habits and hurt from my marriage that I hadn’t really spent any time dealing with. Pete came along and I surprised myself with how much I wanted him to stick around.

Each chapter has some exercises to work through to start to understand what relationship stories and views you have, and where they might have come from, and it starts by going right back to when you were a kid. It’s been interesting to reflect on some of my stories and beliefs and think about how they might have shaped the relationships I’ve had in my life.

I’m only on Chapter 3 because it’s a fair bit of work, and I need to be in the right head space to do it. This year feels like one continuous personal development journey, and it takes a fair amount of effort. I’m sick of it sometimes, and in my free time I often just want to switch off.

But it’s been useful, especially alongside my counselling sessions, to start to understand myself, my relationships and what I want, and to be able to talk to Pete about it all. He’s also doing his own understanding, and together we’re figuring out what it looks like for us.

4 years in Aotearoa New Zealand (and counting)

I got reminded of my kiwi-versary today, by the first friend I made when moving here. She must have noted it down at some point, because she congratulates me every year. It’s not a date I have in my own calendar, or really plan on marking, but when I think about it, it’s a pretty important one and I do like a bit of reminiscing and reflection. I’ve written about it last year, the year before, and the first year, and it’s been interesting to go back and read those posts. Each one feels like a different life and I’m amazed at how life, and I, changed each time in just 12 short months.

In my last post I talked about last year being a settling; into life and friendships, but more importantly, settling into myself. I sit here now and laugh, because not long after writing that, the opposite happened. What’s the opposite of settling? Unravelling? Yes, that’s probably a good way to describe the last year.

I’d figured out my purpose, and was happy to just let it happen, but gradually an urgency crept in. That figured-out-purpose told me what I wanted to do with my life, and the countdown to achieving New Zealand residency, where I’m not tied to a particular job and employer, was the point at which I could start living my life the way I wanted. A narrative in my head started whispering “you’re not living life the way you want”, like an insidious poison. I spent a lot of time internally battling to try and not become someone who was just clinging onto a false hope of everything being OK once a point in time was reached.

It became a desperation, especially when NZ Immigration changed the rules about how long things would take to process. All of a sudden I had to get another job, earning a certain amount of money, if I had any hope of getting my residency in the time frame I’d banked on. Otherwise, I’d be waiting another two years. Thankfully I managed it, and it was an incredible relief to also be able to get out of a stressful job that I’d stayed in about 6 months too long, but it was hard work. I wasn’t at my best. I was desperately burnt out, and started the new job with a fear of fucking it up and ruining everything.

Things were neglected in my relationship, because I was distracted and feeling so much pressure. I wasn’t being a good partner, and the one thing I needed – space – I didn’t know how to ask for. Pete needed support for some things he was going through, and also didn’t know how to ask, so we both just limped along, two people struggling and not leaning on each other. I did the only thing I thought best and ended the relationship, just to let some pressure off because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know whether it was the right thing to do or not, or whether it was what I really wanted, I just needed some things to stop.

I still find it incredibly difficult to have gone another year without being able to see people I love. I find it hard that I’ve not been able to share New Zealand and my life with people who might have come to visit. The aching realisation of how long it might be is overwhelming sometimes, and often I feel isolated and alone, despite everything and everyone here. I don’t want to spend another two or three years here if this is what the world is like now; I’m missing out on so much. It was never the plan.

So I unravelled and now I’m trying to put myself back together. Immigration have changed the rules again, a couple of weeks before I was due to submit my application. I should have had my residency nearly two months ago, now I’m facing an indeterminate timeframe. It could be months, maybe even a year or more. I just don’t know, and INZ aren’t giving any information. My life, the one I want, is still on hold. I was angry, now I’m just sad and disappointed.

Looking back, I can see how much pressure I put on myself without even realising it. Worrying about things that hadn’t happened yet, or worrying about how other people might view some of my decisions, and worrying that I was tying myself into things I didn’t want. How much fear I had (have) about not being able to stay in the place I’ve made my home, that someone could still take it all away. It’s hard to relax when it’s always there. It’s ironic also, that I still haven’t really made the choice of whether I actually want to live in New Zealand or not. To start, I viewed residency as some payback for giving up my life and the relationship not working out. At least I’d have something to show for it, and it wouldn’t have been a massive waste. I’ve not had chance to go back to the UK and see how I feel being back there yet.

I could sit here and write platitudes about growth, and learning, but no. Yes, that’s happened, and probably the most important in my life so far, and I’ve been unpicking and dealing with stuff I should have done ten years ago, but really, it’s just been fucking hard this year.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, although I realise that my usual positive and optimistic vibe is running low on batteries. I’ve laughed a lot, despite the stress. I have loved, and been loved, and it’s the most wonderful feeling. I’ve got through what I hope are the hardest times. I’ve revisited what’s important to me, practised patience and said no when I’ve needed to. Me and Pete are redrafting our relationship, to what we both want and need it to be. I’ve a lot more inner peace than I’ve ever had.

I don’t feel completely wiped out, clinging on by my fingernails like I did towards the end of last year, which, given 2021 has been dealing with the aftermath of 2021 with a load of new shit on top, is surprising. It seems my re-ravelling is partnered with resilience and energy, and I’ll take it.

Summer’s coming and I’m going to focus on the fun stuff for a bit. After all, it’s not like I can go anywhere else anyway 😉

Memories

I got round to watching a video tonight that Helen, my biking buddy, had sent me a while ago. It was a traveller’s documentary about Patagonia, that, after about 9 minutes in, showed their experiences hitchhiking the Carretera Austral.

Me and Helen biked this road back in early 2017, and I spent 20 minutes lost in the TV, being taken back to the endless rain, moody Chilean landscapes and dusty roads. Over two hours later and I’ve still got an longing in my whole being to be right back out there, on the open road living that simple life. Maybe not on that particular trip, where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, (so let’s leave that behind yeah?) but somewhere new, somewhere I’ve not yet explored (and somewhere without rain).

It’s hard to explain just exactly why. Is it the freedom? The simplicity? The sense of achievement? It’s all of those things, but oh so many more too. It’s the removal of the chatter. The losing of the stuff. The decluttering of the brain and the soul.

I remember being sat on the plane to Chile thinking about all the things I wanted to figure out while I was biking. I almost had a list. I was at a bit of a crossroads in life, I wanted to do something different but I didn’t know what, and thought this trip was the ideal time to do it. I’d be spending over a month on a bike with nothing else to do for hours a day, so of course I’d have so much time to organise and plan my future, right?

Wrong.

I don’t think I figured even half a thing out. Instead, my brain relaxed. I thought about how pretty the trees were. Or how clouds were marvellous because they came in all different shapes and sizes. I wondered about how people came to live in some of the most remote parts of the world. I felt calmed by turquoise water, and stared at how my legs and feet made shadows on the ground as I moved. I’d count the corrugations up to ten, then I’d start again, for absolutely no reason at all.

I felt like a kid again, with few responsibilities but endless possibilities.

It felt good.

I was just there, with nowhere else to be. No job to do, no career to decide on, no life to plan out, no expectations from anyone. Just me, Helen and the bikes. Cycling, eating and sleeping on repeat. New things to appreciate at every turn.

Happy days. Sigh.

My 40th Year – October (month #6)

Month 6 means it’s halfway through my 40th year and I’m sat thinking ‘what the fuck?’

It’s a cliche, but time really is flying. It’s nearly the end of October and I couldn’t even tell you what I’ve done these past few weeks. Blink and I’ve missed them.

Back on my birthday in April I promised myself over the year I’ll do one thing a month that will nurture and support me, and October’s was to take some time off and spend a bit of time alone. I LOVE hanging out by myself; I’m one of my favourite people to spend time with.

So I decided to take a couple of days annual leave to wrap around the Labour Day public holiday. I started my new job in April and this is the first time I’ve had any time off and holy shit was I ready for it. Learning a new job is hard, mentally exhausting and relentless, and I was in need of a few days where I didn’t have to think about anything, deal with anything or make any decisions.

I headed South and spent my first couple of days with Nic, one of the first people I met in New Zealand. It was so lovely to spend a good chunk of time together (we live hours from one another) and be looked after as one of the family, and what a treat to be able to follow on from that with some time to myself.

After I said goodbye I headed off in my van with no real plans apart from finding somewhere to sleep that night. I’m in my element when I have no real plans but to just do what I feel like when I feel like it. Oh, the freedom! I crave it constantly. I LOVE just being able to drive about, park up, sit and read a book or go for a walk, then find somewhere to climb in the back and go to sleep.

I’ve got a routine, I know what goes where and I relax into it. I’ll quite happily potter around, lost in my thoughts or in a good book and it does me the world of good.

This particular trip I slept incredibly well, felt rested and refreshed and enjoyed every second of it. I ran, walked, biked, ate, slept and read. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and didn’t particularly want to come home. I wasn’t ready. It made me realise just how much I needed (need) a break, but you know, life and all that.

I’m going to make sure I spend more time outside having fun and less time inside on admin and social media this summer. My priority is FUN for the next 6 months.

Talk it out

Over the last few weeks, after sharing how I’ve been feeling, I’ve had so many people get in touch. It’s been wonderful, but a little overwhelming. Most messages had something in common: “if you want to talk, you know where I am”, or “here if you need to talk”.

Ironically that’s something I don’t really want to do. I’m kind of talked out. I have a great counsellor who I see on a weekly basis where I talk. A LOT. About the deep stuff and all the stuff I need to. To someone unbiased, who doesn’t know me, the situations or anyone I talk about. Someone who can offer insights and help, and it’s SO helpful.

I also talk a lot at work; I have so many meetings. It’s tiring. Sometimes I just run out of words after a busy day. I’m finding I’m needing more time alone to recharge than ever before.

I’ve found to be asked “how can I support or help you?” is so much more helpful for me. I’m getting better at figuring out what I need, and how to ask for it, so this question forces me to vocalise it.

Sometimes, my answer is “just you checking in every now and then to see how I am really helps, as I know you’re thinking of me” or “send me a funny meme or a joke”. Other times it might be “can we go for a walk or a run?” or “can we just hang out and watch a movie?”.

So I can be with people, but not necessarily having to talk. Or doing a shared activity. Or talk about normal stuff and not the hard stuff. To feel connected.

Because I live by myself, when I do hang out with folks it’s often ‘catching up’ or doing something – I don’t get to just be with people all that often, you know like, just sitting in the same room but doing our own thing. I actually really miss that. Want to come round my flat to sit on my sofa and read your book while I write or piss around on the internet? PLEASE DO.

Sometimes I want my answer to be “can you do my washing up because I’m too exhausted, or get me food because it’s too hard to think about what to cook” but I’d not actually ask anyone that, because it seems cheeky as fuck. Yet if someone asked me, I’d do it without question. Go figure.

It’s hard with people overseas too. It’s so limited. They can’t pop round for a cup of tea, or come for a run. Everyone’s got zoom fatigue and video calls can become progress updates. I need to be creative and think outside the box I guess.

It’s still a work in progress knowing when, how and who to ask for support and help, and say what I need (because, I CAN DO IT ALL MYSELF THANKS), but I want to try and normalise it. Perhaps people need something different than just ‘let’s talk’, and being specific means the person offering support knows whether they can provide it or not.

If in doubt, send me pictures and videos of cats ❤

Time to do shit

I’ve spent too long recently thinking about all the things I can’t do, and it doesn’t look like some of my circumstances might change anytime soon (residency-visa-COVID-blah), so I’ve decided it’s now time to think about the things that I can. I’ve got to, I’ll go mad otherwise.

Although I have lots of ideas about what I actually want my life in Aotearoa New Zealand to look like, free from the restrictions of a visa, I can’t do some of them yet until I have my residency. I can at least start to think about it though. I’d put off doing anything just in case, as well as feeling so bloody burnt out I didn’t have the energy or the inclination.

Sadly me and The Poet aren’t together any more, and we’ve both been working through that, trying to make sense of it, feeling all the feelings. I’ve spent the last wee while just having some downtime and looking after myself, and I’m starting to feel a bit better.

Right now I’m feeling in take-charge mode, ready to get some shit done and figure out this thing called life, even in this annoying limbo period. I’m an action-person; I can’t stay static for long.

First thing is to commit to another writing series. I’ve been thinking about a follow up to Tales from Lockdown – interviewing a few people from back then and asking how the last 18 months has changed their life, or what they’ve learnt.

What do you reckon? Would you read it? Who in particular would you want to read about again?

Or do you fancy something completely different?

Let me know, I’m all ears!

Post-meltdown musings

It’s been a month since I had a bit of a meltdown. I wrote a post a week afterwards, but I never published it. At that time I was feeling vulnerable, emotional, and tired and so instead chose to retreat and look after myself by indulging in some TLC and time out. I’m sharing it now (below), because it’s part of the story.

***

For some reason, saying meltdown rather than breakdown feels better. Less drastic, less impactive, less serious. 

I question why I want this change of term. I guess I feel a little foolish. It all seems a bit dramatic now, now that time and space have settled a bit. It seems like a bad dream, something that maybe didn’t happen, and perhaps I can pretend I imagined it. 

But I know I’m only kidding myself.

Still being in lockdown means I’m living in a kind of suspended-reality, which has been quite welcome after last weekend. All I really have to do each day is work, eat, exercise and sleep. I have the same routine, day in, day out. Normally this would drive me crazy, but right now it’s very welcome. I don’t have to make any decisions or put any thought or effort in. Which is how I know I’m kidding myself. This isn’t like me. 

I just know that right now, I’m not wanting to add anything extra to my headspace because I just can’t deal with it. I won’t be able to give it the attention it needs, or think logically or rationally. It’s not a case of if I pretend hard enough, or ignore it, I don’t have to deal with it. No, I just need some time out. Really, I know I could do with a few months off, but that’s not an option right now.

Instead, I’m going to enjoy the ‘freedom’ that the lockdown has brought – the freedom from having to think about anything outside of this very moment right here, right now.

I’ve had lots of people get in touch, which has been really nice. I’ve felt quite alone the past few weeks, and it’s easily done when life and a pandemic gets in the way for everyone, as well as living the other side of the world to a lot of my people. Social media sometimes takes the place of getting in touch personally, but then we all assume the other people are following so they know how we are. It’s not the case. How well do you know how people are really doing?

I had someone tell me they were shocked that I was feeling like this, because I’m the ‘brave, strong, inspirational friend’. 

But I’m human. Oh so very human.

There’s a saying “just because you carry it well, doesn’t mean it’s not heavy”.

***

I’m pretty good at knowing what I need, but I’m less good at asking for it from other people. That’s a work in progress. Thanks to everyone who’s reached out, it means a lot. ❤