Taking notes

I can’t really put my finger on why I feel compelled to blog. Just like that option about relationships on Facebook, it’s complicated.

I do like to think of myself as a storyteller and if I can get a few laughs along the way, all the better.

Perhaps Mr Morley, my 6th Grade teacher, is part of it. Even since he kindly but succinctly critiqued my attempt at a retelling of “Goldilocks & The Three Bears” – Michelle, I appreciate your hard work but your writing is verbose – I’ve felt the need to hone my writing skills.

Maybe it’s a way of quieting the voices in my head. I find putting thoughts into words on a page brings clarity and some sense of order.

My love affair with blogging actually started about eight years ago. I was going through (what I hope will be) the most disastrous time in my life. I had the trifecta – career; family; marriage – all in the shitter. There’s no nicer way to put it. Everything was crappy.

I was suffering deep anxiety and depression at the time (of course, had no idea that’s what it was) and I credit taking up writing in a journal for helping me through those really tough days.  I committed to writing one page per day, last thing at night.

At first, it was so very, very trite. My entries read like that nasty classic “What I did in my holidays”. It was just a recount of what I’d done for the day.

At the same time, I discovered you could actually do this on the internet and I started my own blog – The Blah-Blah. Nothing controversial. No deep inner revelations. No dark secrets. It was just like my journal – dull and boring and nothing at all of the real me in there.

Some time later I re-read both the early days of my journal and my blog, knowing full well what was really going on, and I could see how much of a liar I was. There was no hint of any distress at all. They were positively dripping with sweetness and ‘hail-fellow-well-met”.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

Then the shit really hit the fan. My dad died. And all the crap came spilling out as life as I knew it exploded around me.

Finally, my journal did what it was supposed to do. It released all the pent-up angst, all the hurt, all the sorrow. Some nights I struggled to condense it all onto just one page.

Unfortunately, my blog took a turn for the worse as well, diving into diatribe. I took a good look at it one day and deleted the whole thing. It had become nothing more than a moan about things that were either out of my control or of my own doing. I felt embarrassed to have all that out for public display.

I kept my journals (there ended up being 5 of them) buried in the back of my cupboard for a few years. I made NIH promise to find them and burn them if I died. He knew everything about me so I wasn’t worried about him reading them (it’s one of the reasons I love him dearly – he knows it all and loves me anyway) but I worried about anyone else finding them.

About three years ago I did a big spring clean. Life was relatively good – there was still that pesky little issue with infertility but apart from that, I loved who I had become and where I was in life.  I pulled the journals out of the cupboard and flicked through them all.

Oh, that me was so sad and lost. Even now, I get a lump in my throat thinking of her. She was a total mess.

So I ripped them apart and burnt all the pages, even those heart-wrenching entries just before and after my dad passed away. The journals had served their purpose and I didn’t need to hold onto all that pain anymore. It was past time to let it all go.

I started “Creative Midlife” as a way of discussing my journey from librarian to graphic designer. It was meant to be a showcase of my work whilst being an amusing little aside at my life – a token diary without too much angst.

I decided to be real but not offensive. I wanted to write stuff that might leave me vulnerable but at least be my truth. I didn’t want to be a liar anymore.

It’s interesting to see how the blog has evolved around my life – first as a foray into a vastly different career, then as an IVF war veteran, then an immigrant to a different country and now as a second-time-around mother. I’m so glad I have kept a written record of the highlights. Sure, it’s not been all wine and roses but still it’s been good.

I don’t think I’ll be deleting it any time soon.

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New Year, New Goals

pencil watercolourIn all aspects, 2014 was a pretty spectacular year for me. The NIH and I made it official with a twilight ceremony at the soccer fields on what was possibly THE hottest day in recent history. It was a sweaty afternoon but a lovely one just the same. We also traveled extensively overseas, seeing the sights I’d only read about and drooled over in movies and TV shows. Career-wise, work picked up and a few projects really pushed me to better my graphic design skills. My studies took a bit of a hit, thanks to the two months away and a complete overhaul of their online study site but I only have three modules left and will be pretty chuffed with myself when I finish them off by June.

So, with so much done last year I do wonder how on earth I can top it in 2015 and recently sat down to make some realistic goals. I separated them into the subject areas of Drawing; Relaxation; Health; Personal Growth; Writing; Household and Food and came up with a list I think I can actually manage.

1. DRAWING

I bought myself an A5 visual diary and pledge to draw, paint, doodle or otherwise scribe in it every day. It doesn’t have to be Michelangelo level or an entire new piece every time but it does have to make me work on my illustration skills. There’s no getting around it, people. I’m a sucky illustrator and I’ll never get any better if I don’t practice. The picture above is something I worked on over two days using new watercolour pencils. It didn’t take long and was kinda nice to do for an hour in the morning with a coffee by my side.

2. RELAXATION

Recent health has been shoddy at best and downright piss-poor at worst (namely ending up in hospital attached to an IV cocktail of antibiotics). It’s nothing I really could have avoided but it has very much made me aware of the preciousness of my health. So, as part of a routine to take care of the physical I will have one massage a month. Doesn’t sound hard, I know, but I am really not the ‘massage’ kind of person. Once upon a time the idea of stripping down and a stranger touching my body in a non-sexual way would have made my skin crawl. “How could a massage be considered a treat?” I wondered. Now that stage has passed, I need to get into the habit of doing something that is not only relaxing but quite necessary for good health.

3. HEALTH

I’m a fairly active person but the last few years have seen a real struggle with weight, despite trying every 12 week program there is. Unfortunately, if your hormones are shot and your body is out of whack, no amount of ‘diet’ or exercise will help and it becomes a real study in frustration. Fortunately, I’m onto a program with the naturopath and have completely cut sugar from my diet and results are starting to appear. This year, I want to be a little more gentle with my body. I don’t feel that cardio really helps me and it certainly doesn’t make a difference on the scales. Instead, I want to be stronger and calmer. The local gym does “Body Balance”, a Les Mills program combination of yoga, tai chi and pilates, and I really enjoy the classes. More of that, please.

4. PERSONAL GROWTH

This is one I will most definitely struggle with – criticism. Criticism of myself and of others. I will make a concerted effort to keep my trap shut and turn my thoughts and words from negative nellies into positive pollies. I will look for the good in every situation, person and deed. I will let go of past hurts and grudges and move on with love and acceptance. My NIH may have snorted derisively at this one …

5. WRITING

Blog once a week. That’s the goal. And if I stick to the rest of my goals, I should have at least one semi-interesting thing to write about.

6. HOUSEHOLD

Clutter and mess annoy me no end. And instead of grumbling about others being messy or hoarders (which I can’t anyway since I have pledged to stop criticising and start being positive), I will have a mini-cleanup of places other than the usual each week until the house resembles something more like Better Homes and Gardens and less than Hoarders USA.

7. FOOD

My dad had a fantastic sourdough starter and made the most awesomely fragrant bread. Since he died, I’ve struggled to get a starter happening but this year is my Year of Baking Bread. This year I am going to master the starter and the art of making authentic sourdough bread that tastes fantastic and in no way resembles a doorstop. I have downloaded ‘Sourdough 101’ from the Sourdough Baker and I am going to do it over and over and over again until I get it right. How hard could it be?

So there you go – seven totally doable goals for 2015. And now I can tick a blog for Week One off the list …