And lo, it was a beautiful month of no work and very little responsibility, but my time as a housewife finally came to an end. Woe is me.
I wish it could have lasted longer, but them’s the bricks sometimes. And having any time off at all is nothing to piss and moan about. And I can’t adequately put into words how close I was to losing every ounce of my rapidly fraying shit, so I’m so thankful I got the break I did, and that I was able to find something new pretty quick.
And last Monday, I started a new gig. And last Sunday night, I wrote in my journal a list of habits I started during my time off that I was going to keep up now that I was working again – because I felt really positive and charged after my mental health break, and even though I was nervous about starting a new job, I felt good about keeping up this Awesome Person I was tricking myself into being.
What I had planned to keep going: 20 minutes of free writing every day, hand journaling at the end of every night, 2 blogs, go to a new writer’s group, read my book on the way to work, keep the apartment clean, and no watching trash tv.
What actually happened: radio silence. No writing, no journaling, no blogs, blew off writer’s group and felt insanely guilty, read Facebook on the way to work, destroying every square surface of the apartment and blanketing the bedroom floor with all the shoes and all the clothes both clean and dirty, watching all the trash TV and crying at everything.
Alright, so I might not have been as productive as I thought I would be. I might have come home almost every night and taken a nap before getting out of my work clothes. And I might have woken up early to watch TV and convince myself to get dressed. And I might have come home one day in tears wondering if I’d made a horrible mistake and if I’d ever be happy again. And I might have had bad dreams and terrible sleep nearly every single night. And I might have left a bag full of sensitive information and my passport ON THE BUS and it might be lost forever, and I might have thrown an internal tantrum and watched Bojack the Horseman all night in silence while wrapped in a blanket. These things might have happened.
SO YEAH. I’m doing really well. That whole “I expect too much of myself and I should give myself reasonable goals” wave of clarity I had receded waaaay far back into the horizon, and I’m giving myself a fat face palm.
To my credit though, I did manage to shower almost every day. AND today I forced myself out of the house and out to a cafe where I did write the intro to the story I’m starting (without the help of my notes, which were written down in the awesome Action Book that was also in the bag of shit I left on the bus. UGH) – which is something I didn’t see coming, and something that gives me hope for the coming week. And I managed to deep clean the apartment while running in and out a PMS fueled festival of hormones and terror (and baked cookies – yum)
SO YEAH – bring it on this week. I have cookies and ice cream and an urge to write.
**ps. Bojack Horseman is the best show I’ve seen since Arrested Development. It’s goddamn brilliant.
I hit one of those “I’m a Grownup” goal posts this week that I didn’t know existed and thus took me completely by surprise: my pancakes taste better than restaurant pancakes.
A little back story: last Saturday night, I had a craving for buttery syrup covered pancakes, crispy break like glass in your mouth American style bacon, and extra crispy outside soft on the inside salty hash brown patties. It was one of those “wow if I don’t get this exact meal right now I am going to burn this place to the ground” cravings. However, being that it was 8:30 PM and I had just eaten dinner, 3 cookies, a bowl of cereal, and was working my way through a chai tea made entirely with hot milk, I wasn’t about to walk out to the store to gather ingredients. And by that I mean I couldn’t convince Joel that this was an emergency and he needed to go out and get bacon and hash browns for me. Butthole. So I vowed to wake up on Sunday morning and have my pancake brunch.
I woke up with determination, even though it was raining. I knew where I wanted to go, and I had cash burning in my pocket, and it wasn’t until I was half way out the door that I realised the place I wanted to go to was closed on Sundays. On Sundays! The high holy day of Brunch. The brunchiest of Brunch days. No big loss, I thought, since we live in a super hip gentrified neighbourhood and you basically can’t spit without passing hitting a cafe.
But, spit all I want (which I don’t, that’s gross), I walked around for half an hour and couldn’t find a single place that sold pancakes. Womp womp. So I cut my loss and headed back to the grocery store to buy bacon* and frozen hash browns, and just make the pancakes myself from scratch. I also passed a stand selling brownie-cookie sandwiches and I bought three for Joel and I to sample. Whoooops. I was too stuffed on cookies to make the pancakes that day, but Monday was a pancake dream come true. And with crispy American style bacon and the dream hash browns. It was worth the sodium/diabetic coma I fell into and couldn’t pull myself out of.
A few days later, Joel and I met a couple of friends for breakfast, at the afore mentioned inexplicably closed on Sundays cafe. I ordered the pancakes, which came with a side of home made mascarpone. I was really excited to get the professional pancakes, after eating my home made ones for most of the week (it’s been a fat week). And as the plate was put in front of me, they couldn’t have looked more beautiful: perfectly round, golden, full and even, lightly dusted with powered sugar… delish.
But as I dove in, something just wasn’t right. They were a bit dry. And the edges weren’t crispy. And I made it 2/3 of the way through the stack and still wasn’t feeling that pancake joy. And it hit me: my pancakes are better.
I patted myself on the back, because this is honestly the first time I’ve ever felt something I made at home was better than something I ordered in a restaurant. And the next morning, I made pancakes again. They’re rarely perfect circles, or even, but they’re amazing. They’re soft and rich on the inside, crispy on the outside. They’re rich enough to make you feel sick if you eat a giant plate of them, but tantalizing enough to make you never stop eating. And I sat there eating with a smug smile of satisfaction on my face, feeling like I achieved something in this world.
Don’t fuck with my pancakes, guys – they’re awesome.
Audrey’s “Better Than Restaurant Pancakes” Pancakes
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp white sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter milk (look, you can use 1 1/4 cup of any milk you want, but this combo is perf)
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)
In a large bowl, sift together all dry ingredients.
Make a well in the center of the bowl, and add wet ingredients
Whisk together until the batter is smooth
In a skillet on medium high heat, melt a bit of butter to coat the pan
Once the skillet is hot, scoop the batter out into the pan using a 1/4 cup as a scoop. I like to make small pancakes – tiny pancakes make me feel better about eating 6 at a time. But you can easily make giant ones using a 1 cup scoop.
Fry the pancake until you start to see slight bubbling around the edges or on top of the pancake, taking care not to burn. With small pancakes, this typically takes around 3-4 minutes. Flip to the other side and fry until cooked.
Serve with butter and syrup. Or whatever your heart desires – I’m not here to judge, only to guide.
Excess batter can be stored in an air tight container for like, a week probably. Not that it ever lasts that long.
I want to chop up strawberries into the batter to make strawberry vanilla pancakes and serve it with whipped cream. Or experiment with using cake flour instead of All Purpose. What do you think? Share any pancake thoughts that make you feel smug. THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS YOU GUYS.
*I all but stopped craving bacon here because it’s just not the same. But, I found out that if I fry Australian bacon in olive oil, it gets super crispy. It takes me back home in a weird, wonderful, beautifully American way.
To-do lists? Fuck yeah. I love making a to-do list and scratching off items. It’s fantastic because I get to be all YES I AM THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PERSON EVER and it makes me feel like I’ve made the most of my day and consequently, my life.
But when I haven’t finished everything on my to-do list because I got distracted Googling Jenelle Evan’s latest pregnancy (confirmed via police report!) or by something else equally important I feel twice as worse, 1) because I didn’t finish the list and 2) because I didn’t make the most out of my rapidly slipping time.
Making the most of my time. Time. You bitch goddess. When I’m sitting at my desk trying to make it through a day so painfully bad that I’d skin puppies alive just to go home, the clock almost moves backwards. When I’m at home and it’s raining and we’re just lounging and having a good time, it’s goes from 11 AM to 8 PM in the blink of an eye. The relativity kills me, because I’m obsessed with the idea of making the most of my time, trying to live each day to its fullest, trying to live each day in a way I would be proud to look back on.
Notice how I said “obsessed with the idea of” because I definitely don’t practice it. Well, I mean, I don’t practice it in the way that would typically mean “living life to its fullest.” I’m not out sky diving or skinny dipping in shark nets or travelling the world or exploring every knook and cranny of my new country. I’m sitting on the couch with Joel eating an amazing dinner and watching a great movie. I’m hitting publish on a blog I’m particularly proud of. I’m thinking of projects I would love to do one day. I’m making crafts or plotting re-decorating strategies. I’m meeting friends for dinner and then coming home at 11 PM to sweat pants and bad TV. I’m obsessively cleaning or re-arranging. I’m looking up animal videos and comics on the internet. It’s not sexy and it’s not glamorous, and most of the time doesn’t even add up to good blog material, but it makes me happy.
But it’s this constant battle of “I’m totally happy – but since I’m not doing more, I don’t feel like I should be happy.” Because regardless of how you define living life to its fullest, happiness is the end goal. Yep, I’m a pretty lame home body who enjoys an occasional adventure or weekend night of too many glasses of wine. I want to do that stuff and I want to write. That’s basically all I want to do, what makes me happy. If, at the end of the day, I can say I accomplished something, I feel like I’ve made good use of my time. And when I can look back and I don’t hate myself, I feel like I’m making good use of my time, and living life to its fullest. Double whammy.
That being said, I’m on the fence of how efficiently I’ve spent my time off. I made the mistake of falling off the deep end with my goals and decided I would read 3 books and write 2 stories and 14 blogs and attend 5 meet up events, keep the damned table cleaned off every single day, completely rid myself of every bad habit ever and get myself on a schedule that includes daily writing, posting, and washing my face 2x a day, deep clean every square inch of our apartment, make a quilt, and catch up on seasons 5 and 6 of Downtown Abbey.
While I didn’t completely rid myself of every bad habit ever, I did wake up at 7 AM almost every day. And I didn’t get myself on a schedule, but I found work, read most of a book, started free writing again, stayed on top of the laundry and dishes, found a writing group and a book chat club, had two hair appointments, re-organised my closet and our desk, had phone chats and skypes with my nearest and dearest, made an earrings board, did lots of grocery shopping, made lots of meals, deconstructed a dress for it’s fabric, and I’ve taken like 5 bubble baths.
But because those few boxes are left unchecked, I feel like this has been a wasted opportunity. Forget that I actually decompressed and had a lot of “ah-ha!” moments and some hard talks with myself and some good journaling time and got lots of inspiration and the re-charge that I desperately needed, because I didn’t come out of this holiday a well-read, published author with 100 adventures documented and a finished quilt and a completely clean house, I feel like a failure.
You know what though, fuck it. I started writing this entry yesterday, and today, I don’t feel like a failure. I take it all back. This has been a great, much needed resting period. I’ve gotten a lot of my shit together. I may not have accomplished as much as I expected, I did accomplish. And I don’t hate myself over it. Just because I didn’t do everything doesn’t mean I won’t ever have the chance to do it another time. The hardest part of getting out of this depressive stint is not beating the shit out of myself when I don’t perform as well as I want to, as well as I expect myself to. I really wish there was a way to pause my notion of “expectations” until I feel like I’m capable of meeting them, but them’s the bricks. And in the mean time, I’ll just have to try and manage those expectations as well as I can.
And we get to have burgers and ribs for dinner last night because Joel is awesome.
And as of this morning, I finished that book I thought I would have finished last week. Sheeeeit. Time well spent.
In the mess that has been my life these past few months, I’ve really needed a hair cut. Like, really needed one. Physically and emotionally. I mean, I’ve been in a dark, depressed place, but my hair has felt 10x worse.
I love going to the salon. My mom says she took me to get my hair cut by a professional when I was about 7, and she was never able to cut my hair at home after. I looked forward to getting my hair cut the way most kids look forward to Christmas. And I’ve changed colours and styles at least 3x a year since I turned 17 and got bleached out streaks for the first time. My mom had told me I couldn’t do anything permanent to my hair until I turned 18, but I was 3 weeks away from turning 18 and on a vacation with my friends, so I did the most rebellious thing I could think of (and my mom only spent one week not talking to me as a result)
So to go 18 months without stepping foot in a salon, and not thinking about hair dye since October was very strange for me. I had a multi-coloured, grey speckled, shaggy mess, mostly because I couldn’t get the energy, time, or shekels together to get something done. But, I decided last week that my new chapter needs new hair. But I didn’t know where to go.
Trying to find a stylist always fills me with anxiety. When I was in the States, I had a girl named Katelyn who could read my mind when it came to my hair, and talk all things Teen Mom with me. I met her soon after I moved out my ex’s place and back in with my parents. She was a tiny, perky ex-cheerleader with a love for make up and leopard print, and we bonded instantly. Over the next two years we saw each other through battles with depression, moving, relationships, and finally finding our soul mates. Countless highlights, 2 ombres, bangs, growing out my bangs, lobs, trims, brunette, auburn, blonde, and the absolute best red with blonde highlights I’ve ever had, Katelyn is a badass.
When I moved, I knew I was leaving behind my safety blanket – my hair girl. But since I was moving to a city, I thought finding an awesome salon would be a piece of cake. However, the first person who cut my hair in Sydney cut it two inches too short, and traumatised me. Plus that salon was in North Sydney and I didn’t want to take the train. So I Googled salons near me, and I found a place right down the road from me that had over 30 five-star reviews (Stanley & C0). Mostly I was excited that it was a two minute walk away and had a legit website. I made an appointment and spent the next few days worrying.
I make no bones about how vain and shallow I am – not only do I have a blog about me, I take an inappropriate amount of selfies, and I can’t pass a reflective surface without checking myself out. It’s just who I am (#leo). And I think the too-short, too-dark hair cut I got last May really threw me out of whack and probably contributed more to my year of discontent than I actually acknowledge. So I was incredibly nervous.
But all’s well that ends well, and I really lucked out. The colourist I worked with was hilarious and super cool, and the owner who cut my hair was ridiculously detail oriented. I felt like I was getting my hair cut by a surgeon. It’s turned out to be one of the best hair cuts I’ve ever had, as it basically styles itself. And it looks good straight or “I haven’t brushed it in three days” (which is my entire hair styling skill spectrum).
There was a mis-communication about the colouring, and by Monday I realised I didn’t exactly get what I wanted. I wrestled for a while about whether I should call and ask for a re-do, because it felt like sending food back – when you send food back, you don’t order anything else because it’s guaranteed to have spit in it. I didn’t want anyone to spit in my hair. I even considered just saying Fuck It and going some place else. But, I remembered that New Me is honest and stands up for herself, so I called and politely asked for another appointment.
It took a week to get back in there, and even though the owner was understanding and cool, it was still a week of omg they hate me they will make my hair even worse because I complained and I’ll still have to pay for it all over again and I’ll hate myself and shame eat an entire pizza by myself while watching Dance Moms.
Buuuuut, once again, all’s well that ends well. I worked with the same colourist, and everyone was just as nice and awesome as they were the first time I came in. My colour came out exactly as I wanted it, and they did it for free.
I was pretty jazzed about the whole thing.
I love it. I feel like I’m a new person. I can’t remember the pretentious kale muncher who wrote that article I read when I was 22 about hair holding in bad energy, but I actually buy into it. It feels like I cut off all the old, bad hair and all the bad memories of the last year or so. I looked in the mirror after the stylist was done and I wanted to cry. I think it all comes back to feeling like yourself, and my hair feels like me again. I’ve spent so long not feeling like myself, and trying to be someone I’m not. It’s taken a verrrry long time and a year of stalled out confusion, but I’m really starting to understand what I really want and need from myself. With a new hair cut and a major closet overhaul (coming soon to a blog near you) Vain and Shallow Audrey is appeased. Now I’m ready to do this.
Also my greys are mixed in with blonde so “you can’t make an educated guess about my age.” which is pretty good. Also also, I found a salon that feels like home (I gave bear hugs to the girls and was near tears when I left). I had such a happy and positive experience, and that in itself was worth every penny.
2003: I was 18. I was a seasoned mallrat, and I had a circuit of all my favourite haunts. But this day, I was with my sister when we spotted a new store – H+M. It was so white – white tiles, white walls, bright lighting, soft music, no posters and adverts – absolutely nothing flashy. It stood in direct defiance to the darkly painted, heavily decorated, loud and colourful sale posters, and blaring music of the stores around it. In fact – it looked like a cheap department store. Except for the clothes – which when compared to my wardrobe of Deliah’s, Pacific Sunwear, and Forever21, were basically the coolest clothes I had ever seen. AND they were cheap – $14.99 for a hoodie, not $39.99? Retro designed tops with vintage reprinted fabric for $18.99? Dresses for $24? WHERE AM I?
There were clothes everywhere in the shop – all over the walls, on racks all over the floor, just everywhere – all arranged by colour. It was overwhelming and so exciting all at the same time. I’m pretty sure it took me close to two hours to make it all the way through the shop, and I left from that first trip with about $150 worth of clothes. And lo, I had a new favourite place to shop.
2004: I was 19, and I applied for my first credit card – in an attempt to start building my credit history. I was an unemployed college student and I received a brand spankin’ new platinum Master Card with a $3,000 limit.
“I will spend a little bit, once a month, and immediately pay it off. Otherwise, this is for emergencies only.”
Also known as, my most infamous last words.
Over the next three years, my depression spiked, and coincidentally, so did my shopping habits. And H+M became my go-to place of solace. Since what little paycheck I had went to school, my car, going to the movies, and travel expenses, I rarely had money for spending on myself. So I used my credit card. I mean, why pay for something immediately when I can pay for it over the course of 6 years – with exorbitantly high interest rates? And yes, I could make “He didn’t call me tonight – he never calls me so I shouldn’t be surprised but I’m still disappointed” into a use the credit card emergency.
My closet (and dresser, and floor), were littered with H+M goods – most of them with the tags still attached. It got to the point where my friends stopped going in with me, because they didn’t want to support my “problem.” I knew I wasn’t making the best choices, and that I didn’t need that many clothes, and that I wasn’t even wearing half of them, and that I wouldn’t get around to returning them, and that I was sublimating my depression for shopping, but damn I had some cool clothes and that’s really all that mattered – right?
2006: I was 21, and I was on the phone with someone from my credit card company. I was getting the news that I ran my credit card up and over it’s limit – and that I now owed a $667.86 payment in order to bring it back to order. My final balance was $10,667.86. Just on that card. I had 2 others that added up to about $1,200.00. Nearly $11k in credit card debt. I hung up my phone and crawled into fetal position, where I stayed for the next 10 years.
It took about 4 years for me to pay all the cards off. And another 3ish years to pay off my emergency card when I ran THAT one up again. And again.
Somewhere in that time, I revoked ALL my H+M privileges. I knew what I was – an addict. As an alcoholic can’t be around booze, and opiate addicts have to take Tylenol when they break a bone, I can’t walk into an H+M without wanting, needing, to buy everything. It was a crazy, gnawing, almost physically painful obsessive feeling, this need to purchase something and take it home with me. So I just cut it out of my life – cold turkey.
I had 3 years of H+M sobriety, and I felt really good about it. I could walk past an H+M without immediately diving in. If I did go inside, I browsed through the racks without the obsessive feelings, and I tried things on and didn’tbuy them. But if I did buy something, it was something I needed, and I never put it on my credit card. If there was a chip for H+M Sobriety, I would totally have it.
Today though – today was a different story. I was out with Joel’s mum for a girl’s afternoon, and I finally got the chance to wander around the new 3 story H+M at the Pitt Street Mall. She mentioned that she wanted to buy me a couple of things for my birthday since we were here, and she was going to get me a voucher anyway. And I instantly thought I CAN BUY STUFF HERE.
I had the urge to GET IT ALL, I NEED IT, JUST LOAD IT INTO MY BAGS. After 2 hours, I had at least 40 items to try on, delirious with the end of year sale items and all mustard gold coloured things and all the $15 high-waisted super stretch pants (omg did I really just put that on the internet). In my delirium, everything fit like a dream and I saw infinite outfit combinations with everything I already owned and oh I can patch that up and I can lose some weight to fit into this dress better. All I needed was a bubble bath full of foam and I would have reached Alex at the end of A Clockwork Orange levels of euphoria.
I was plotting ways to afford my bounty when caught myself thinking “Well, I could just put it on my credit card and pay it off slow–” and that’s when I crashed. I looked around and just felt ashamed. Yes, I need some professional clothes that fit, but I didn’t need all of this. And I sure as hell didn’t need to put it ANY of it on my credit card. Sadly, the delirium cleared. I had a stack of clothes that wouldn’t match anything I already owned – besides jeans. I had colours that I never wear once I buy them. And when have I ever lost weight just to fit into a dress I bought 2 sizes too small because it was the only size available? And these pants definitely give me camel toe. The dream burst, and the hangover was intense. I cherry picked the best items, what would fit in with the clothes I already had, what I could see myself wearing in the future, and most importantly – what I could afford. I did buy a $7 dress that was way too short for me JUST because, but everything else was amazingly practical.
My heart was breaking as I stood in line to pay for my stuff, and I could hear myself saying “go get those flannel button downs!! You can afford it! This time you won’t throw them out at the beginning of summer!” All the lingering “what if’s” and “but only’s” were painful. We left the store with my bag, and I realised that was my very last H+M trip. I can’t go back.
It goes to show – an addict can’t do a little bit of heroin. And I can’t do a little bit of H+M.
Next on the goal block: STOP BUYING ALL THE CLOTHES.
This time off – how can I say it… was ab-so-fucking-lutely needed. These past few months I’ve been a bit tightly wound – like, tight enough to turn coal into diamonds – so having some time with no obligations has been glorious.
After my last day on Monday, I thought I’d feel more detached. But I felt like I was forgetting something, doing something wrong, moving back and forth trying to dodge an arrow but I wasn’t sure what direction it was coming from. It still felt like I was going to wake up and go to work in the morning, because I had to go in and get my personal stuff that I left (we went out on Friday, and on Monday I was at our warehouse, so I had to go back on Tuesday). I left the office with my bag and thought “there’s still so much for me to do.” and I was antsy about it all the way home. Later that night though, as I was in the middle of deep cleaning the apartment, I realised that I’m done. That I did all I could and now I’m done.
It took about three more days to stop jumping at every notification on my phone, and I’ve had some good news about new work that’s eased the “oh shit what do I do about money” panic, and now that a week has passed, I feel like I’ve finally decompressed. The house is clean, our bills are paid, the laundry is (almost) done, I’ve made (and subsequently eaten) a batch of awesome cookies, I’ve read half a book, got my hair cut, cleaned up the blog a bit, and tried to be a better functioning version of myself. I’d give myself a 80% success rate.
I do feel like I’ve finally exhaled. I didn’t realise how much I’d been holding my breath until I felt comfortable enough to let it all go. I’m still processing all that’s happened this year. I went to a pretty shitty place and I never want it to get that bad again – where I’m too scared to move, too scared to talk.
It’s easy to feel ok right now because I’m on holiday. I’m eating grapes and typing and listening to the hum of our washing machine. The most pressing question of my day is when I’ll take a shower. So I want to spend some time figuring out exactly what went wrong, and when it started to go downhill, so I can make sure it doesn’t go that far again.
Independence Day feels strange when you’re living in a country still tethered to the government your fore-fathers pulled the ultimate teenage angst card against. But everyone was super polite to me and wished me a Happy 4th of July and asked me what type of meat I was eating in celebration.
I celebrated by omitting the extra “u” in my emails, and replacing the “s” with “z” like a real patriot – because that’s the freedom that my afore mentioned fore-fathers truely fought for.
This year’s Independence Day was a tad more symbolic than usual, as I also celebrated by leaving my job. I came to the decision after a lot (like, a lot a lot) of consideration and thinking and planning and exhausting every option I could to make things better. But after some difficult months, and with the insights of therapy, it was apparent that I needed to make a change. I can’t keep living in a bubble of anxiety, torn between what I feel I should be doing, and what I need to be doing. It’s hard not to feel like I failed, since it was a glam job with a cool title, but I’m just reminding myself that it’s better to pull the rip cord than to crash into the ground.
So I’m taking some time to get my shit together, re-focus, and figure out how to do what I really want to do – write, entertain, and make a difference in people’s lives. Helping and entertaining people make me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. Whenever I get a comment from a stranger that my blog made them laugh, or when someone says they like my work, it makes my life. I want to do that, all the time. I want to make that connection and give people a bit of respite from the daily grind. I know what it’s like, to read something that just makes me feel better, makes me want to hug the author, and I want to inspire that kind of feel goodery. I would say “I just want to touch people” but that probably puts me on some kind of FBI watch list*.
And so, I’m making my 816th pledge to get my shit together and work toward my actual life goal: writing. With every year that passes with excuse after excuse after excuse for not working toward my dream, I hate myself a little more. And I’m sick of the same old hating myself shtick. I want to find that writing inspiration I had back in January and then again in April and find a way to make it last.