Category Archives: Relax!

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

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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.

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

Mother of All Days

It’s Mothers’ Day in Australia today, so I hope all the mums out there are getting some relaxation and being shown just how much they’re appreciated. If not, go kick some offspring butt and make them give you the respect you deserve!

retro card

Mothers’ Day is a bit of a tricky one for me. It carries a lot of emotion. I guess the primary reason is that despite wanting to, Mr Raw and I are unable to have children because of my autoimmune conditions. It’s something we’ve mostly come to terms with, and we’ve celebrated other joys in our life that may not have been possible if we had become parents. But seeing friends my age and younger, enjoying parenthood so much, can still sometimes cause some sadness and longing for ‘what could have been’. Mind you, we’re not alone. I have a few friends who have also been unable to have children. Some are still struggling through IVF, and others have accepted that it won’t happen but are yet to come to terms with the emotions and finality involved. There are many reasons among us, but Mothers’ Day is somewhat of a torment for us all. However, that being said, I love watching my friends who are parents, especially the mums. Seeing these women I’ve known from school, or who I’ve employed, or who have employed me, watching them grow and become strong, nurturing goddesses, giving more love than they ever thought possible to their beautiful children.

My own mother and I have had a strained relationship at times, so it hasn’t always been happy in that sense either. Actually, strained is an understatement. I have issues, she has issues, and together we have more issues. We spent several years estranged. But we have a good relationship again now, and I see her regularly. In fact, I lived with her last year, for the first time since I was 16. So today’s not negative in that sense this year, but it definitely has been in the past.

The pond section of my mum's garden. She made it all herself!

The pond section of my mum’s garden. She made it all herself!

We also had a family tragedy last year when Mr Raw’s young cousin died from suicide. She chose to take her life on Mothers’ Day. To dramatically understate (because words just aren’t enough), her mother is devastated. Her life now revolves around grief and trying to raise awareness for suicide, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder, in her daughter’s name. This year’s Mothers’ Day is one of grieving for our family, and of course, it will always be so.

garden waterfall

And one of the waterfall sections

I’ve decided to also write about something else for Mothers’ Day, the effect a mother’s influence and bond has on her daughter’s health. Read the rest of this entry

Back from the Bush and Back to the Blog

I’m baaaaaaaaack! (Say that in your mind with a creepy poltergeist-type voice for full effect. Then imagine a whiny, nasal, Australian accent, and you got me!) After a wonderful week away in the serenity of the Pilliga, learning to sculpt, and being inspired by breathtakingly brilliant artists, I’m back in my beautiful coastal town. I’ve been home a couple of days, but like lupies and sickies everywhere, I needed a bit of time to rest and recover from my time away. I also needed time to take it all in: to get down to the beach and get my feet wet and breathe the salty air again; to take stock of just how much amazing talent I’d been in the company of; to try to focus and still my mind, racing with inspiration, ideas, creations, and dreams.

I surprised myself, and managed to complete a bust. Not perfect, but in the spirit of being a recovering perfectionist, I feel it’s not bad for my first sculpture!

bust frontbust sideIt’s all due to my amazing teacher Kate French. Kate is a very experienced, talented, hard-working, inspiring, and generous artist and teacher. Her work is beautiful. Please take the time to have a look at her site – you won’t be sorry!

Pilliga Pottery The workshop was at the glorious Pilliga Pottery. I’ll write a special post about this amazing, soul-enriching place and its beautiful people soon. Read the rest of this entry

A Few Days With My Muse

Hello wonderful people! This is a quick note to say I’m probably going to be missing from my web home for a few days. I’ve travelled to a beautiful part of the world to take part in a clay sculpting master class. I’ve gone bush, I’m in the outback. For non-Australians, this means I’m surrounded by forest, dust, kangaroos, wallabies, goannas, and lots of open space and nothingness. The skies are so big out here. No pollution, no lights, just millions of stars at night, and blue skies and fluffy, white clouds in the day. I’m staying in a hand built cottage made of recycled wood and mud bricks, eating at a handmade wooden table, and drinking from handmade terracotta cups. It’s a beautiful, creative, soul-enriching experience. No noise, stars, and my muse.
My mum’s farm is an hour and a half away so I got to spend some time there as well. You might have seen the pictures of her beautiful property on my Instagram feed.
So, between the normal exhaustion of a day of concentrating and sculpting, and the extra complete and utter wipeoutness and pain of all of that plus lupus, sjogrens (and its incredibly dry here! Ouch!), CFS, fibromyalgia and all the rest, I’m absolutely exhausted tonight. I’d hoped to still post while I was away, but I think I may have to cut myself a break, enjoy my time here, rest as much as I can so I can get the most out of my course without having a major flare, and return to the blog in a few days. Oh, and my Internet is very unreliable here.
So, I’ll return soon with lots of stories about my time here reconnecting with the bush and my creativity. I wish you all a wonderful week 🙂

Finally Standing Up To Myself

So, after making a commitment to write every day, I didn’t post yesterday. I was hoping it wouldn’t be quite so soon before I broke my promise to myself, but I’m proud that I did.  It wasn’t due to lack of motivation, procrastination, or even because I was off having a fantastic time somewhere. No. Unfortunately, it was because of my old nemesis; an enemy that likes to regularly interfere with my plans. You see, I am chronically ill. My body wages war on itself. I have several autoimmune conditions, like a warped lottery list of free gifts you hope never to win: SLE (lupus), sjogrens, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, vasculitis. There’s more, but that’s enough of a list for one post!

I try to live as normal a life as possible. Sometimes I manage, sometimes I don’t. In the past I’ve fought it. I’ve refused to give into my illness and rampaged through life, in denial and determined to show my body who’s boss. Touring the world for a year, working up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, comes to mind as a clear example (and a VERY dumb thing to do!! OK doctors, you were right!). The problem with trying to outrun autoimmune conditions (or any chronic illness) and refusing to adjust your lifestyle, is that these behaviours can only have a limited time frame. And, if you’re as bloody stubborn as I have been, so can your life. A positive attitude is one thing, but denial is another.  The media is always throwing stories at us about ‘real life heroes’ who battle their illness and refuse to give up, but there’s a big difference between refusing to give up, and refusing to help yourself. I’ve never denied being ill, just that it effected me.

this isn't me, but it's an accurate impersonation!

this isn’t me, but it’s an accurate impersonation!

Read the rest of this entry