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  • Two weeks later and we’re still sorting LEGO. Jesus, Mary and Joseph… it’s a mammoth task. (I could point out that sorting was delayed for a few days whilst I cajoled Sophia into writing cards and wrapping teachers’ thank you gifts, but I won’t.)
  • But actually I will. Because oh my god – the festive season is hard!  All the making of lists of people we’d like to acknowledge and thank for their friendship during the year, (and how to do this for people overseas?), dealing with the realisation that we’ve been mostly shitty at kin keeping throughout the year, deciding what sort of gift would best demonstrate our appreciation, finding the actual gift, figuring out if we’re okay with how much it will all cost… and then wrapping the thing and writing the cards – putting our heartfelt thoughts into words (but trying very hard not to sound syrupy or ‘cute’). And then the coordinating of appropriate time and place so that gifts can actually be given. IT. IS. HARD. And man oh man, I. AM. TIRED. (Oh, and we also had to plan all the things around Canterbury Faire. That’s a whole other level of organising and nagging that I’m still wrapping my head around.)
  • Oh %#*+@. What are we doing for Christmas dinner? A menu! What’s on the menu? (How do we blend my Portuguese heritage with Russell’s English heritage? Or do we start our own family traditions? Do we even care?) And then shopping list. And actually going to a shop to buy ingredients where there are so many other human beings doing the same thing. Bustling around, feverishly. Remind me again, why are we celebrating Christmas? Because it feels like work. A. LOT. OF. WORK. I am not in a festive mood. Clearly. <squinty eyes>  
  • I noticed a thing when Sophia and I were putting together a colourful thank you booklet for her teacher. I can’t not correct (what I perceive to be) mistakes. I can’t! I can’t let it go and just be with my daughter. Every (friggin’) thing has to be a learning moment, a point of instruction. Every. Thing. And it is EXHAUSTING. It’s exhausting because, on one hand, I want to correct the perceived mistake and make things look all pretty, whilst, on the other hand, I’m working so hard to convince my brain that the mistakes add a certain charm to the thing… I can let it be, right? It doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’. Except it bloody well does! (Rub out the spelling mistake… encourage Sophia to try again… argh.) Point is, she wants to do the thing, and I want her to do the thing… but of course it’s going to be untidy and I don’t deal well with untidy. This makes me sad. Because I can see the point of frustration and how it impacts on her. It makes her tired. It makes me feel like a shitty, controlling mom.     
  • Which brings me back to me wondering if I’m on the autism spectrum. Because can you see all the mental gymnastics I do around (what I think should be) a simple, even fun, task. Can you see how I question all the things all the time?  Also. I came across this: 8 Things Autistic Women Want You To Know. There’s so much in this video that resonates:
    • 1. Autism covers a wide spectrum: “I had to go through a lot of stuff to learn how to mask my idiosyncrasies.” Pretty much. I did get to the point where I just didn’t have it in me to care about being ‘acceptable’ anymore and I developed a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. I was maybe… 12 years old.
    • 2. We have emotions: “We’re feeling it, it’s there. It might just not come out. And then other times it might be overly expressed.” “We can’t filter them out because we feel them so strongly, so we shutdown as a way of processing all those emotions.” Which is why I often need breathing space when I’m around a lot of people… and why social interactions with more than three or four people is EXHAUSTING. It’s easier to stay home and cocoon.
    • 3. Social interactions can be challenging: “All the little things that everyone does unconsciously, autistic people do manually, so that adds up.” See points about brain and all the questions!
    • 4. Diagnose can happen at any age: “Now I feel a lot better. I feel like, okay, now I know why I’m this way, I know why other people are they way they are, so I can bridge this gap.” Well, yes. That would be nice.
    • 5. The nuances of dating can be challenging… but we do have sex lives. ” ‘Netflix and chill.’ doesn’t literally mean ‘Netflix and chill.'” Except, in my world, “Netflix and chill.” means exactly that. Lit-er-a-lly! What is this nuance you speak of? If there’s something more you’re after, make your intentions clear. <insert conversation about consent>
    • 6. We have lots of different interests. “In my experience, autistic girls are just as obsessive as autistic boys. They’re just obsessed with fantasy novels […]” Flashback to when I was a young girl and I’d cut out fashion line drawings from old newspapers at my father’s shop… or if I got a hold of magazines, I’d tear out pictures of clothing… I had so many pieces of paper under my bed… piles… so many… all organised into categories – dresses, tops and bottoms, evening wear (read: very posh stuff), swimwear… jackets. Shoes! And, oh how I’d spend hours designing fantasy clothing using tracing paper and a figure from a Katy Keene comic… I was a little obsessed. Yes. Good times those!
    • 7. Bullying sucks. “It’s difficult to go through many, many years, especially as a child, you know, having no friends and no one willing to extend a hand out of friendship to you.” Flashback to being in standard five (more or less 13 years of age) and spending school breaks in the library… because books were my friends. Humans… not so much. “To finally have friends is such a big, big deal.” Yes. Yes it is.  
    • 8. It’s getting better. Yay?
    • Please take the time to watch this. It’s a 10 minute glimps into my life and it makes so much sense.
  • On a more emotional level: all the feelings because the murder of Grace Millane. (If you don’t know anything about it, I’ll just say it’s front and centre of news here in New Zealand.) I’m both outraged and yet… numb. Could it be vicarious or secondary traumatisation? Maybe. Or maybe, like so many women, I am raging (again!) because we have had enough. Read: Rules won’t save women. But rage doesn’t help much, so I’m working through this article instead: Here’s where to channel the hurt and rage for Grace Millane. I strongly encourage everyone reading this blog to read that article. Read it! Seriously. Do. 
  • Other than that. Happy holidays everyone. Oh, and I got me a Singer Sewing Machine No. 66K, manufactured in 1912. It’s in full working order. Yes. This happened. I am feeling so smug right now.   

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  • I came across a post on social media, as you do. The thing is, now I’m questioning everything I know about my anxiety and how it impacts on the way I move through the world. The post shows a letter written by Vicky Bliss from Lancashire Autism Service. The letter reads:

“[…] Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1. […]

Level 1 is roughly akin to what used to be called Asperger Syndrome. It is the mildest level (there are three) and it is given to people who are intellectually able to cope with some social situations so well that others would not know there is any difference in the way they process information. If a person spends more than a little time with you however, they will then see there are significant areas in which you struggle to cope with social situations and in managing your emotions.

Very definitely me!

In brief, this diagnosis means your brain is simply wired differently from those who do not have autism. Because of sensory sensitivities and inattention to non-verbal clues, you might take in different information from your environment than a non-autistic person.

Not so much me. Sure, I have sensory sensitivities (e.g. loud sounds, bright lights, too many humans around me in a confined space…<shudder>) but I’m often quite aware of non-verbal clues. Too aware, sometimes. I’m taking in a lot of information. All. The. Time. And if I don’t have downtime to process it all… my brain gets too full and it freezes. Literally. I can get to a point where I simply can not take in any more information and I become dumb.

Your brain is happiest when you are working with certain types of information, which get filed very neatly so you can access them whenever you need them. 

Everything, yes!

Your brain is uncomfortable when it goes out into the world, because it becomes bombarded by information overload and by [the] behaviour of other people it cannot easily predict. If your brain has a chance to process information about where you are going, how long you’re going to be there, what’s going to happen, and other details, it can plan strategies for making a quick exit or coping with social difficulties. When you brain is under stress, it sends adrenaline and cortisol throughout your body and you experience the kind of anxiety that makes you want to fight, freeze or flee, even in situations that are not dangerous to you.

This is at the root of my anxiety! All the things. THIS!

Autism is not an intellectual disability or mental illness. […] It establishes you as a lovely person who has eccentricities, who is different from the ‘norm’ and who does not always follow the crowd. You may well become the person to whom others go when they want the truth about something. […] You may be the one who insists others think about and explain social rules that they never thought about before.”

Pretty much. Or so I’m told. <shrug>

Look, I honestly don’t know where this leaves me. I’m not declaring to the world that I am on the autism spectrum and that I finally have all the answers to all the crappy things that ever happened to me in social situations. But I am curious. Because it certainly would explain a lot. For a long time I’ve thought of myself as an empath (which explains the ‘picking up on other people’s vibes’ part), introvert (which explains the ‘I can’t deal with too many humans and need long periods of quiet time’ part), and prone to anxiety (which explains the ‘oh hell no! I’m not going out on the spur of the moment! I don’t have a plan!’ part). But what if it is a ‘brain wired differently’ thing? Because, somehow, that would make it easier to explain my (what I perceive to be) odd behaviour rather than dealing with (what feels like) nebulous personality traits. If it’s just biology, it’s acceptable? Relatable?

  • Anyway. LEGO. I haven’t been focusing much on the Great LEGO Codification because reasons that I can’t articulate right now. But it’s that time of year when Christmas trees go up. And all the boxes of unsorted LEGO currently reside where the Christmas tree goes. So, with some dejection, I must admit that the Great LEGO Codification is a failure. I’ve run out of omph and time. The Christmas tree must go up! LEGO will be sorted by like piece… but there will be no inventory. I am sad. But accepting.
  • Interestingly enough, I’m enjoying a series called Consumed –  it features de-cluttering expert Jill Pollack. I’m probably enjoying it so much because it’s giving Russell and I points to talk about. I think we’re getting to a place where we’re getting more comfortable with letting go of stuff. Sure, we spent a small fortune getting all our stuff to New Zealand, but in letting go of stuff, perhaps we’re making space for the ‘new life’ that is living in a different country. Maybe. It feels like it.
  • On a happy, ‘I think we should celebrate this’ note – I had a chat with Sophia’s teacher this week, and I quote: “Sophia is currently tracking at the expected level according to the curriculum in all learning areas.” This is amazing news because Sophia started her education in year two, effectively missing a year’s education and having to ‘catch it up’ over the last three years. We’ve caught up! Sure, she’s had a lot of support, and we can’t stop doing what we’re doing. But still. It’s a remarkable achievement. And somehow allows me to breathe a sigh of relief because we’re not playing the catch up game anymore. We’re now playing the ‘learning is amazing and oh, isn’t this interesting’ game. And that’s nice.
  • About the sewing project. I had a wonderful conversation with my mãe (mother) last week. I remembered how she had a book that includes beautiful line drawings and pattern making diagrams and instructions for some lovely garments that are very 1950s, going into 1960s. She bought the book,  Manual de Corte Oliva, when she was 19, hoping to study dressmaking with her cousin so that she could come to South Africa with some transferable skills. She still has the book! And now I wants it! I needs it! (Sure, the the instructions are in Portuguese, but I’m sure I can translate a lot of it with my handy Portuguese-English dictionary.) And, it turns out my mãe still has the original pattern she used to make her first dress once she’d arrived in Jo’burg – Butterick 4818.

It’s nice – the similarities between us. How she learnt to sew by trial and error, and how that’s probably going to be a large part of my experience too. Also, it turns out my avó (grandmother) was an amazing seamstress. Apparently she could make patterns for new clothing based on existing garments. Just like that. Mind-boggling! I don’t know. Maybe this love of garment history and construction is a hereditary thing. And that somehow makes it all the more special because it runs in my veins. And the book is the physical representation of our shared history. Nice, yes?

Oh, oh – and very exciting news! I may just have found a fully operational straight stitch treadle Singer 66 from 1913, with Lotus design. <squee!>

  • Also, I discovered LP (the stage name for Laura Pergolizzi). Her song ‘Lost on You‘ is all the things! Go and listen. And might I add that George Ezra’s album, Staying at Tamara’s, makes me very happy. Like singing out loud in the car, happy. <smiley face>

  • Sophia’s school has an annual fundraiser, and part of that fundraiser is a jumble sale. The stuff for the jumble sale typically comes from school families. Ever since moving to NZ, I’ve had this sense that we simply have too much stuff, so I’m happy to go through the cupboards and purge (a little)*. Sometimes there are surprises. Like the bookshelf. My cookbook bookshelf to be clear. Where I found The Bread Exchange – Tales and Recipes from a Journey of Baking and Bartering by Malin Elmlid. I didn’t buy this book because it includes recipes for making bread, but because it’s the story of a woman who travels the world, having (what sounds like) remarkable adventures, and bartering her way through it all by making bread. I bought the book, I think, as an invitation (or a challenge?). Here is a woman doing a thing that I find powerful. In my mind, travelling the world pretty much alone as a woman is crazy risky because I fall very much into the category of women who were taught growing up that if you avoid certain behaviours (e.g. being alone in public spaces) and certain places (i.e. anywhere), you avoid sexual harassment, and more specifically, sexual assault. ** This book made me angry. In the face of all my emotional turmoil triggered by the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the American Supreme Court and the allegations of sexual assault that followed, learning about Anita Hill and how her experience was not dissimilar to that of Christine Blasey Ford, all on the back of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and #Me Too, this book represented an idea that broke me. I realised how I’d made myself so small. So invisible. To be safe. And how that permeates all the corners of my life. I was (am?) angry in my awareness. Aware of how I’d shrunk.
  • Heard during a conversation during a school fundraising preparation day: “I love all the homemaking things, but…” This, the words of a woman who is lovely and bright and who I like. It later dawned on me that these words struck me especially because I’d never thought of homemaking as something I like. I’d only ever thought of it as a thankless job that needed to be done, mostly out of a sense of obligation or duty. I’d only ever thought of it as being degrading. But having her declare wholeheartedly that it’s a thing she loves, I realised perhaps homemaking is a thing that can bring joy.
  • This: “Finding yourself” is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last Winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. “Finding yourself” is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.” ~ Emily McDowell.
  • Where am I going with all of this? Thing is… I realised that a lot of my experience of moving to New Zealand was shaped by other people’s experience of immigration. How they had navigated it. What they did in an effort to settle. How they managed. But I am not them. I need to figure out how to do this for myself. I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet, but I am crystal clear on this: full-time work is not going to work for me. Because I have a project in mind. And that project will need time and energy. And, more importantly, I want to do it!
  • Lastly, and more as a catch up: even though I’ve not mentioned it on social media, I have been trying a variety of new dishes as part of my #52recipes for the year. Here they are:
    • Sneaky Bolognese from Donna Hay’s Basics to Brilliance – Kids. A tasty version on bolognese sauce with zucchini and broccoli thrown in for good measure.
    • Korean Barbecued Pork Rice Bowls with Asian Slaw, Anything-Goes Nasi Goreng, and Okonomiyaki Tray Bake from Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar Simplicious Flow. This was an experiment in ‘flow’ – the idea that you cook up a big pot of a thing (slow cooked barbecue pork, in this case) and use it to make three dishes over the next week. The tray bake did not work for me… probably because I didn’t make the slaw according to the recipe. But everything else was good, and I do like this idea of flow.
    • Venison ‘Saltimbocca’ (Hjort ‘Saltimbocca’) from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Swedish Kitchen. Technically, the recipe called for venison medallion steaks, but I had venison sausage. It worked. The caramalised onions… so good!
    • Spaghetti with Puttanesca Sauce for the New World 2018 Calendar. Yeah, nah. I’m don’t think I like the combination of olives, anchovies and capers enough to make this dish again.
    • Spaghetti Carbonara from The Australian Women’s Weekly Barbie Cookbook featuring celebrity chef Anna Polyviou. I did not know carbonara sauce was so easy to make. Honestly, the beaten-egg-yolk-mixed-into-cheese-and-then-into-hot-pasta idea was weird. This recipe made it easy. And bacon!
    • Also from the The Australian Women’s Weekly Barbie CookbookChoc-Banana Smoothie and Strawberry & Soy Smoothie… because Sophia is fascinated by the smoothie making machine and why not encourage her culinary adventures?

 

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* This process does press my döstädning button, and my minimalism button.

** Anastasia Basil’s article, Relax, Ladies. Don’t Be So Uptight. You Know You Want It sums up what I was taught nicely.

 

I missed last week’s blog post. Again. Sorry. Maybe it’s just a better fit for my life at the moment – writing every two weeks instead of every week. Let’s run with that for now… see where it takes us, shall we?

The happy stuff:

  • Weekend before last, we spent Saturday at an SCA event during which I learnt to spin on my spinning wheel. It’s a surprisingly meditative thing. I’m told I’m pretty good at it, which is a nice confidence boost. Yay!
  • Sunday morning was spent exploring The Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace flagship. Greenpeace docked in Wellington Harbour as part of their ‘Making Oil History’ tour, and to celebrate New Zealand’s recent ban on new offshore oil exploration. Russell saw it as an opportunity for Sophia to explore a big boat (very exciting!) and I saw it as an opportunity to have a conversation about climate change. It’s also made me so much more aware of how much plastic is around us, and how we need to step up our efforts to move away from it.
  • We popped into the Shoe School for their open day on Sunday afternoon. I’m very excited about the idea of doing a five day workshop with them, especially as Russell would also like to do said workshop. It would be so nice if we could do it together. (Kinda of like a date night, but for a week! Yes please!)
  • Last weekend Saturday we went to ZEALANDIA, an urban ecosanctuary, because the free family pass I’d won was about to expire, and why not? It’s a wonderfully calming place.** New Zealand does education in these sorts of spaces so well. Sophia got her list of fauna and flora to spot whilst exploring, and gosh – did she and Russell get into it. Russell spotted a tīeke (or saddleback), a bird that’s dangerously close to extinction. It was breathtaking.
  • Sunday, we went to the World of WearableArt (WoW) Awards Show. I’m going to quote from their website in an effort to explain what this show is all about:  “Each year, WOW invites designers to create the unimaginable, to challenge the conventional, and defy creative expectations as they make works of art that will be brought to life on a global stage at the annual WOW Awards Show.  For the audience, WOW is a feast for the eyes, where fashion, art and theatre collide.  For the designers, it’s an opportunity to create a work free from commercial restrictions, to go on a creative journey with their peers and to have their talent recognised.” I have it in my head that maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to enter this competition. For now, I watch and take it all in. And I am quietly amazed.
  • I spent the whole day yesterday sewing. It was glorious!
  • And more books!**

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The heavy stuff. (Sorry.)

  • I applied for another position. I didn’t get to the interview stage. I am disappointed. (<quiet sigh> What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone want me to work for them? Is it my skill set? Is it because I’ve not worked in the industry for two years? What? What is it? Why?) Anyway. Moving on. <sigh>
  • It was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary and dad’s 73rd birthday this week. We couldn’t be there to celebrate with them, and I know we were missed. It’s events like these that make you question your decision to emigrate. Because missing family ‘n friends doesn’t stop being hard. (Also, I came across this thread on Twitter that was strangely triggering because it describes a layer of anxiety that I’ve carried since we decided to emigrate. I wasn’t aware of how uneasy I feel about being an immigrant sometimes.*** It also made me think of my parents, and what it must have been like when they first moved to Jo’burg. Unable to speak English. Being a stranger in a strange land. Having to carve out a life for themselves. It’s no wonder they’re numb and tired. Life was relentless. I appreciate their experience differently now.)

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I often get very grumpy just before I begin menstruating. Turns out, a walk in amongst the trees somehow melted that grumpiness away. It was very noticeable, and therefore a little surprising. Clearly I need the trees.

** Just to clarify – I did not buy all of these books at once. I bought them over a period of maybe three months, because various book sellers had a sale on. 10% to 20% discount is not to be sniffed at!

*** It’s different in NZ in that the resident visa we have allows us to stay indefinitely, but it does have travel restrictions after a certain date. Basically, once that date has passed, you can’t leave NZ if you want to continue living here. What you do have to do is apply for permanent residence. Once you have that, well – horay, you can come and go as you please. Pretty much. Not that we’re going anywhere any time soon. Travelling is pricey given we’re far away from everywhere.

We had a lot going on last weekend, so blog post didn’t happen. Sorry. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

  • Weekend of the 14th and 15th: a birthday party and a book sale, at which I bought too many cookbooks, and more shopping. For stuff that seemed important at the time… but I can’t remember why now. It made me very tired.
  • Week of the 16th to the 21st: a heavy week of processing, during which I wrote this:
    • I’ve not been feeling particularly ‘vibrant’ and ‘healthy’ for a while, so I’ve let the cleaning of house jobs fall by the wayside. (If Russell wasn’t packing the dishwasher, we’d have a mountain of dishes on the counter. Waiting. I’ve just managed to do laundry and cook a meal maybe twice a week. (Funny, not funny story – Russell is known at the local India restaurant and/ or fish ‘n chip shop  now because he frequents them so often. <cringe>) It’s an interesting source of frustration for me because it goes to show that if I don’t do the housework, or manage the housework… only the bare minimum gets done.  Yes, I know I don’t work a full-time job outside the home (yet). But still. Turns out the family’s threshold for untidiness and mess is a lot higher than mine. So I’m grumpy. (Do people* not see the dust balls in the corner of the bathroom or that the toilet could do with a good clean? Does it not bother them at all? I leave it there, in passive-aggressive protest. Because it feels like it’s become my job, but it’s not a job I want to do all the freakin’ time. Can’t someone else do it for once? Just… take care of it. Yeah?) It looks like we need a system so that the responsibility of who is doing which job, when is clear. If nothing else, it’ll alleviate my mental load. (And sure, I wish it didn’t bother me as much as it does… but I was taught from a young age that the house must be neat and tidy, and I’ve been doing housework every bloody weekend since I was eight years old (pretty much)… it’s a difficult mindset to shake. It’s difficult to lower my expectations. And seriously, why should I?)
    • Responsibility – being able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations; able to choose for oneself between right and wrong. It’s a theme in our household at the moment, yeah. (And here I’m talking about imbuing a sense of responsibility within my child. Because I’m done giving direction. It’s time she took on the mental load.)
    • The shitty part is that my mental load is so heavy, it leaves precious little space for the mental energy that is needed for learning or practicing new skills like pattern construction and sewing – which is what I actually want to be doing. I can’t get to the happy stuff because I’ve got to do the obligatory stuff first. (Apparently.) It’s very upsetting! (People* might be very quick to tell me that I don’t have to do the ‘obligatory stuff’ like housework; in which case – please refer to bullet point one. Seriously. It’s not like I can unsee the dust balls on the bathroom floor.)
    • A friend posted a trailer for a documentary Gray is the New Blonde, and it has got me all riled up, I tell you. All riled up. So. Many. Feelings. Everything from “I’m so tired of the noise that is a woman has look this way or behave in that way to be considered acceptable” to “This was never a thing for me. I don’t know how to be anything else but silver-haired, and I never cared for anyone’s opinion who told me differently”. It feels like polar opposites. Most of my life has been a push-pull between people** (quietly) telling me what I should look like and me being defiant about it all and yet wanting their approval. It’s exhausting. But there is a slow shift happening. The more I explore vintage clothing, the more curious I become about makeup application. My appearance is slowly becoming more about self-care and self-expression. And that’s kinda nice. (A note about a thing that happened this week – Sophia is playing with my makeup. She now has her own lip crayon. I think it’s sweet.)
    • I found this and this, because wanting to know more about feminism. It’s taking a while to process it all so that I can have constructive conversations with people.
  • Sometime during the week: there was indeed a conversation with Russell; during which he pointed out that I find housework degrading. It was a little bit like a slap across the face, because as much as I feel uncomfortable in admitting it, it’s true. I do find housework degrading, probably because it’s not valued… and the people who do it, by extension, are not valued. (Having the conversation was good though… something shifted. I’m less resentful. Now I’m just going to be bossy about it so that it gets done. Probably.)
  • Friday, 21st: we went to Toi Whakaari’s Costume Showcase. (This is the school at which I thought to study costume construction.) Mind. Blown. I couldn’t have a decent conversation with the costumers or the performers wearing the costumes because overwhelm. So we left. And I died a little.
  • Weekend of the 22nd and 23rd: Darton’s Collegium! During which I learnt about the wonders of pad stitching and period sewing techniques for clothing construction, started making a leather bag, tried my hand at making bobbin lace, watched the making of a penannilar brooch from brass rod, and listened to a talk on Viking hats and their decoration. My brain is full.
  • This week:
    • Oh, I dunno. Mostly working with little person and her big emotions and how her big emotions impact on her friendships. (I get an email from her teacher whenever she demonstrates a ‘red light behaviour’ like swearing, spitting, and/ or kicking people in places that hurt a lot. There have been three emails this term. I’m finished.)
    • I realised that I really, really want to pursue a career in clothing something, not instructional design. So we’ll start small… by sewing lots of clothing. And making a spreadsheet of all the amazing places that offer training in costume construction and/ or fashion design. Then I can look at the course outlines, see which one best suits what I want to do, then figure out if studying is the next (big!) step… or if I do this some other way…
    • Also, my CV was put forward for another full-time position as an instructional designer. I know. That doesn’t really work well with (see previous bullet point). But I figure I’ll wait and see. Who knows what will come of it. If anything.

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* and yes, by ‘people’ I mean Russell and Sophia. 😛

** and by ‘people’ I mean my father, an aunt, older female cousins, and/ or society and media at large

I started a 14 day yoga practice this week. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but the idea of going to a class was just. No. So, four days into the practice and this is what I’ve figured out whilst on the mat:

  • Yoga is not easy, but it does offer a choice. I can get rather annoyed with my body because it doesn’t have the strength to do the thing, or I can accept that my body is weak and it’s going to take time to strengthen it. One is a path of frustration, the other is a path of self-compassion. I’m taking the path of self-compassion.
  • I have been thrashing a lot lately. Like. A lot.  For a good two years really. (!)  I’ve been pushing to get an answer to the vexing question: where to from here? Thinking I need to find a job because that would bring us closer to buying a home of our own… or I need to study because the longer I stay at home (doing nothing, supposedly), the harder it’ll be to become a contributing member of society… (you know, with a job and all). None of it feels true. Thing is, I’ve been looking outward for answers. Not inward. So I’m going to look inward now. (I’m following the path of self-compassion, see?) I’m going to give myself permission to find joy in doing and exploring stuff… in dabbling. Because that feels true. Let’s say, for the next year (or so) I make it about exploring. About dabbling. About reconnecting that to happy, quirky person that was engulfed by depression, and then anxiety, all those years ago.
  • The position I applied for has fallen away (companies and their restructuring seems to be a thing in NZ at the moment). And I’m okay with that. Because I have someone in the recruitment world who is keeping a lookout for me… and maybe that’s enough for now. Maybe this harried scouring through job ads, and then vexing over whether or not I should apply, and then figuring out how to sell my skills in such a way that would make people vaguely interested in my application, and… and… It isn’t worth the pain. I think it’s okay to take the foot off the pedal, for now. Because there are other, sexier, cars that need driving.
  • And who knows… maybe Russell mentioning to me that he’d like to go to Shoe School too suddenly gets me all excited and I happen to mention it to a friend who then tells me she’d pay me to make bespoke shoes for her and I suddenly go… oooh. That could be a thing. See how that flowed?  And this same friend shows me her copy of The Vintage Tea Party Book: A Complete Guide to Hosting your Perfect Party, and I’m buzzing with excitement. Because OH MY GOSH – how awesome is this book? SO MUCH EYE CANDY. Imagine having a party or two like this. Imagine?! I think it would be ridiculously fun. (And I need fun.) And tai chi… after my yoga class, I had the urge to look into tai chi again. Because I remember how soothing it was. And I miss it. I miss the connection… I do. I miss it. So much…
  • The thing that seems very clear at the moment is a desire to learn and to make. Perhaps I need to follow that… without questioning or desperately wanting to know what the end game is. Just… follow the little nudges from within. See what happens. See how it all unfolds…
  • It’s Monday. Friday’s blog post had to wait because wedding! We were on our way to Hawera for Brett and Razia’s wedding on Saturday. I say it like everyone should know who they are, and of course you don’t. So… Brett and Russell are mates. He got married. We went along for the celebration. And what a happy celebration it was too! Weddings make me warm on the inside because it reminds me of our nuptials… and how Russell and I have walked together for a good 16 years now. It’s nice.
  • Sunday saw us going up Mount Taranaki. Because why not? Sophia got to play in the snow. And the view was quite breathtaking. It was a spontaneous little adventure, which has reminded us that there’s still so much of New Zealand to see. We really should just go on random road trips. They’re surprisingly cheerful.
  • Whilst having brunch at Ngati Ruanui Stratford Mountain House, just before our ascent began, I noticed a print on the wall*. Point 44 was especially poignant, considering how perplexed I’m feeling about next steps. It was… reassuring.

Wisdom

  • About next steps: I discovered CreativeLive.com last week. It’s basically a learning platform for creatives, so their content is very much focused on making and the business of making. Considering I’m toying with the idea of starting some sort of sewing/ dressmaking/ costuming business of my own (maybe? possibly? because finding part time employment is hard… and best I do something in the meanwhile? and it would link in nicely to studying fashion design or costume design?), this was a wonderful discovery because I have questions… and it looks like they might have some answers. Even if they don’t, learning about the basics of photography is exciting. Now I just need to get comfortable with the idea that it’s okay to take time to learn new skills without having an end goal in mind…
  • And I signed up for an eight week programme on energy medicine with Donna Eden. Because my mind-body-spirit connection feels ‘broken’, and this may help to ‘fix’ it.
  • And now I’m going to have a bit of a lie down. I received news this morning that Tío Américo passed away yesterday from a heart attack. He’s my uncle on my mother’s side, and whilst I never met him, I am heartbroken for my mother. Because she’s lost her brother. And the last time they saw each other was 20 years ago… And it makes me realise, painfully, that this living in a different country to that of your immediate family is just… hard. Because we miss so much. I’m missing my brother’s building a beautiful relationship… missing my niece growing up… missing my sister… missing my parents. It’s just… hard. In among all the things… it’s just… hard.

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* It turns out, by a rather serendipitous turn of events, that I later found out who the artist is. I bought a copy of Good magazine for the trip home, and there, on the last page, was the print. And the artist’s name – Paul Rangiwahia.

  • I went to bed late last night because I was sorting LEGO. (Yes, the Great LEGO Codification continues.) Point is, I’m tired today. I do not function well on five hours of sleep. I tend to go quiet. And this is not altogether a bad thing. Because going quiet sometimes makes space for small epiphanies.
  • Small epiphany one: I don’t have to ‘fight’ anxiety, I can ease into it. More often than not, I picture exposure therapy as being these bursts of painful anxiety that needs to be managed whilst going to a new place. After discussing my trip into Wellington with my homeopath/ counselor, I came to realise that it can also be a gentle discovery of a place, and sitting with the anxiety that might (or might not?) present itself. It’s a very different approach, because the motivation to go out and about is not focused on overcoming the expected anxiety (which feels a lot like work), but rather on exploring, on being curious, on being delighted (which feel a lot more like joyous wonder). I can change my perspective on anxiety. Stop seeing it as a battle. Start seeing it as a travel companion.
  • Small epiphany two: I need to get comfortable with being ‘idle’ or doing ‘frivolous’ things, partly as a means of self-care and partly just because (and why not?). See, my childhood was centered around going to school, cleaning the house on Saturday, going to church on Sunday and then lunch at family or having family over. So, work. Or duty. Or being on my best behaviour all the time. Basically. Having fun for the sake of having fun was discouraged. (Because life is serious, don’t you know!) The housework had to be done first. The homework had to be done first. Play (self-care?) happened after the work was done. As an adult, taking time out for myself feels wrong. Just. Wrong. Which sucks, because my parenting of Sophia is so stressful most of the time. (I feel like I’m either directing her by giving her instructions or I’m nagging her a lot of the time.) I’m the grumpy mommy. <sad face> I don’t want to be the grumpy mommy. And yet… I don’t want her to be a slob.
  • Small epiphany three: in stark contrast to indulging in frivolity perhaps, I also need structure in my life. By structure, I mean I think it’s time I set some goals. Perhaps that will focus, what feels like, the chaos that is my day to day living. The drudgery I fall into from day to day.
  • The happy stuff: we went to an SCA event over the weekend. It was nice. Sophia enjoyed a boffer tournament and archery, and generally hanging out with other kids. Russell and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, chopping and getting nom-nom food cooked. I felt… productive. And we made a new friend or two. (And I can confirm that Russell is a lot more of a social being than I am! He chats. A lot. It’s nice seeing him in that space. His eyes shine and he smiles a lot more. He’s very handsome when he’s laughing. <goofy grin> And Sophia, bless her cotton socks, enjoys the independence; the freedom to play. (Read: being away from grumpy, controlling mommy.)

DA_2018_BofferTourney

Sophia on left. Russell on right. Post boffer tourney. Little people chase barons.

 

(Wherein I spiral somewhat uncontrollably into a puddle of self loathing. If this is not your cup of tea, then please, look away.*)

Today is Wednesday. (So yes, this is not my usual Friday post. The reason why will become apparent in a bit, I’m sure.) I spent Monday and Tuesday in bed. Because migraine and general exhaustion. I do feel physically better today. Emotionally and mentally, not so much. Let’s just say there’s a lot that I’m processing.

  • I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the reason why I chose to apply for a job, mostly because I’ve not heard anything back from the recruitment agency and, although one would think I’d be feeling excited about the possibility of going back to full time work, I’m not. I’m quite relieved that there isn’t any movement either way. Relieved because I don’t know that I can face an interview at the moment (because exhausted and my heart just isn’t in it, and my cold sore has turned into a nasty scab… and a nasty scab on the lip doesn’t exactly make for a self confident me at an interview.) So. Basically, relieved. I applied for the position because I felt like I needed to do something (anything!). I feel like I’m wasting away at home, being a housewife. Mostly because I suck at being a housewife. My work doesn’t feel important or… purposeful. No one really gives a damn if the laundry is done or not, or if there’s a nutritionally balanced meal on the table. There are days when I  feel like I could disappear and no one would notice, at least not for a while. So my thinking turns to an imaginary picture of me pointing at a thing I’ve made (and someone has paid for) and me saying to anyone who cares to listen: “Look, I made this thing. It serves a purpose. It is of value. And by extension, I am of value.”
  • I was taught that, to be of value, you need to be making money somehow. And because I’m not making money… well… I’m of no value. I was also taught that making space for exploring ideas and a new direction is indulgent. (No one has time for that. You need to be working, and earning money!) Anything less is frivolous… or downright lazy. (I didn’t say these were good lessons. I just said it’s what I was taught. It’s difficult to shake off thinking that’s so deeply ingrained.)
  • So here I am… spending money on books and online courses because I want to go in a totally different direction and my head is telling me it’s frivolous because I’m not earning the money that buys the books and the online courses. And then I feel shame. Because I don’t know where this will take me. I can’t… justify it. I just know that I’m happy when exploring fashion history, clothing construction and all things fibre and/ or textile. But being happy doing it doesn’t pay the bills… and I don’t know that it ever will. I’m looking for certainty that can’t be found.
  • For a while there, I was thinking the SCA** could be a vehicle for exploring clothing history and construction, and the ‘frivolity’ of it wouldn’t matter because the SCA is a hobby, right? A thing you do for fun. It’s not meant to be ridiculously serious. It is meant to be a place where you’re encouraged to learn, to recreate.  But I don’t know anymore. The SCA is so much bigger here… we’re exposed to so much more of the politics. And it’s not fun at the moment, not really.*** It’s just… heavy. Add to that, my own insecurities about what I (haven’t) achieved over the years in the SCA… and… well… it’s all just so heavy. We are going to an SCA event this weekend, but still. Heavy.
  • I want to be good at something. Right now, everything feels like I’m starting at ground zero. EVERYTHING. I feel downright stupid. Going back into instructional design was an idea born out of wanting to feel like I didn’t have to start at ground zero. Like I actually knew something. Like I could make a worthwhile contribution with that something. But now I just feel like I’m going in the wrong direction… again… and that’s… a little heartbreaking.

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* and I suddenly think of the theme tune to A Series of Unfortunate Events. Sorry. I know, it’s catchy.

** Society for Creative Anachronism

*** January 2018 saw #Trimgate (the infamous Caid Swaztika Incident), and more recently #IStandWithDavius. If you really want to delve into the politics, here’s a place to start. This article gave me some clarity around the feelings behind #Trimgate, and a way of navigating my own emotions around the situation. But still. Being new to a group is hard enough… being confronted with the realisation that the society you’ve invested so much time, energy, and money into isn’t what you thought it was (i.e. a place where everyone can stand) is a hard pill to swallow. I see the world through rose-tinted glasses for the most part, and I suppose I’m naive to the hatred that’s out there. So when I’m confronted with it… well… yeah. Heavy.

Sorry people. I feel a little like death warmed up, so this will be short.

  • The heading to this post will give you a clue – I have a cold sore. Thing is, I generally don’t get cold sores unless the body is VERY. RUN. DOWN. And I am feeling very run down. The ‘feel-like-you’ve-been-swimming-the-English-Channel-in-a-heavy-cotton-floor-length-nightgown-and-you’re-a-lousy-swimmer-to-begin-with-so-what-possessed-you-to-do-this-?’ sort of run down. And I can’t quite understand why. I mean, looking at my life, I have it easy. So… why?
  • Part of it, I think, was the process of going to the interview last week. That was a big deal because I broke my glass ceiling. The getting down and just doing it took a lot more out of me than I thought. I’m thinking that 15 years ago my anxiety would explode there and then, and I’d be done with it once I’d recovered from the fright-flight-freeze response. Now, my anxiety seems to implode and I get a cold sore (because run down body) a week later. Nice, eh? Still… exploding is harder to deal with than imploding, so I’ll take the cold sore. (As long as I can moan about it too!)
  • Perhaps I should elaborate on the ‘glass ceiling’. Things have shifted since the interview in that stuff doesn’t feel as scary anymore. Sure, I might have an anxious response to some things, but it feels more do-able now. Like I can manage somehow. And that’s a good thing. (Either that, or I’m just numb. Too tired to care, in a way.)
  • Also, I haven’t heard anything back about a possible interview as yet, nor am I too concerned about it. I’m still in two minds about whether or not full time work is right for me. I suspect it is not, and a 32 hour work week would be better. Part time work could also be an option.
  • I’m also finding that, although I do enjoy instructional design, I like learning and making more. The idea of giving up time to do full time work, that could otherwise be spent on making, is depressing. Which tells me something. Perhaps the path that leads to making is the path I should be taking… even if it means I’m not earning a salary for quite some time still. I’m just not confident in the next step. But the frustration of not taking a step is all the more annoying. I just… don’t know where to start. But start I must. Somewhere. ANY. WHERE. <sad face> <shrug>