This is Not a Resolutions Post

Naaaaah – as I’ve said before, making a list of resolutions – even if they’re disguised as “goals” “intentions” “declarations” “wishes” “list of things that PLEASE GOD AUDREY JUST DON’T DO THIS ANYMORE” —  is just simply the easiest way for me to make a list of Things I’ll Just Keep Happily Doing In Spite of Literally Everything In My Soul Begging Me to Not Do. Continue reading “This is Not a Resolutions Post”

Don’t be dick to yourself – and other New Year resolutions

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.

Happy 2017!

 

 

Ticket to ride

After 2ish years of avoiding the Australian equivalent of the DMV, I finally got my Australian Driver’s license.

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My real license, complete with Extra Terrible Photo arrives in a few weeks. Whee!

 

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.

(#motivation)

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.

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vroooooooooooom

Summer goals: 1 down, 100 to go!

 

to do, to do, to do

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.

Things I love: The Silver Stallion

The Silver Stallion. 

The first time I saw it, I was 10 years old, at a slumber party with a couple of my friends. Before the party began, my mom took us all to Blockbuster Video to rent some movies – because staying up all night watching movies and eating junk food is the best part of being a kid. Or a 31 year old. Who’s counting. Anway.

My mom was very adamant about us only watching age appropriate movies – which really sucked when you were trying to be the coolest 10 year old in the room and your mom won’t let you rent Interview with the Vampire. My friends and I decided on a Japanese movie about giant, homicidal dinosaurs rising from the ocean to destroy Tokyo. I think it was called Dinosaur Land or something else equally irrelevant. I remember the cover was a hand drawn image of a platysaurus in the water, with a woman hanging out of its mouth, and Tokyo visible in the background. We are all super pumped.

Mom, however, showed us a movie called The Silver Stallion. And the collective womp womp womp was heard throughout the land. Who wanted to watch a movie about horsies? There were no Brad Pitt Vampires and no people eating dinosaurs and no curse words and no possibility of seeing Brad Pitt’s naked vampire butt. LAME. But mom insisted that we would love it, and we left Blockbuster both really excited and really bummed out.

Once everyone went to bed and we had the TV to ourselves, we put in the lame horse movie to get it over with. After a few minutes of hemming and hawwing and making fun of it, the room got quiet and we were glued to the screen. When it was over, we couldn’t stop chatting about it.

The gist: An Australian movie based on a popular children’s book, made in 1993. The plot is pretty simple: an author living in the bush is writing a story about the life of Thowra, an Australian wild horse, or “brumby”, and his rise to king of the brumbies while constantly outwitting the the Man in Black, who wanted to capture him. The author’s daughter reads along with the story, and falls in love with the wild horse. In a turn of events, the daughter finds out that Thowra is real, and is devastated to hear that the Man in Black has a fail-proof mission to finally capture the wild horse. The author and her daughter wait with baited breath to hear the final fate of Thowra and his reign as king of the brumbies.

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As the author narrates her story, the scenes are acted out by real horses in sequences shot amazingly in the mountains. Here’s a mash up of scenes put to the music from Requiem for a Dream, which kinda fits it perfectly (except there’s no heroin in The Silver Stallion. I mean, not that I know of)

 

It’s a dark, sad children’s story that is beautifully told – there are no silly horse voices or cheese ball animal/human friendship or “everyone is happy and learns a valuable lesson”ending. It makes you think of what separates a human from a villain. All in all, it’s just a good movie. Oh, and it stars a baby Russell Crowe as the wiley Man in Black.

silver-brumby2-300x268

We put on Dinosaurs Eat People and barely paid attention to it, because it was super lame. There were no beautiful horses running free in the mountains, no dramatic horse fights, no crazy horse chases, no subtly dark story lines, and still no chance of naked Brad Pitt vampire butt – just badly clay animated dinosaurs and badly dubbed English lines and no gorey peple eating scenes. We didn’t even finish the movie before we put Silver Stallion on again.

And thus began the obsession. I convinced my friends to pretend to be the horses in the movie and we would run around the woods making up different Thowra stories. We would watch it whenever we got the chance (I begged my parents to rent it so often that 5 years later, when I started working at Blockbuster, the manager told me on my first day that she remembered me as “the silver stallion girl”), and it became a weird thing that bonded the three of us.

My sister Mary was always horse crazy while we were growing up, and I liked horses, but I was way more into dogs, orcas, tigers, and lions. However, once I watched this magically lame horsie movie, all I could think about were horses. I started tagging along with my dad and my sister to her horse back riding lessons, and became something of a barn rat. “Can I brush your horse?” “Can I walk your horse?” “Can I clean that stall?” “Can I do ANYTHING remotely related to being near a horse?” Eventually, I started taking riding lessons too, and that was it. I was hooked. My sister and I rode competitively and basically lived at the barn for years. And funny enough, we came to own a horse who’s name was Brumbie. Go figured.

I still have a huge fondness for the flick. I own a copy and I dust it off and watch it from time to time.And this morning when I woke up and Joel had already left for work and it was cold and pouring rain, I instantly felt like watching it. So I scoured the internet and vaguely considered trecking out to JB HiFi in the rain to buy it (movie obsession turns me into a driven lunatic bent on success) until I found it on Youtube because it’s so irrelevant that not even Amazon or iTunes will stream it.

From the title card, this movie always takes me back to being a 10 year old. It makes me think of my dream of spending my days riding my horse through the country side and spending my nights pounding out stories on a typewriter as I wear a big woolen sweater – and my vampire Brad Pitt husband brings me coffee. #dreams

My first thought was “wow, I guess I didn’t really achieve what 10 year old Audrey wanted.” But then I thought more about it, and I’m actually pretty close to this dream – I mean, I live in Australia now. And I still write (kinda), and I have a big sweat shirt and a much more handsome, much cooler, non-vampire, sexy man to bring me coffee. But I did think really hard about sending my mom $200 so she can mail me my typewriter. Annnnd I may have looked up how much horse back riding lessons cost around here. Spoiler alert – they’re expensive.

Here’s to nostalgia.  Brb, I’m going out to get a big wool sweater. And maybe a horse colouring book.

 

*fun fact, those same girls and I had another slumber party a few months later and we totally watched Interview with the Vampire. And I got in trouble. #worthit

Out of Shape

Every night as I’m falling asleep, I go over everything I did wrong that day.

And I mean – everything. I know that focusing on the negative is a guaranteed way to make me feel like shit, but hey – some depressive habits are hard to break.

Most of the time it’s things like “why did I eat a whole cake” or “why did I think it was a good idea to skip taking a shower” or “oh shit I forgot to call/email/schedule so and so” and “hey you didn’t work out – that’s the 362nd time this year.”.  But always, always, “why didn’t I write today?” “I should have blogged about that.” “I could have made a post about that.”

I make no secret of my Writer’s Block that somehow morphed into an utter Creative Block which then morphed into Near-Paralytic-Anxiety When Opening WordPress Block. I can blame it on work stress, self-esteem, watching too much TV, not having the right kind of fuzzy socks to wear – anything – but the bottom line is I allowed myself to get lazy. I let myself fall into the “it’s easier to watch re-runs of The Wire than it is to sit down for an hour and write. So now I’m not only physically out of shape, but I’m mentally out of shape. And it’s been a struggle to do anything that requires creative brain power.

I had a white hot flash of inspiration (RIP Miss Lee) in December when I re-vamped my work space and made a plan to get myself back on track (new stationery = mega inspiration). Then I got distracted with the move. Then we didn’t have internet. Then I was working 12-15 hour days. I had more excuses to not do anything than I knew what to do with.

But on Monday, I had a rough day. Just rough all around. And as I was going to bed, Joel and I were having a pow wow, and I realised yet again that I’m still not writing, still not working toward what I want to be. And I’m still unhappy about it. And then I said out loud, “I’m not even trying. And I haven’t tried. I’m upset with myself because I haven’t tried. And really, I could just stop. Just work forever and that’ll be it.” And I felt painfully unhappy.

And something finally snapped within me. I have to try. I have to force myself to make shit happen, because it obviously won’t happen on its own. Joel told me “just write. Write a story. Not a blog. What’s your story called?”
“uh… Tacos at Night”
“What’s it about?”
“I don’t know – a cat?”
“…ok. Write it.”

So I did. I got home from work the next day, changed, and sat down and wrote for an hour. I made Joel (who barely slept and worked a longer day than me) make dinner and barely said hi to him when he walked in. I didn’t write a blog. I didn’t write an essay. I didn’t do stream of consciousness. Or a prompt. I started a story. And it felt great.

As I went to bed, I felt good about myself. And I remembered this article I read about a writer who fell into a similar hole. She made a tiny writing area in her closet, and sat in there with just her typewriter for an hour a day and wrote. After a few weeks, she got back into the habit of thinking and working like a writer. The time constraints helped her a) bang out ideas, and b) stop before she got burnt out and deleted everything. And it wasn’t long until writing stopped being something she dreaded, and something she looked forward to.

Today, I got home from work, changed, ate dinner, and wrote for an hour on the same story. Then I broke out Illustrator and dusted off my tablet and played with that all night. It also feels pretty great.

So I’m making a new routine for myself. Writing for an hour every day – no more no less. I hope it leads to advances in that whole “more hustle; less sweat pants” resolution I made in January.

If I can keep this up over the weekend, maybe I’ll be able to keep it up for the rest of the month. And if I can keep it up for the rest of the month, WHO KNOWS what will happen. Maybe I can start working on some goals – like how many stories can I write every month? Will I ever get back into the ‘sending out pieces for submission’ stage of my life? But for now, baby steps.

Let’s get through tomorrow. And Friday.

And I have it documented here so I can feel nice and shamed if I fall off track. Woo!

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What’s the plan, Stan?

On Christmas night, Joel and I were beached on the couch in a combined food and Netflix coma. All week I’d been thinking how I was half shocked that the end of the year was almost here, and half shocked that it took so long to get here.

2015 went by in a blur. Until about mid-October, I went through the year like a slug, hitting salty patches and shriveling, and then taking a while to… un-shrivel? The beginning of the year wasn’t the greatest. I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself of a bunch of different things: that I wasn’t homesick; that it wasn’t hard to talk to my parents only once a week instead of nearly every day; that it wasn’t hard to not see my siblings and my friends; and that I wasn’t having a complete resurgence of near-crippling social anxiety. Trying to live in denial was exhausting, and it started to wear on Joel and me. With a lot convincing and talking, Joel helped me work through the hardest parts (with one or two crying phone calls to my mom on my lunch break – sometimes I’m a scared 7 year old). Things got better around March-April, but then I was faced with a job hunt. And the final steps of our visa application was hair raising. And I went through another difficult 3 months after getting a new job when I was broke and really struggling to stay positive.

SO yes – a few of downer moments, a few of meh moments, but that wasn’t all that happened. 2015 definitely had HEAPS of awesome. Joel and I rang in the New Year laughing, and I can say that it carried on throughout the year. Living with Joel is so much fun, that I’m always having a good time – even when I hate myself. It’s been a year of sweet gestures, laughing til we cry, lazy late mornings sharing comics, shared goals and support, learning how to cook, learning how to bake, many (too many, if you ask my expanding waist) wonderful Chinese take out meals, lots of little adventures, coffee dates in the park, Netflix binges, home building, and plan making. Joel even taught me basic photoshop magic and more tricks with my camera.

Also, on a totally important and not at all shallow note – I finally learned how to blow dry and curl my hair. And I learned how to apply liquid liner to my satisfaction in less than 7 minutes. I also learned that I will never wake up in time to do all three before work. Or get dressed properly. Or shower. I’ma do me.

So yes, while it doesn’t feel like I accomplished a lot, I did survive. Survival, employment, and a finished visa application. That’s what 2015 boiled down to.

So I was thinking about ALL of this as we were in the afore-mentioned beached whale state. And it got me thinking, “shit, there’s been a lot to distract me over the last few years.” Being lazy and easily distracted are my two worst traits. That and in my personal life, I can barely handle more than two things happening at once. There has been something significant to distract me from and to excuse me from achieving for the last few years. But I couldn’t think of what’s coming up in 2016. Like, what will distract me? What big thing do we have to plan or prepare for? So I brought it up with Joel.

“What’s happening next year?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, what big thing is happening? In 2013, it was therapy and you + me and you coming to visit; in 2014 it was preparing to move and me finding a job in Sydney; in 2015 it was applying for the visa and us finding new jobs. What’s going to happen next year?”
“How about… we just live? Have good times.”

And I was all, #lightbulb – that’s a great idea.

How about a year with no excuses? A year of getting shit done. A year of working hard toward being who we want to be. A year of ta-da! A year to look back and be like, sheeeeeit. A year well spent. It’s been years since I’ve started a year with no Giant Thing to Plan Around in the forecast. I’m really excited to see what we can accomplish.

I just typed “but first, I’m going to take a nap.” and I deleted it. That’s how serious I am. But I will make a batch of the World’s Best Chocolate Chip cookie first.

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#seriouslyserious