Sooooo – how about September, huh? It’s like the whole month happened, and I slept through most of it. Today is the end of the month, and since it’s been a bit quiet around this corner of the internet, I thought I’d write a little catch up post. Mostly so I can figure out where the hell the time went. Continue reading “Catchup.com – September”
Do you ever have those moments where you’re all, I’ve been here before? Continue reading “Flashbacks”
March has kicked off on a good note. Continue reading “Feels good, man.”
On New Year’s Eve, our group started talking about resolutions. My friend Michael asked me about mine. I proudly said, “I resolve not to have any resolutions.” to which he said, “but that is a resolution.” and I was all “Well, shit.”
As I’ve said before, me making a list of resolutions is like me making a list of things I’ll only get worse at/not do. But this doesn’t stop me from thinking about them. And they’re always the same goals/desires:
- spend more time pursuing dreams, less time worrying about day job
- eat better so my arteries won’t crap out by the time I’m 50
- move more so I don’t go into cardiac arrest when I’m climbing stairs; also so pants will stop not fitting
- take better care of my skin so I won’t look like I’m still in puberty
- read more so I don’t rot my brain
- do more so I don’t one day die with regrets (spoiler alert: likely to happen no matter what I do)
- make a billion dollars so I can stay home and not have to worry about putting on real pants
2016 was, for the most part, an extremely hard year. Going into January, I was super confident. I thought, “this is going to be a good year. I have my new, awesome job where I get to contribute creatively and work with great people, my hair is growing out (this is important), my office is organised, I have a writing plan, and everything will be gravy. I’m happy, I’m content, and I feel like I’m on the right track.”
And then, it hit me. I woke up on the last day of my Christmas holiday with an unshakable sense of impending doom. And on January 4 I woke up in an anxiety attack that didn’t dissolve for almost a week. So I went back to the doctor for a benzo script, after close to two years of not needing xanax. And that sucked.
I thought I was just anxious because we had a big month at work coming up – there was a lot at stake, so I was nervous/excited to be a part of it. But January blurred into February and February blurred into March. March blurred into April. April into May. It never got easier. I wasn’t sleeping without having nightmares. I dreaded every single day. And at some point I came to and realised that all my savings had been burned through, the apartment was constantly a mess, our bills were late, and I found myself paralysed without my phone, jumping at every notification as if someone’s life depended on it. It was easier to count the days that didn’t end in some form of panic. Every weekend included some sort of sobbing breakdown, either to Joel or to my Mom or in text messages to my friends. I just couldn’t control myself.
It was hard to admit to myself that I was back in a shit place. I spent so much of 2015 in denial that I was so homesick it spun me into depression, and there I was, robbed of 6 months because I refused to admit defeat. I mean, I knew I was good at standing in my own way, but it turns out I’m really good at putting myself in harm’s way to prove a point to no one.
After I quit my job and took some time off, I realised my two rough patches were the result of me pushing myself for a career that I knew I wasn’t suited for, but that I felt I needed to be suited for, and thusly wouldn’t let myself quit. I realised I have to listen to my own red flags – it doesn’t matter how cool your job is, how awesome the people you work with are, if the stress makes you go back on medication and back into therapy, it’s not a good fit.
So this year, I would like to focus on one things only:
do not be a passive aggressive asshole to self
And really, that’s it. I don’t think of this as a resolution, because it’s not like losing 20lbs or drinking less alcohol. It’s the “be kind to yourself” bullshit that’s not actually bullshit but a really important life skill.
Naturally, I want to develop better habits and achieve things, too. But I’m not going to make a giant posted list, because I’ll feel like I have to achieve them all RIGHT NOW or I’ll be a failure. So I’m going to take it one step at a time and you know – not be an asshole to myself about it. I need to get myself to a place of stability and consistency before I can stack myself full of expectations and plans.
I’m taking this year one month at a time. For January, my goal was to find a more interactive writer’s group and a class of some sort. I got the Master Class for Christmas and I’ve already started it, so now all I need to do is find an additional group to join. I don’t know what my goal is for February, because I haven’t gotten there yet. That’s February’s problem.
See? I’m already applying my resolution. (ha)
ALL THAT BEING SAID – here are things that Joel and I plan to make happen and that I’m REALLY EXCITED ABOUT for 2017:
- ADOPTING A DOG
- Taking driver’s safety course and getting more experience on the road so that we can
- Go on non-staycation holiday! (although Joel and I had 4 uninterrupted days together for the first time in 2 years and it was fabulous. I’d rather have the time in the Blue Mountains or on a beach somewhere tho)
- ADOPTING A DOG
- Upgrading to a queen size bed
- ADOPTING A DOG
- Becoming an Australian resident and finally putting all the visa jibba jabba behind us (fingers crossed this happens around July)
- ADOPTING A DOG
- Investing more time in myself
- ADOPTING A DOG (my biological clock is barking)
- make a billion dollars so I can stay home and not have to worry about putting on real pants
I mean, not having to put real pants on every day is the dream.
Set the bar high, folks. And be nice to yourself.
After 2ish years of avoiding the Australian equivalent of the DMV, I finally got my Australian Driver’s license.
I’m not sure why I put it off for so long – maybe I was equal parts scared of waiting in line forever at the Service Centre, taking a right handed drive driver’s test, and maybe it was all just WHAT IF A HUNTSMAN GETS IN MY CAR?! (this happened to me with spiders in the States a few times, it’ll sure as shit happen here. Just much bigger.) Also we have public transport and I’ve really been enjoying not having a car payment or related wallet-crushing expenses.
But the wheels went in motion the other night as Joel and I were having our 500th conversation about when we should get a dog. And he might have said “We can get a dog when you get your license, because we’ll need a car to take him places.” And I might have had my application filled out and ready to go the next day.
And today, we got an unexpected early release from work, so I found the Service Centre that’s about 6 minutes away from our place and walked on over. I waited about 5 minutes, showed a few documents and my application, took a 10 second eye test, took yet another ID photo where I look like a meth-faced criminal who can’t decide which gender he identifies with (seriously, I look like a man in all but 2 of my ID photos. Thanks for the strong genes, Dad.), and $56 and 10 minutes later I was out the door, with my unrestricted license (albeit temporary) in hand.
That’s it? That’s it. No road test, no knowledge test – nothing. I have never driven in the right side driver’s seat and I haven’t even sat behind the wheel of a car in over 2 years. Don’t they know I’m American? And that I learned to drive in Maryland, home of nationally renowned terrible drivers? So this will surely be exciting. And now that I have my license, Joel can finish is permit (#citykids). So, double exciting.
I can’t wait for more road trip adventures and not waiting for the bust to take us to the beach and most importantly – GETTING A DOG PAL! Well, one day.
Summer goals: 1 down, 100 to go!
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.
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.
It’s going to happen. This time, I feel it.
Last week, I set out to make cookies. And by set out, I mean I had a sudden attack of restlessness and felt an obsessive need to make something – anything – just as long as it involved measuring and baking. I landed on cookies because they’re the easiest thing to make when I’m scattered and NEED TO DO SOMETHING. Thus, I set out to make easy, no fail, made them 500x, have the recipe memorised chocolate chip cookies.
I didn’t have a lot of chocolate chips, and only half the butter I needed, so instead of going to the store (which would take too long), I decided to only make half a recipe. I weighed the butter and cut it into cubes. I knew the butter wasn’t soft enough and if I didn’t wait an hour, I’d make a giant mess of sugar and butter crumbs when I tried to cream it (oh, the perils of hand mixers and shallow mixing bowls). So I waited maybe 5 minutes while I measured everything else and prepped the pans. And then I couldn’t wait any longer so I got to creaming.
As predicted, butter and sugar went flying. Instead of waiting for the butter to soften, I mashed it with the potato masher, and tried to “fold” the sugar into the butter. It still made a mess. Instead of waiting for it to soften again, I added a bit of milk. Bingo. The sugar and butter creamed without making a mess, and I didn’t have to wait an hour (even though by this point I had already wasted another 15-20 minutes). I mixed in the dry ingredients, the chocolate chips, and scooped them into the pan.
I thought something was strange when the dough was sticking to my fingers, and not really staying in a ball like shape. That’s weird, but whatever. I put the pan in the oven to bake, and 10 minutes later, was welcomed to this:
A burned disc of butter sugar shit. And the next pan was the same.
The disappointment was palpable.
I quickly realised what happened – in my ADD MILK haste, I needed to compensate with a bit more flour – which I didn’t. I also chopped it up to being bad at math and not reducing the ingredients correctly. I reduced the flour from 2 1/4 cups to 1 cup, 2 tbsp, which Google and a quick fact check by Leah confirmed was correct. But later that evening when I was washing up, I discovered that I used a 1/2 cup measure that I thought was a 1 cup measure. So really, I’m good at math, and bad at reading.
Small mistake. It sucks. If you’ve been following along the blog recently, I haven’t exactly been batting a thousand this year. I’ve felt more way failure than win, like a lot more failure. And as I looked at this pan of greasy, dried elephant dung that I created, something that I’m normally amazing at, and yes, shamefully scooping it up with a fork and eating it in much the same manner as the way a dog eats its own vomit, I knew I really need to get my own shit together.
I make small mistakes that avalanche into big mistakes because I rush. Because I’m ridiculously anxious and impulsive. It’s OMG I HAVE TO DO THIS NOW I DON’T CARE IF IT’S NOT READY inside my head and then FUCK WHY DIDN’T I JUST DO THAT THING I NEEDED TO DO when it turns out badly. It was like this pan of baked diarrhea was a direct metaphor for my life – hurrying and making small mistakes just to get it done rather than taking the time to do it right.
If my internal failure cycle were an Ouroboros, it would look like this:
It’s a vicious, vicious cycle. Anxiety > Rush/Stall > Small Mistake Avalanche > Fail
Most of the time, I’m of the “OMG, I really need to do this, but I see these issues will prevent this from being the best it can be, so I’m going to take X step and X step so I don’t make a mistake.” persuasion. For the past few months though, I’ve just overlooked all of that so I can get something done and feel some sort of personal gratification or sense of accomplishment. I’ve fallen into this “oh it’s just a small mistake so it won’t matter” kind of thinking that just doesn’t work at all. Because small mistakes turn into an avalanche. So even if I’m accomplishing things, those things aren’t the best – or they’re just wrong. Which makes me feel like more of a failure.
And I’m desperate to learn how to derail the cycle. How to instil thoughtful, deliberate, mindful actions in everything I do, instead of rushing to get to the finish line. After all, I’m not winning any ribbons by finishing projects, goals, or baked goods that look like shit – literally.
So on Sunday, I decided I needed to regroup, since Saturday was a panicky waste of good breathable oxygen. So I made of list of everything I needed to do, gave myself time frames to do some chores while Skyping with Cara, get a giant chunk of work done, and then I went to the store to buy more cookie ingredients. This time, I measured everything carefully, I let my butter soften on the counter, I made way less of a mess, and the cookies turned out crispy on the edge, soft in the center, all over golden, and delish:
I was even able to finish my weekend work with a little more satisfaction than I normally have. And I think it’s because I took my time to slowly and considerately do everything. The cycle of OMG GET IT DONE is a hard one to beat, and over the past week, I’ve realised I just need to take it one day at a time. Of just being careful and aware – I mean, I want to be HIGHLY AWARE, but I’ll accept general awareness and perseverance for now.
Basically, the point of this blog is I learned a lesson:
If you don’t wait for the butter to soften, you’ll end up with shit.
Eating half a pan of melted butter sugar dough will make your pants suddenly shrink over night.
Things have been much better around these parts.
Last week started with the amazing news that my visa was granted. Which, based on the all consuming sense of relief and fantastic good feelings that came with it, must have been weighing heavier on me than I originally assumed. I had a few moments throughout the week where I thought I might lose it, but they passed pretty quickly. I got some weird, sad news about my grandfather on Friday that left me pretty worried for my mom, but it didn’t send me into a tail spin like I thought it would. I also started therapy on Friday.
Meeting with a therapist for the first time is a lot like going on a first date. There’s a lot of small talk at first, a lot of awkward answers to questions like “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “Is there a history of mental illness in your family?” Just like a first date. Except in this date, one person is asking the questions and is sometimes writing notes or giving you confused looks bordering on judgemental. This is the 4th therapist I’ve seen, technically 5 if you count the social worker/guidance counsellor that we were required to see freshman year of college to make sure we weren’t falling behind in class, but who I saw as weekly (or some times 2x or 3x a week). So I’ve been on some strange first dates.
In the weirdest first visit I had, the therapist told me that I was likely bi-polar, and obsessive compulsive, but said it was ok because everyone was to some degree. She went on to make an example by telling me, “Your bangs are covering your right eye just slightly, and so I can’t see both of your eyes fully. It’s really bothering me. In fact, it’s bothering me so much that I want to ask you to put your bangs back with a bobby pin.” And she immediately shot up, got to her desk, pulled off a bobby pin from its package, and handed it to me. I looked at it, like what? * In the saddest first date I’ve had, I showed up in my pj’s with dirty hair, sobbed at an uncomfortably loud volume for the whole hour, and left without paying my bill.
My new therapist and I seemed to hit it off. She had a nice, comfortable office and she let me guide the session and ramble without end, only offering her opinion when I came to a stopping point, which was extremely helpful to me. I think that’s important for a first session, to just get everything out on the table without judgement. She did say one thing before I left that really resonated with me.
“I think you’re exceedingly hard on yourself. I think we should start discussing the idea of ‘good enough.'”
I understand what she means, because I am exceedingly hard on myself. I’m my own disappointed parent. But I don’t like the idea of being good enough. I’ve always been the one that wants to be the best at everything. I want to over-excel and be the most badass at everything I do. And what comes hand in hand with that is a near-paralytic fear of failure. So you can see how well this desire to be the best has done for me so far – i.e. a lot of untouched goals, missed opportunities, nights where I stay awake counting heart palpitations.
I’m slowly beginning to realise that there’s no point in having this drive to be only the best when it prevents me from getting anything accomplished.
However… I don’t think the answer is simply accepting good enough, and not pushing myself. I think the answer is managing my expectations, and acknowledging that mistakes and failure are a part of any process. I shouldn’t be so afraid of what isn’t guaranteed to happen. It’s going to take a lot of work to train myself out of these depressive habits, but I’m looking forward to feeling confident one day. It’ll take baby steps.