Back At The Start (starting over again… again…again)

overwhelm photo

Today I find myself exactly where I was two years ago. I’m in a different house, in a different village, so it’s not that ‘exact place’; it’s a mental state. I’m blogging and excited with my preparations to go to Problogger, otherwise known as ‘Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for Bloggers’ because it’s so damn exciting to get together with other people who live out their lives online as they’re working at home, alone. It’s also possibly because we tend to like chocolate too!

But…. 2 years ago I wrote this post, and then I went to Problogger and had a great time, and got inspired, and fired up, and then…. I stopped blogging. So this is my return to my blog after a 2 year absence. Yep, starting over again.

What happened? I got busy, I got tired, I was too busy working on other people’s blogs and websites to work on mine, I was forgetful, but more than that I was overwhelmed. I found myself writing more about how sorry I was for not writing, than anything else. And why? I mean, you don’t care! There’s not even that many of you to care! But I felt guilty and stressed, over something that was supposed to be a fun hobby, and that wasn’t a good place to find myself. I was too busy living my life to record it, and I felt guilt about that. Read the rest of this entry

Creative Chaos and Problogger Countdown

This week has been absolute joyous madness. And the next month is going to get even crazier! It’s creative chaos time! My husband is The Scrappy Sculptor. He makes sculptures using old, rusted scrap metal and turning it into beautiful creatures and characters, full of life and personality. His work is amazing. Yes I’m biased, but check this out:

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I’m also trying to engage with my own visual art to a level where I can hope to make at least a little food money from it. This month is Escape Artfest, our region’s annual festival of all things arty and creative. Jodhi is exhibiting in two exhibitions, I’m exhibiting in one. I’m also teaching a two day master class in clowning, and writing for three writing prizes. So there is a lot of making, writing and searching for inspiration going on in our house at the moment. To top it all off, Jodhi will also be exhibiting in two other exhibitions next month, and these are in western NSW, an 8 hr drive from home (each way). Oh yeah, and I’m on a plane heading to QLD for a week to attend the Problogger event (so very, very excited!). Jodhi’s then going to QLD for a different week, so we’ve got a few long return trips to Sydney ahead for airport drop offs and collections.

So where’s the relaxing and slowing down you may well ask? Well, I’m being very careful and conscious to make sure it’s all managed well. Lots of rest times, energy scheduling, and being kind to myself. Letting go off perfection and embracing imperfection as part of the creative process. That’s always been one of the toughest things for me as an artist and it’s meant I haven’t put as much of my work on public display as I could have in the past, because of a constant feeling of not being good enough. My own standards are impossible to meet, and the public perception of my work could never be as harsh or critical as my own has been. But not anymore. I’m smiling at mistakes. I’m following the paths they open up to see where they take me. And it’s so much more fun this way! It feels more ‘creative’, more inviting of a creative energy, a muse to lead me to my finished work. Creativity has often been a chore in the past because I made it that way with my self-criticism, judgement and perfectionism. So yeah, that’s a 20 year career as an artist that I’ve often made far more difficult and less enjoyable for myself with my own inner “poo-poo”-er. Well, I’m shutting that little demon in a box and throwing away the key. It serves no purpose anymore, and once I caught a glimpse of life without it, I was hooked!

Do you make aspects of your life more difficult than they need to be?
Do you have your own demon or inner poo-poo-er?

My Perfect Face

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I decided to get a new face.  Well, I think it’s actually been my face all along. Right from day one I knew I wanted a hand drawn header which reflected my journey, and featured my gorgeous soul-place and home, the NSW South Coast. I also wanted it to give the sense of what I was about, and therefore what my blog was about. A healthy, simple life. The environment. Art. Creativity. Joy. And embracing my inner clown all the while (including while meditating).

A gorgeous soul I studied with at uni decided to branch out in her career and explore yet another of her many of talents: illustration. Hello synchronicity! From the first moment I saw Lou’s beautiful drawings, I knew I needed her ink on my blog. And so, all prettied up, Raw Once More is ME. Once more.

With enormous thanks to Lou Endicott. Please check out her beautiful illustration blog here.  And enjoy the joy and sense of whimsy it brings you.

lous swing

Art and creativity are such important cornerstones to my life. They form the basis of my career, home, hobbies, purchases, my planning, decision-making, marriage, friendships…. The list goes on. My husband is an artist. I am an artist. My friends are artists. And I’ve recently started recognising just how much of a hidden artist my mum is.  So I plan to honour this in future blog posts and give you more insight into my creative life, the creative stars around me, and the creative muses that dance through my days.

 

Is creativity a big part of your life?

 

Running Away: A Rant, a Revelation, and a Reawakening

runningawayImage Credit

Running away seems to be a survival instinct for me. I’m feisty, but when it comes down to the choice of fight or flight, I’m cashing in my frequent flyer points and getting the hell out of wherever. So I’ve been away for a while because I’ve been on the run again. Not literally; I didn’t actually go anywhere, but a section of my brain (officially named The Blog Cortex), packed its bags and hoofed it. I’ve attempted to come back a few times, but discovered The Blog Cortex was only interested in phoning it in from an area with dodgy reception. But today, its back, the bags are unpacked, and the shiny distractions have all been put away.

I think the initial trigger for my vacay from blog land was politics. Australia is in an election year, and quite honestly it’s depressing. That I do mean literally. It’s actually made it hard for me to get up sometimes (hello black dog, my old friend). I’m a deeply political person. I believe in human rights, caring for the environment, compassion, equal access to services etc. You might rightly get the sense I’m a bit left-wing. So political causes, I’m on board with. But I hate politics. Perhaps that’s not strong enough. I detest politics. In Australia at least, our current political landscape consists of posers and bullies, often within the same person. It’s a whole lot of arguing about nothing, calling each other names, clichés, and meaningless diatribe, no policies, and punishing our most vulnerable people in the name of political point scoring. Oh, and senseless bribery. Let’s not forget buying people’s votes with nonsensical incentives. Our politics is sexist, racist, ageist, homophobic, xenophobic and every other form of prejudice you can think of. And at times, downright idiotic. So I hate election years, witnessing billions of dollars are spent achieving nothing but some ego stroking and catchphrase generating.

At the time The Blog Cortex ran for the hills, our then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, was copping a battering from the opposition and her own party for, well, being female. She was then ousted by our Former Prime Minister (who she had ousted earlier), the election was recalled, and the idiocy continued. It was too much. I’m a political person, but I have always wanted this blog to be apolitical. I am known to have the odd rant about politics, but this blog is intended as a sacred, idiot-politician-free zone. But I became so surrounded by idiocy, and so completely and utterly pissed off and depressed by it all, that I couldn’t continue to write about other things when all I wanted to do was scream at these dickheads ruining my country. So The Blog Cortex ran. And kept running.

Then being away from here became a kind of blessing. I decided to take the time out to refocus on why I was here in the first place. What did I want? Why was I blogging? And why, as a self-confessed recovering perfectionist, did I still find fronting up to the page and spewing out my imperfections so scary? I had started to feel inadequate, comparing myself to people who have been blogging for years, and becoming terrified I was just copying every other blogger out there. What was the point of blogging if I wasn’t being original? Except I was. I’ve always written authentically. My blogging voice is still finding and defining itself, but it has been my voice on the page every time. I care about health, the environment, living simply, and ‘finding myself’. So do many other bloggers, so it’s inevitable I’ll write about the same topics as them now and then. But getting it into my head that this was ok was a bit tricky. That it’s ok to be imperfect. That it’s ok to be a beginner. I’ve always felt this need to be the best at everything I do, and being a beginner at things has always been more challenging for me because of it. So I took a bit of time to get the hell over myself, and just be me. The real me, not the perfect me. Read the rest of this entry

Celebrating the Scarecrow

Like most small, country towns, Milton (which is up the road a bit from me here on the NSW South Coast) has a wacky annual festival: The Scarecrow Festival. I don’t know its origins, but as we’re new around town we thought we’d mosey along on Saturday and check it out. It seems there’s a theme every year, and this year was Scary Scarecrows. A touch of Halloween in June, using scarecrows on the street? Strange, but strange is what we like best! And it worked!

locals getting their scarecrow on

locals getting their scarecrow on

On a sunny winter’s day seemingly the entire town had flocked to the main streets for markets, buskers, dancing, rock wall climbing, and betting on where Maisie Moo the cow would, well, poo. Young children dressed as scary scarecrows for the fancy dress competition. A couple of enterprising young girls with pumpkin faces had even decided to busk by singing ‘I’m a Dingle Dangle Scarecrow’. Over. And. Over.

Mr Raw paying the buskers' salary (yes, that is a water bottle in his pocket and yes, he was happy to see me!)

Mr Raw paying the buskers’ salary
(yes, that is a water bottle in his pocket and yes, he was happy to see me!)

The highlight of the festival is the scarecrows (which is probably a good thing for a Scarecrow Festival). Local businesses and residents get into the spirit by putting their own themed scarecrow on display. They start appearing at around the start of May, and gradually fill Milton and the surrounding towns with scarecrow goodness. A winner was announced, but sadly we missed the judging.  But here’s a few we snapped:

that leotard definitely scared me

that leotard definitely scared me

this was a big, round pumpkin when they first put it out. But you know what they say... never work with children or vegetables!

this was a big, round pumpkin when they first put it out. But you know what they say… never work with children or vegetables!

we artists are scary folk

we artists are scary folk

Drunken Darth?

Drunken Darth?

another scarecrow looking a little drunk, although the smile on this one makes me think he's been hitting the harder stuff

another scarecrow looking a little drunk, although the smile on this one makes me think he’s been hitting the harder stuff

quirky considering the business who made it wasn't even an optometrist, just someone with a good sense of humour

quirky considering the business who made it wasn’t even an optometrist, just someone with a good sense of humour

definitely scary! I think this guy tried to pick me up once

definitely scary! I think this guy tried to pick me up once

I loved this cute ET!

I loved this cute ET!

I thought this guy was beautiful

I thought this guy was beautiful

even the church got in on the fun, but I'm not sure scary Jesus is really the look they should be going for

even the church got in on the fun, but I’m not sure scary Jesus is really the look they should be going for

I want my mummy!

I want my mummy!

burning Pinocchio at the stake... I know I've thought about it!

burning Pinocchio at the stake… I know I’ve thought about it!

scariest of them all?? Good effort from an accountant's firm

scariest of them all?? Good effort from an accountant’s firm

This is probably the kind of thing I would’ve mocked (but secretly loved) when I was much younger. Now I can proudly state that I really did love it. It was fun, and quaint, entertaining, and hilarious. It brought much-needed visitors to a town that relies on the cash flow of tourists, who tend to visit less often during winter. And it was a demonstration of one of the main reasons we chose to move to a small rural area. Community. The whole community came together to put on a festival, promote it, and enjoy it. Everyone got involved in one way or another. People shouted hello to each other with big smiles on their faces (painted or plain). People celebrated the pure joy that comes from getting together with the whole town to celebrate bundles of straw in costume. We laughed, we watched, we ate, we enjoyed, and we felt like we had found somewhere we belonged.

Oh yes! Any town with this on the main street is a town where we belong!

Oh yes! Any town with this on the main street is a town where we belong!

 

Does your town have any strange rituals? Festivals? Crazy things on the main street?

 

 

 

 

Sorries, Sorrows, and Shaking It Off

So, today was a new day. I imposed an end to my day of sloth and self-pity, although it’s possible that wine and chocolate are still featuring in my evening. I feel the need to apologise to you for yesterday’s post. For my expression of my weakness, exhaustion, my admission that sometimes it’s just all too much. But I’m not going to.

You see, I’ve spent most of my life sick and in pain. I’ve also spent most of my life pretending I’m not. Hiding the pain. Performing on stage and running off after the bow to throw up and collapse. Both in my work on the stage, and in my real life: my acting career didn’t pause when I left work. When people have caught me out, when I’ve been upfront about my illnesses, when someone’s suspected something, I’ve laughed. I’ve assured them it sounds, or looks, worse than it is. I’ve let them believe my illness was more a formality than anything else, I wore it like a badge of honour, but quickly assured I was still completely capable of anything, everything, life throws at me. And for the most part I have been. I made myself be. I’m stubborn. I’ve excelled and succeeded in areas that ‘healthy’ people would struggle to. Even if that meant making my husband carry me into my office and place me upright behind my desk and hover close by for when I needed him to do something physical for me, like answer the phone, or pick me up off the floor.

And in those rare moments when I’ve been completely caught out, when I couldn’t hide it, when the cane came out, when I had to take time off, when someone saw my crying, or wobbling, or collapsing, I apologised. I was so sorry for making a big deal of it. I was sorry for causing anyone inconvenience. I was so sorry for people seeing me like that. I was sorry for my weakness, my exhaustion, causing a scene, disturbing the peace, upsetting routine, being ‘abnormal’. Being less than. Being imperfect. Oh how I apologised! Did I need to? Probably not. My perception was always tainted by my own standards of perfection for myself. But then again….

The first sunrise in Australia after I arrived home, unemployed

The first sunrise in Australia after I arrived home, unemployed

Read the rest of this entry

Today I Am Sloth. With Chocolate. And Wine

Three legged Lupie

Today…

I am Sloth.

I am walking with three legs, though one barely moves, and one is metallic.

I dress in grey clothes unsuitable for public eyes.I soak in their warmth and lack of expectations.

I am lupie, as only other Lupies would understand.

I do not welcome Lupus, yet it insists on staying like the smelly squatter on the couch who just.will.NOT.go. No matter how many hints I leave.

I am sad, depressed, but not in the darkness of the past. Just dealing with a day that is best forgotten.

I am hormonal. This was not a good time for a monthly visitor to join the frequent flyer on the couch!

I am not myself. I am no one today. I am just… in limbo, waiting for less pain. Less, just less.

I have a high pain threshold after so many years, but today I am crying. It is too much. I am battle-weary.

I am dark chocolate with sea salt and red wine. It makes things more… bearable.

I have a long To-Do list, but my brain and body yell, “no!”

I am full of self-pity. I do not like to be. I think sometimes it is necessary.

I feel I am achieving nil. I feel disheartened. I write to remind myself of the year to date. The effort exhausts me.

I am reminiscing of a life before lupus. But do I remember? Did I have one at all?

I ask myself permission to stop. To do nothing, to rest. I readily agree. Today my brain offers no arguments.

I am not brave. I am a coward today. I fear. I cry. I question.

I dream of travelling again to faraway lands. I wonder if I ever will.

I lay. I do not sleep. I toss, I turn, I hug my iPad and its connection to The World.

I speak on the phone to a friend, but his words confuse me. My brain has no reception. Too much interference.

I am not writing the post I thought I would. Instead I am massaging my body with key strokes, quick, but gentle. Always gently.

I wait for my love to come home. To fill the house with light for I have none. But he is also tired.

I close today with hope that tomorrow brings more light. More, just more.

Back (again) and Thanks

Dear Readers, I disappeared (again!). I know it wasn’t that long ago I wrote a post just like this one, but I’ve been in the same guilt zone lately. I had some really shitty days with my illness where my brain had enough trouble remembering my name, let alone writing blog posts. I also had a few things to get sorted out in my head before I returned to the keyboard. So (once again) I’m back. I can now happily guarantee that these disappearances will happen from time to time. Between lupus, ME etc, depression and anxiety, the rest of my life, and those moments where I just need to shut out the world, I’m gonna have to take time out now and then. I’m sure none of you could care less, but as a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had some struggles with not facing up to the screen every day. But, I can finally say I’m now ok with it (I think!).

image by tanahelene

image by tanahelene

I have also been touched by some gestures made by a couple of lovely bloggers and readers.

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LITTLE STEPS: Down The Drain

Today I thought I’d take a look at something that I think all of us are guilty of doing at some time or another. How often do you contemplate your pipes? Ever wondered about the journey your dish water takes once you pull that plug? Ever stopped to consider exactly how many drops of used cooking oil it takes to kill a fish? Or an ecosystem? This post could be accompanied by some graphic and horrible images, but I thought I’d post photos of some creatures I’ve met on my travels instead. Creatures who can remind us just how important it is to take the extra effort at home to protect our waterways.

A tiny crab we discovered in Fiji

A tiny crab we discovered in Fiji

We use water in diverse ways in our homes: cooking, cleaning, washing, playing, soothing, nourishing, drinking, and of course, flushing. But whatever the reason, all the water we use, whether at home or out and about, makes its way via drains to the sewerage system. Still with me? Not the most fascinating topic, I know. But our lack of interest in our drains is causing damage to our waterways, and the ecosystems they support. What goes down the plug hole, also has to come out somewhere, and for most homes it’s the sewerage system. After treatment, this water then rejoins the water supply for reuse, or is released into creeks, rivers, and oceans. When we don’t pay attention to what we’re putting down the drains, the entire system is affected, which can: Read the rest of this entry

Crazy Things I Do When Insomnia Strikes

I’ve written before about being an insomniac. Insomni-maniac is probably closer to the truth. If there’s anyone out there not sleeping like crazy, it’s usually me.

Photo credit: Nizaad

Photo credit: Nizaad

There’s a number of reasons:

  • My autoimmune conditions can have insomnia as a bonus
  • Most of my medications for aforementioned conditions come with built-in insomnia
  • I’ve had depression on and off for a lot of my life, but have had a very bad episode for the last fifteen months: depression causes insomnia
  • I keep replaying events and conversations in my head at bed time which one day I’m just going to have to finally deal with
  • And finally, that Type A, achievement-driven, million ideas per second, perfectionist personality of mine that I’m trying to control. It likes to spend bedtime planning, evaluating, regrouping, debriefing.

So all in all, sleep is like an exotic destination I dream of visiting one day, and no matter how much work I do to try to get there, I just don’t seem to mange it. Except at about 7 am. I can sleep through the days like a champion, but unfortunately society at large doesn’t really cater for people who function that way. And what makes it more frustrating is that Mr Raw could win gold in the Sleep Olympics – he’s asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. Or even beforehand.

As I found myself getting up to my usual crazy insomniac antics at 4am I decided to keep a list of them: Read the rest of this entry