And now, the end is here...

It's the last day of 2011 here. Some years, it's like you've won a sprint (you know the sort of win; the one where there's noone anywhere near you and you can make a show of dancing to the finish line, or posing for photos before running through the ribbon), and some years it's like you've crawled your way out of the jungle with a body covered in bug bites, a snake trying to swallow your leg and an alligator biting your butt.

2011 has been an alligator butt year in a lot of ways, but mostly I'm so thrilled to have had so many positive experiences. I participated in 21 Secrets, which means I've learned a load of new tricks and techniques.

I'd decided not to do any courses, but changed my mind about 21 Secrets. So, so glad I did. The women running the workshops have all changed the way I look at art, and quite a few of them really hammered home for me the idea of art as therapy. Not in terms of hiring an art therapist, though that's certainly something to consider in the future, but in terms of using art on your own as a way to let go of the bad stuff and work through the complicated stuff. Quite a few of the workshops used hidden or not overly legible journaling, and I've taken to it like a duck to water. This probably sounds horrible, but I've learned more practical problem solving techniques and coping strategies in a few months of art classes than two years of actual therapy.

I applied to university this year. I told no one, because I was so, so sure I'd not get in. But I did. I start my creative writing degree in February, and I'm flitting between elated and terrified by the notion of dedicating the next 3 years of my life to something so fully. Especially since there are plans starting to take root and grow for a big, awesome, time consuming non profit endeavour.

2012? It's going to be epic.

I'm signed up for Life Book over here, which is promising to be a huge, fun, brilliant adventure. At first when I got into uni I was a bit nervous Life Book would be too time consuming, but now I'm seeing it as a creative outlet and something outside of focusing entirely on writing. I work better when I flit between things, and I can't wait till Life Book starts (22ish hours to go, but you can join any time of year and not miss anything).

I can't wait to hit the ground running in 2012.

Seriously, though, no matter how your year has been, I hope your last day/hours of 2011 are joyful and wonderful, and a perfect lead in to the magic and brilliance of 2012. May the new year bring all you can dream of and so much more.

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A five minute update

It's been a while between updates, so I thought while I was waiting for paint to dry, I'd jump in and say hi.


November is always a very productive month for me, because for the last few years I've been participating in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and pushing myself to write 50,000 words of fiction in November. It's less than 2,000 words a day to do, which sounds easy until you decide to try for a cohesive plot rather than ramblings. I've been pretty slack so far, with less than 1,000 words, but I'm wordy enough to catch up pretty quickly when I have some time to really sit and focus.

For the first time, though, I'm also participating in Art Every Day Month over at Creative Every Day. It's a challenge to do something creative every day in November, and while so far my creativity has been mostly prep work and doing little things that take forever to try, I've decided to set myself an additional challenge for this. Instead of trying to make 30 random pieces of art, I'm going to take a leaf out of Lori Portka's book. She is an amazing artist who has set about creating 100 thank you pictures for the people in her life that have inspired her and gifted her with their love and support over the years. 100 is a bit much for me, but 30? Totally doable.

So far I've got a list happening that I'm getting more and more excited about. I raced out and got some 5x7 canvas boards (because as much as I'd love to do actual canvases for everyone, the budget just won't allow for it). Batch two has just been gessoed and is drying underneath the ceiling fan beside me. Batch one has the first layer of stamping and glued on things drying. There's two more groups to be taken care of (though one has to be returned; a few of the canvas boards were mouldy when I opened their packets- ew!) For now, there's not a whole lot to photograph, but as I go through I'm planning on photographing and putting pictures up here to actually add some images to this blog.

And... that's pretty much it, really. No big, earth shatteringly huge news to report. Just me jumping around between creative acts and forgetting to update. Hope wherever you are, you're having a happy, productive time of it.

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The Legend of October/ Wishcasting Wednesday

There's something about October, I'm afraid.

Don't get me wrong, I try hard not to hate a month, not to dread it's arrival. I want to see the good in it all. But there's something about October that frustrates and upsets me. This time, though, October hasn't just frustrated, it's whooped me good.

Like getting a root canal. And getting incredibly sick right before I had no choice but to finish the root canal. If you've ever had to try and sit still while trying not to cough, you know how hard that is. Now imagine having a coughing fit with a drill in your mouth. Scary, huh?

I was participating in a free (awesome) workshop to help organise the craft stash. It was brilliant, I loved it and was inspired to rock my space and bring it in line. And then everything went haywire. First there was the spider- huge huntsmen- which required fumigating my bedroom. Then multiple dentist trips. Then dealing with my best friend who was sick, and eventually getting the plague myself.

This week's Wishcasting Wednesday prompt over at Jamie Ridler Studios is What do you wish to let go of? What I feel called to let go of this week is the reason behind my October hate.

October? Yeah, that's my birth month. In the last five years, my birthday hasn't gone well. At all. There was the year my family got distracted and showed up 4 hours late because they went shopping. Not for presents or anything, they just went shopping. Then there was the year that all of my family cancelled at the last second, so no one came to my party. Then there was the year that we had a combined birthday party for the five people in my family born in October. There were four cakes- everyone had forgotten it was my birthday, too. Then there was the year my mother went to babysit, and ended up too sick to see me (which, in fairness, bothers me because it's a fairly regular thing for my Mum to cancel plans to go look after my cousins). This year, my sister was working, which bafflingly meant my mother couldn't spend the day with me.

For me, birthdays are meant to be about family. It's a day to share with people you love, and who love you. It's not about presents, but presence. And it hurts my inner child, and my outer grown up, to have our family tradition of spending time together cancelled so regularly.

The thing is, October is a great month. There's Halloween, which means funky lights and pretty art supplies. It's spring here, so there are flowers and butterflies and it's warm enough to go watch the waves or the ribbons of bats dancing through the twilight. Aside from the family issue, there's nothing bad about the month, and I'm tired of wincing at the thought of it. It's a twelfth of my year. A twelfth of my entire life is Octobers- that's a lot of years of wincing. I don't want to spend my Septembers drawing negativity to my Octobers, and it's quite obvious to me that I've done so this year.

So tonight, my wish is to let go of the hurt colouring October, so that I can embrace the beauty and happiness of the month. I want to learn to let go of the baggage, and embrace the positive rather than being dragged into the negative.

Here's to letting go.

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So... I vanished. Again.

I've done my usual, I'm afraid.

Whenever I feel particularly crazy, whether I'm feeling depressed or as though I'm racing towards mania, I tend to hide from the world. It's unhealthy, unhelpful, and causes strain on all of my relationships, but still, I run.

People don't like it when I do. To them, it feels like I'm saying I don't believe them when they say it's ok, that they can ride out the roller coaster of my emotions. And, if I'm honest, I am saying that, just not with the same connotations that people are reading into it. The only person to not run-a-screaming was a youth worker, well used to mad behaviour. To me, it feels like protecting other people, and myself. There's a million and one reasons for it, but mostly, it's because my experience is that when people see beyond the carefully crafted exterior, they run.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not violent, nor cruel. But I'm exhausting when manic and at times self destructive when depressed, and it's honestly ok that people don't cope well with the sudden shift into acting like someone else. We all cope better when the people we love fit into their pigeonholes- person A is quiet, person G is flirty, person J is the one with the good advice. When that suddenly changes, it's jarring. At times it feels like there are three distinct personality types living in the one body. I don't begrudge people not being able to handle it, because it's jarring for me, too.

This year has been about looking inwards for me. Lots of soul searching, lots of hunting out clues behind my behaviours. I honestly don't think it's helpful to say 'this behaviour is dumb and I'm gonna change it', because I need to know why I'm doing the things I do. And it staggers me how much of what I do, both good and bad, comes down to protecting myself from the potential hurt of people vanishing. So instead of stepping out and admitting that I need help or support, or that I'm struggling, I curl inward, and suffer quietly.

Both online and off, I worry that I'll be depressing, or irritating. And I wonder how many interesting or helpful thoughts or ideas are lost out of that fear. So I'm going to try and post more, if only to remind myself that it's all good. What I post here doesn't need to be perfect, it needs to be honest. That was the goal I set myself with this blog, and hiding isn't honest.

There's a belief in weight loss that until you accept yourself for where you are, until you find the good in yourself and love yourself unconditionally, nothing will change. What you hate or fear about yourself, you empower. Maybe that's true of mental health, too. What if, instead of treating my bipolar like some dark little secret, I embraced it? What if instead of grumbling about the down sides, I looked at the positives? How many famous, creative souls are bipolar? Quite a few. More and more, it's becoming accepted understanding that there's something about bipolar, or mental illness in general, that can lead to a more creative person. What if I embraced the good, and embraced who am I right now, instead of lamenting the fact that all gifts come with a downside?

How much better would the world be if we all took a moment today to look in a mirror, meet our own gaze and said 'I love you, right now, just the way you are'?

Tangling up the Positives

I have spent the last few weeks struggling with a decision- one that still hasn't been made. And I'm getting irritated and grumpy because instead of it all falling together like I want it to, it's just a tangled mess of maybes.

I asked the angels for help, and panicked, because nothing seemed to happen. And for a while, my stress levels increased. Increased so much that I've got an infection in my arm (you can always tells when I'm really, really stressing about something because I get sick in weird and random ways). I felt like I was waving my hands above my head, asking for help and getting nothing.

I wonder, though, if I'm just so stressed that I don't see the blindingly obvious in front of me. I know I've taken something that should be fun and awesome and exciting, and managed to jumble it up into a bad (if enlightening) moment.

Oh dear. I think I do that a lot.

I've decided, though, to talk it out here, where saner minds can add input if they wish to.

The problem with being crazy to the point employment is unsustainable is mostly financial. You can survive, of course. I'm hardly starving, or homeless. I can afford art supplies from time to time. I even manage to squirrel away money every fortnight to be able to do something fun once a year. All year, I do what's expected. I try and maintain that mature responsible grown up persona that is expected. But for one moment a year, I get to just give in and be crazy-in-the-good-sense. To not care that there are important, grown up things I could spend the money on, but to give it as a gift to my creative self to do what she wishes with it.

Normally, it's a shopping spree for art supplies. It's a chance to top up the stores, or try new things. It's a way to try that paint that's too expensive the rest of the year. This year, though, I'm thinking about doing something else. I was thinking about taking a course. Not business, not something long term and sensible, but something that enriches me creatively. Something for me, not something designed to keep everyone else happy.

My first thought was a Doreen Virtue course. Which, wow, would be amazing. My sister did one, and loved every second, and I find myself more and more wishing I'd done it, too. But lordy, is it expensive. It costs more for a three day course than I saved up in a year. And that's not even thinking about accommodation. Sheesh. At first, my heart sung with the idea of taking this course. It felt right. The universe would make it happen.

And then things did start happening. Things got delayed. On inspection, the timing was just wrong, even if we could make it work with a little elbow grease and sacrifice. As for accommodation? Yeah, no way in heck could I afford it. Even searching out the cheapest accommodation possible brought with it a pile of new issues. Everything I tried seemed to bring more bad news.

Still, my heart held on tight to the idea. Like a kid throwing a tantrum in a store, I wanted it.

I think that's where the problem lies. It's not like this course is a rare event, it happens quite regularly. So realistically, I could work my budget a little harder, save for a longer period, and be able to do it without much hassle next year, or even the year after. After all, it not happening this year doesn't have to mean it will never, ever happen. It just means that I'm not ready yet, that there are other things I could be doing that wouldn't cost quite so much.

Today, as I was hastily writing for Camp Nanowrimo, my brain kept flitting back to the Rock Your World Summit. I loved it. I want to do more things like that, really. All year, as I've read blogs like Roots Of She, Suzi Blu, Dirty Footprints Studio, ABC Creativity.... I've wanted to do their classes. They sound amazing, divine, beautiful, and every time I see them, a little spark lights up inside me and says 'yes'. Yes, I want to try that. Yes, this sings to something in me. And every time, I've sighed like a mother dreading saying no to their child, and firmly planted my feet back in reality. Yes, I'd love to do that course too, but we can't afford it. Maybe next year? Look at the cost, look at the difference in our dollar to theirs! How can we possibly do it?

What if I did a few of them this year, instead? What if I took the hint and said that the original plan isn't going to happen, but that it's made room for more fun things over a longer period of time?

What if I stopped looking backwards, and started looking ahead?

Suddenly, I don't feel so stressed.

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The World's Biggest Summit

I wasn't in the headspace where I was up to blogging when the Rock Your World Summit took place. I still feel kinda guilty about not at least mentioning it here, because OMG did I get a lot out of it. Still, I took fantastic notes, so if you want them, let me know.

But now there's another summit on the way, and now that I know it exists, I'm going to mention it right now, minutes after hearing about it.

It's called The World's Biggest Summit, it's hosted by the beautiful Goddess Leonie, and it's talking about having 100+ teachers.

It's also free. Uhuh, free.

I'm going to be honest. With the Rock Your World Summit, I thought ok, maybe I'll get one or two little nuggets of awesome, but it's not going to have much for me. And I was completely, totally, amazingly wrong. Because even the areas I thought wouldn't have much I'd care about had multiple amazing ideas for me to ponder. Pages and pages of notes.

I walked out of it hyper inspired, and with a list of ecourses I'd love to do. It was, without fail, the best thing I've done this year in terms of treating myself to something deliciously life changing and inspiring. If I could go back in time, I'd have yammered on about it on here, on my real life social media, to my family, heck, to anyone who stood still long enough near me. It was that good.

I walked out of Rock Your World realising that I needed, heart and soul, to unleash my passion and creativity and let them grow from timid, tame pups afraid of their own shadow to the wild and beautiful wolves they were always meant to be. I can't wait to see what comes from the World's Biggest Summit!

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Pegasus Lists

Lately, life has been overwhelming. My computer needed to be sent off for repairs, my relationships got rocky, my heart got heavy and sad. I've mourned for lost friendships, wished for change, and felt myself falling into the old familiar mindset: the only way to make things better is to fix it all. Right this second. Now.

I do that, you see. I will get it into my head that I need to do a million things a day- all grown up, sensible things, and then find myself resentful and sullen because a life of total grown up sensibility comes with a large lack of fun. It came to a head late last night (why do epiphanies arrive in the middle of the night??), when I crawled into bed, exhausted.

Three minutes later, I was wide awake.

My brain was churning. I decided that what I needed to do was have a look at what I felt like I had to achieve right that second in order to have things feel ok. I wanted to know what ideas and stresses were lurking in the back of my mind, making me anxious and unable to sleep. Taking (and altering) some wise advice from the Goddess Leonie, I started two lists. The first was my stubborn mule tasks: the big grown up tasks that have to be done. The stuff that makes me drag my feet and pout because there's so much to do. It took two pages to hold them all.

When the frantic writing stopped, it dawned on me that the list fell into three kinda obvious subsections. I grabbed a grey texta (marker pen) and crossed out the impossible ones: single handedly fixing relationship issues, getting my home in perfect order right now this second, and all the things I feel guilty that I can't physically do on my own or within ten minutes. I grabbed a highlighter and coloured in the things that definitely had to be done- no ifs or buts. Doctors appointments and meetings, things with a definite deadline that was looming. The list was still terrifyingly huge, even without those.

The rest of the stubborn mule list was full of things. Boring things like washing dishes and using the treadmill and organising huge piles of stuff into manageable amounts. Obligation things. Duty things. Things I know I should do but that feel like a chore. I'd feel better with them done, of course. No one likes to see piles of stuff hanging around, awaiting organisation or cleaning. Certainly, no one likes feeling like they're letting someone else down. I looked at the pages of remaining jobs, and asked myself an important question: what five things (and five only) could I do tomorrow that would make me feel better?

Suddenly, the list was manageable. It was obvious that there were a few things that would make life run smoother if they happened- get the clear stamps off the bathroom mirror and back in their cases, make the bed in the morning rather than being led astray by other tasks that will 'only take a moment' and eat away the hours... easy, small things that would make a big impact but wouldn't take up my day. I pointedly ignored things that needed something else to be done first, decided to focus on things that wouldn't lead to my feeling obligated to try and tackle the whole list.

The second list I created was based on the idea of a wild donkey list. At the moment, not a lot of ideas are jumping into my mind for attention, but what I do have is a yearning list of things that I crave, but don't always find the time to do. If there are stubborn mule and wild donkey lists, this is my Pegasus list- so magic and fantastical that sometimes I wonder if it's possible to have it exist. They're not even huge things, just things that a part of me desperately wants to do, but that usually go by the way side because there's too much other stuff to do.

Make a love-filled, yummy, healthy dinner for my bff and I. At the moment, more often than not it seems to be a frantic rush to throw something together, with little thought or care. Done.

Leisurely sip tea, rather than forgetting about it and speed drinking a lukewarm cupful. Done.

Read for pleasure, rather than for research or note taking. Done (catching up on inspiring blogs counts!)

Send a loving, uplifting message to the people in my life who need cheering up. Maybe it's just me, but I find that I always intend to send a message, post a card, do something to cheer up those around me. But then something steps in and distracts me, and the gesture goes unmade. Today I decided to simply SMS something nice to two people. Done.

Make something beautiful.

Create RAKs (random acts of kindness) for loved ones, ready to post on pay day.

Six beautiful, happy making things that don't involve running around like a headless chicken. I found that I started with my Pegasus list, and was soon inspired to start on the stubborn mule list! It wasn't quite so scary, because I knew I'd already achieved something (three, actually) from my Pegasus list, so I wasn't rushing through the day in the hopes of scratching out a few moments for fun things later on.

What a relief.

So what about you? Do you ever get overwhelmed by constant floods of things to do, and if so, how to you get through it without feeling like you're banging your head against a wall (or worse, drowning)?

Rocking the World and Letting it Go.

Today, between frantic bouts of cleaning, I'm rewriting my notes from the Rock Your World Summit, which was a recent free telesummit held by the amazing girls at Big Sparkly Life. Even though I had to carve out time I didn't have (mostly listening at 2am, when it was quiet), it was well worth it. I came away inspired, happy, and ready to take on the world.

Cut to two days later, when everything began falling to pieces. Relatives in hospital, other's at home but fading fast, others losing the battle with their illness. Other relatives getting into bad situations, all out warfare between groups, cancelled plans and hurt feelings, and a near manic episode from all the stress.

It felt, to be honest, as though the universe gave me a beautiful hint of what could be, then threw me straight back onto the garbage heap (and then promptly threw some old nappies in as well). It was heartbreaking to feel all that passion, all that life that had been coursing through me suddenly screech to a halt and vanish away, to make time and energy to help other people.

So one night, after everyone else had gone to bed, I sat down in front of some bad TV show, and cried my eyes out. This, I told myself, was not what I signed up for. I signed up for big, beautiful, wonderful life. I did not sign up for cleaning up other people's messes and being there for people who are never there for me. And yet, here I was, yet again sweeping up for someone else and telling myself to be nice to people who aren't overly nice to me.

For a while, I just sat and wallowed and felt like crap. Sometimes you just need to let yourself feel miserable for a little bit, rather than push through it and move on. Eventually, though, one of the exercises from the Summit popped into my head. Jamie Saloff mentioned it in her talk: Why Feel Like An Ugly Duckling When You're Really A Swan? She called it playing Dear Abby, and what you do is you write down the names of three people you'd love to sit down and give some advice to. Maybe you can tell them in real life (maybe you already have and they've ignored you), or maybe you can't. Either way, write down the first three names that spring to mind.

Next, you write down the advice you want to give them. Spell it all out, be as blunt or as gentle as you want. Just get it all out onto the page.

The last step is actually quite eye opening. Go back and cross out the names you wrote down, and put your own in. Read the advice as though someone is giving it to you. What can you take from it that is useful to your life right now? Not all of the information will be relevant for you. If you're giving advice to an alcoholic, for example, the alcohol based comments aren't going to look overly helpful to someone who doesn't drink. But think about the overall message rather than the specifics. Are you starting to get addicted to something else, even if it's a healthy something? Maybe you are exercising past the point it's helpful, and veering into addiction? Maybe you're the type of person who feels pressured into working unpaid overtime because you're clinging to the idea that someone needs to do it, and no one else will. If you look, there'll be something there relevant to you.

One of the messages I wrote was to a relative who gives up far too much of her time to help other relatives who don't appreciate any of it (already, I should have been seeing similarities!). They expect she'll drop everything and help. For most of it, I nodded a bit, refusing to see the similarities, and then the last sentence hit me like a tonne of bricks: for Gods sake, realise that you're worthy of appreciation and respect, because neither household gives you any of either. A very pointed reminder, that. One of the things I whine about to my bff is that I wish people would care about all the work I do for them. "I'm not asking for a parade here, just someone noticing would be nice" is a constant lament. Here I am, wishing that my loved one would realise she deserved better, and all the while I'm in the exact same trap. How can I beg her to put herself first when I don't?

Another of the things I'd written to a loved one was about letting go. That there is nobody in your life worth giving your life up for- that sometimes if you want someone badly enough, the best way to make it happen is to let go and move on. Get yourself together, make yourself a happier, healthier person, and let your sudden joy and radiance bring people into your life. Maybe it'll be that person you love, maybe by then you'll decide they aren't going to be a part of your life, but if things haven't worked, it's time to try something new. Another pointed reminder. I've had my self worth tied to my family for years. If they cancel plans, I spend hours obsessing about what I may have done wrong, or what they don't like about me. What an exhausting way to live! Maybe if I want them in my life, it's time to let go. To let go of the baggage, to let go of the hurt and the desperate wish for approval. If I used even half that wasted energy on myself, how much happier and healthier and more full of life would I be? If I stopped letting their disorganisation become my emergency, how much less stressed would I be? If I stopped cleaning up messes and feeling as though I had to do something, anything, to make their lives easier, what could I achieve in my own life?

So this week, I'm devoting my time to exploring ways of letting go. I have a few ideas so far:

  • Writing grievances on toilet paper pieces and flushing them
  • Writing them on pieces of paper and burning them
  • Either finding a rock that you can imagine represents each issue (or writing them on a rock) and then either burying them, or throwing them into running water (a creek, stream, or even the ocean)
  • blowing on a dandelion and imagining that each little seed is one of the things you've been holding on to
  • a meditation exercise, where you give all of the negative energy to a higher power to be transformed into positive energy.
  • a meditation exercise where you imagine all of the ties that bind you to the other person (or people) as cords of light that move from your body outwards. Imagine you can see the pulse of your energy moving from your body, into the cord, and towards the other person. Ask an Angel, or Deity, to sever the ties between you both.
  • Write a letter. In it be totally, utterly honest about what's happened and how it has affected you. Be honest about your role in events, but put responsibility where it's due. Say everything you want to say, everything you think and feel, even if it sounds mean or cruel. Burn or bury the letter. Do NOT send it. If you want to send a letter, use this one as a basis, but word it more kindly.
At the end of the week, I think I'm going to pick something from the list and try it out.

As for the third piece of advice? It was to stop working so hard and remember to play. Ties in nicely, and during pauses in cleaning, I'm going to prep some art journal pages so I can play tonight and all day tomorrow. Sounds like a fair compromise to me.

The Universe. Again.

Today, I have issues. Not little, quirky, artistic melodrama issues. These are Godzilla issues, roaring and destroying and leaving me running about like a chook with its head cut off. I want to growl, yell, stomp and scream today.

No, really. Those kids throwing epic tantrums in the sweets isle? Were it not for major self restraint, that'd be me.

Here's the thing: today has just been a mess of being told I'm not enough. It's not enough that I'm doing everything I can to meet other people's expectations. It's not enough that I'm trying my hardest and running myself ragged in the process. It's not enough. I feel like there's a neon sign above my head flashing I AM NOT ENOUGH. I want to curl into a hole, and hide.

One of the big things I'm realising at the moment is that if you look for it, life sends you messages. It's there, whether or not it comes from a bible, a self help book, a song, or if you're me tonight, the Prom ep of Glee.

Oh yeah. You know the universe has had to work on getting a message through when your big life lesson comes from Glee.

Glee is my guilty pleasure. It's boppy. It's melodramatic and hilarious. Sue Sylvester is brilliant (as is the actress playing her, Jane Lynch). I would cheerfully by CDs by the women who play Britney and Santana. The character I love most, though, is Kurt.

Kurt (Chris Colfer) is talented beyond belief. Lordy, but his version of 'Blackbird' is my most listened to song at the moment. If Chris Colfer had a CD out? I'd buy the disk, and get it on Itunes. He is that good. And as much as I love his voice, I also love the character. Kurt is an insecure, talented kid torn between fitting in and being himself. He's also the only openly gay kid in a school that is deeply intolerant.

It was the prom episode tonight, and one in which Kurt finds himself thrilled that for once, he's not being bullied. He's happy- his boyfriend is going to prom with him, he loves his outfit, and he's convinced that finally, his peers are beginning to accept him. Until the moment he's voted Prom Queen.

All along, those people he thought were finally accepting him just found a better way to hurt him. And he stormed from the room, and there were tears and insecurities galore.

And then the universe pointed something out to me through an insecure, crazy talented, imaginary teen. He cried, and then he marched back in and accepted that crown. He decided that if he ran, he'd regret it. He decided that he'd take the good aspects and let go of the bad. He couldn't control the actions of others, but he could control his own.

Another Gibbs style smack to the head from the Universe. All of these people I'm running around trying to please? I can't control their actions. I can't make them learn about bipolar or have an open and honest discussion about their expectations, or my abilities in meeting those expectations. I can't make them happy, because what they want and what I'm able to give are vastly different things. I cant control their opinions about me, their beliefs and actions towards me. I have no say in it, nor power over it. All I can control is how I respond.

Tonight, I'm going to curl into a ball, watch TV a while, and let myself be overwhelmed and sad. Tomorrow, though, I'm gonna march into my life again, throw on a tiara and fantastic outfit, and damn well make sure I remember that I'm fabulous. More importantly, I'm gonna make sure I remember that I am MORE than enough.

Conversations with the Universe

Have you ever had a moment where the universe seems to grind to a halt, and stand before you like a bemused but slightly impatient best friend, tapping her foot and pointing to a path? She's beautiful, and her eyes are so sincere and so completely full of truth that for the first few steps, it doesn't even bother you that you have no idea whatsoever what you're doing. You can even ignore that it feels oh so slightly like being sent to bed by your mother.

That's what this month is turning into for me. I've had the divine 'aha' moment, began walking down the path, and then ground to a halt with the realisation I have no idea what I'm doing. I can hear her foot tapping behind me. I want to turn around, argue. I want to say I don't have the vaguest clue how to get from here to there, that I don't know how to do what she's telling me to do. I want to run (possibly shrieking) back to my safe, boring, soul wearying path, because this one?

This is, without doubt, the sort of path that millions of cartoons have taught us should be avoided at all cost. It's dark and foreboding. There are creepy trees with patterns shaped like faces, with arms that seem to reach out to catch clothing and hair, arms that seem to move without wind. There are creepy noises that stop whenever I turn around to investigate, and it makes my overactive imagination conjure up all sorts of evil just waiting to attack. The only constant sound is the tapping of an impatient foot, the occasional huff of frustration.

A wolf howls nearby, and just as I'm about to start running (screaming), there's a slap to the back of my head, Gibbs style.

"You like wolves, dork." She presses her lips tightly together, struggling not to grin. "You really are odd, aren't you?" She takes my hand, leads me back to the start of the path. When she turns us back around, the wolf is sitting there, tilting its head quizzically at us. "You like wolves, I thought you could use some company. And speaking of company, stop being rude to the trees."

"They're trying to rip my hair out!"

I'm pretty sure she's just insulted me in a language I don't even know. "All of the trees wanted to hug you, to wish you well on your trip."

"But they kept catching at my hair..."

"They're trees, love. They don't exactly get much practise moving around like that. And it's not dark and foreboding, dammit. It's easier to walk when it's cooler. Unless you want sun heating up your trip, your choice was twilight or driving rain." She sighs, the sort of long suffering sigh that only mothers ever seem able to pull off. "You're scared. I get that. But did you fall and die before you stopped? Did some horrible creature rip off a leg and beat you to death with it?"


"Then why is it scary?"

It takes me a while to figure that one out, and I'm pretty sure she's itching to smack me upside the head again when I mumble out a reply and she makes me repeat it.

"Because I don't know if I'm ready to be that, yet. I'm not sure I know enough to make it work. I'm not sure I'm enough to make it work." She looks like she's torn between hugging me and slapping me.

"This is a path, not a teleporter. You don't need to know right now what you'll know at the end of the path; you have plenty of time to learn as you go, to find stuff out and explore on your way. And who says you need to be ready to arrive before you've even started? Didn't you study hero journeys in school? Maybe you aren't enough right this second. But through the journey, you learn what you need to learn, you grow and change and become the person you want or need to be. Wouldn't literature be dull if all the heroes went 'I'm not enough' and stayed home? How many imaginary worlds would be destroyed because the people who could save them doubted themselves? This path can't hurt you. It can grow you, it can change you, but it cannot hurt you. Only you can. If you try and run the path in an hour, you'll hurt yourself. If you spend your time walking backwards, trying to see the path you left, you'll hurt yourself. But if you throw yourself into the journey, if you embrace the chance, seek out the beauty, and believe you're right where you're meant to be, doing exactly what you're meant to be doing? What bad can come from that?"

She smiles softly. "There's one last thing you need to know."


"These woods are filled with fireflies, but they're shy little things. They'll light the path but only so long as they think it's safe. If you're panicking around, thinking there's death behind every rock or tree, they'll think there is danger and stay hidden. But if you believe it's safe (it is), and ask them nicely, they'll light your path. There's magic all over, happy to help you along your way. The problem is, you are the only one who can be open enough to receive it. So open up your heart and start walking."

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The not so subtle art of waiting

I am waiting for my landlord and his son (aka my bffs Dad and brother) to come grab a big, heavy armchair. The path is clear, though it's journey is right through my so called office (aka the couch and its surrounds). Until they come grab the chair, there's no point in me starting to organise the piles of stuff waiting for me.

Our art supplies are a mess. So chaotic, in fact, that every time we try and create something, we end up overwhelmed by trying to find what we need. A few more bags of stuff, and it's done. Those bags are sitting hidden in my bedroom, waiting until they can be dragged out and taken care of.

Yup, after the chair is gone.

Currently, the chair is sitting in my kitchen. No, really. Chalk up another room I can't do much with until the menfolk have been and gone. I'm impatient, waiting for the ability to get my stuff done. I've gotten focused on the me, and ignored the reality. The reality is that the son lives elsewhere, that it's a big deal for him to be back. His parents are savouring their time with him. They should savour it. And I, instead of bemoaning the loss of hours, should be savouring them. After all, life has gifted me some free time- something I've been sorely missing lately. For a while at least, all my 'should do' tasks have screeched to a halt. I physically can't do them.

Sure, I can't get photos done of my pages in progress. Sure, I can't paint or be creative. But I haven't been quietly wishing for those. I've been wishing for a break, and had I not decided to blog, I'd have never realised that I was getting my wish. I'd have sat, wasting this precious time, resenting the way my silly little plans were changed. I wonder how many wishes are granted that I never notice; how many times have I been so caught up in the frustration of changed plans and seemingly negative events that I miss the beautiful moments that come about?

For now, though, I'm going to do something I've wanted to do for days. I'm going to make myself a cup of tea, and I'm going to sit on the patio and enjoy the sunlight and birdsong. Eventually they'll come down, but until then, I'm going to savour this moment.

Crows and reality checks

As I write this, there's a choir of crows outside my home, cawing and circling. When one flies low enough, near enough, I can hear the pounding of wings in motion.

Most people don't like crows, but I do. My neighbours moan at the constant chatter- we live near a school, and the littering and not putting the lid on the bin properly means that the crows know it's a sure feed. They, as well as topnotch pigeons, magpies, butcher birds and honey eaters, wander around our home and make themselves comfortable. Over the school holidays, we'll sometimes have crows carry over mummified bread pieces, dropping them into the little bird bath in our yard and leaving it to soak. I'll give them this: they're incredibly inventive. And smart enough to know how long to leave the bread so that it's soft enough to eat, but not a soggy blob.

I think animals can bring with them a lot of wisdom, if only you pay attention. There's a lot you can learn by reading about symbolism, but the best way to understand the messages they bring is to listen to where your mind or heart instinctively travels. Crows, for example, a generally thought to be symbolic of wisdom, secrets and omens. But that's not where my heart went today.

For the last few days, I've been a grump. I've been focused on the bad part of living here; the part where as soon as I go sit outside, someone comes for a chat, or where the landlord lives upstairs, is related to my flatmate, and blurs the line between 'landlord not allowed to come inspect without advance notice' and 'family member bound to drop by'. I've been worrying about how the latest federal budget changes will impact me- and they will, negatively. They'll make life even harder. There have been miscommunications and sore spots all around this week, and I find myself more and more feeling the itching need to just go somewhere. Anywhere. My mantra has been 'I hate it here'.

Today, though, the sky is an ever changing, perfect shade of blue. Each window I look out of shows a completely different shade. There are crows chattering and circling, and the sunlight is hitting the leaves of one of the trees just so, and it's beautiful. I may even see one of the blue tongued lizards wandering the cement, enjoying the warmth. If they're anything like me, the drowsy warmth will be too good an opportunity to pass up. It's that kind of day, one that's been sorely needed. A reminder that I may not always enjoy the circumstances, and the social aspect of life here, but it's still a beautiful place to be.

Crows are social creatures, though not always. They regularly wander off on their own, needing time away from the crowd. They speak to me today of needing balance- of finding a way to balance my need for peace and quiet with the realities of where I live. But they also have a knack of turning bad into good. Where we see rubbish and chaos, they see food and survival. They've found the positive in the negative, and today, so have I.

A Hastily Scribbled Note... say I'll be gone for the next little bit.

In a few hours, I am going on a road trip, getting in touch with my inner galah and going south for the winter. For those outside Australia, we have a bird called a Galah which in some cases fly south for the winter. Winter in the Northern parts of Australia are fairly warm, so flying south is generally a silly thing to do unless you enjoy the cold. As such, galah gets used as slang for someone being silly.

My best friend and I are packing up the car, temporarily renaming it the Galah, and heading south over Easter holidays. It'll be nice- for once I'll see leaves that have changed colour, and I'll finally have a use for the scarves I buy every winter but never get a chance to wear. And if I don't get frostbite or (more realistically) a cold, I'll be back at start of term with an external hard drive full of pictures (the zoo where we're going has snow leopards. Seriously, snow leopards! Life if good) and a computer heavy with stories to share. Hopefully, I'll find some time to visit a cafe with Wifi, but if not, I'll see you all soon.

If you celebrate it, have a fantastic Easter. I hope the Bunny leaves lots of goodies for you and your loved ones. And (especially if you're enjoying/surviving school holidays) I hope the season goes smoothly and is full of love, laughter and joy.

Night all, and happy travels.

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Wishcasting Wednesday

Over at Jamie Ridler Studios, this weeks Wishcasting Wednesday question is what do you wish to read?

My answer for this is simple: my novel, published. I have spent so long writing this story, and I would love to sit curled up on a comfy chair on a rainy day, a pot of tea at the ready, reading my own creation. I imagine the feel of the crisp pages, the small smile of delight that would come from running my fingers over the cover, tracing my name and revelling in it. My creation, my words, my story given form and freed into the world.

As I would read, I would remember. I'd grin to remember how easily one section flowed, as though I were the helpless hand to some greater power's words. I'd shake my head in recollection at just how much blood, sweat and tears went into another section, how it took over a month just to get that tiny, seemingly inconsequential piece just so. I would roll my eyes at a part that, in retrospect, seems a little cheesy, or a word I'd been so in love with at the time of writing that now fills me with a sense of chagrin. Even so, I'd love it dearly, and embrace it as dear friend.

I imagine the taste of the tea, warm and comforting but barely noticed as I read. I would probably go through multiple pots, forgetting they existed until they were cold and only then realising I was thirsty. Still, even as I know how it ends, even as I know every twist and turn as though they're the roads surrounding my home, I'd be reluctant to put the book down. I'd want to read it through the eyes of someone new, someone who is simply enjoying the story rather than picking it apart.

I imagine the odd rumble of thunder as I near the end of the story, the way I snuggle into a blanket in the cold weather, my eyes still glued to the pages. And finally, I imagine shaking myself from the stupor of a finished book, grinning to realise that I love the story all the more for one final read through.

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Bad Day Box

Have you ever had a day that just didn't go well? Or a week? Just a raincloud over your head drenching you all day, every day?

When I was younger, I was a moderator at a self injury forum. It was hard some days, but easily the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Being there for people as they struggled through a bad moment in their life, fighting against their coping mechanism was a much needed lesson that even if you're struggling, everyone has the ability to help someone else.

One of the best lessons I learned from my time there was the idea of the Bad Day Box. When I have kids, I'm going to have this as a weekly activity for them. I honestly think everyone could use their own Bad Day Box to play with. If you're having a rough time, this is definitely something to think about making.

The box itself can be as big or as small as you want or need it to be. It can be a shoe box, a specially bought wooden chest, whatever suits you. If you're decorating it, try to avoid dark or depressing colours, or colours that leave you feeling drained. Try for colours that you love, that leave you feeling happy and energised.

Once you've decorated to your heart's content, it's time to start filling your box. You can be as organised or disorganised as you want- there is no right or wrong way to do this. Add or leave out whatever doesn't feel right- just try and keep it as positive as possible.

If you have a blog, go and look through your comments. Are there any that make you smile, or that come from people who think you're awesome? Print out copies of any comments that inspire, amuse, or praise you (even if you don't fully believe you're as good as they seem to think you are!). Do this with forums and blogs you frequent, too. Any supportive, uplifting words directed at you should be printed out, but also look for inspiring quotes and stories. Wander round the internet for a while finding pictures and stories that make you smile, or inspire you to get up and keep working towards your goals. There are some amazingly uplifting blogs and sites devoted to publishing inspiring thoughts and ideas.

Now go have a look through your past. What are you proud of? I have some photos that I'm so proud of.  Whenever I feel as though I'm not overly creative, I go and look through them to remind myself that I need more faith in my abilities. When I finish my novel, I'll put a copy in my box. Anything and everything that you are proud of yourself for, include in the box.

The next step is something you do over a long period of time. Find yourself a little notebook that will fit into your pocket or bag easily, and a pen or pencil that will do the same. Every time you hear or see an inspiring quote, jot it down. More importantly, whenever someone says something nice about you, write it down. Keep track of who said what when, so on bad days when you flip through the finished notebooks, you can remember who said what and why they said it. When you finish a notebook, put it in the box and grab a new one.

The idea behind this is that when we're depressed, it's incredibly hard to remember all of the nice things people say about us. In fact, sometimes we start to think that the people in our lives are better off without us. Having a physical reminder of all the lovely things people say, and the moments where we've made a positive difference, is a way to combat our negative self speak.

There are variations for the bad day box, too. Some self injurers had one filled with distractions for times they wanted to hurt themselves. Other people had boxes of things that soothed them and calmed them down when they were angry or hyperactive.

So, now I've talked about one of my tools for positivity, I'm going to end this post with a question: what tips or tricks do you have for getting through bad days?

Mania or Making it Happen?

Tonight, I did something potentially crazy.

Let me preface this with an explanation. For two months now, I've been waiting patiently for my flatmate to cut my hair. We set time aside, and without fail, something happens. Someone gets sick, work needs something done sooner than now. Phone calls, emergencies. Life.

Two months is a long time to wait for a haircut. And before the obvious is pointed out: hairdressers are out for those same time constraints. I've cancelled enough appointments that I probably can't go back to the hairdresser any time soon. So I've waited, and gotten frustrated.

There's a deadline. I'm possibly road tripping on the weekend. I need my hair to be manageable. It hasn't been manageable in an eternity.

So, at 1am, when my flatmate was asleep, I put my hair in a ponytail, grabbed a pair of scissors, and hacked a large chunk of hair off.

Oddly, it doesn't look great. Ok, so it looks fine from what I can see, but I can feel empty airspace at the back that makes it obviously shorter than the sides. It needs work. Lots and lots of work.

But dammit, it's a start. Two months of skirting around, waiting for life to ease up a bit, and now I know it'll happen tomorrow. I have the day at home, and we have an hour between when she gets home from work and when we have to head out. There's our window, and because there's a hunk missing from my hair, I know it's going to happen. If I'm honest, there's also a part of me amused by the prospect of her reaction. I've left the three or so inches of evicted hair on the vanity where she'll see it first thing.

For me, it's an act of empowerment. I've accepted that life isn't going to slow down long enough to find time to get my hair done. I need to make time. And if I can't make time, then I need to make it impossible not to make time. By this time tomorrow, my hair will be done. No ifs, buts or maybes. Do I care that there will be uneven bits, that it'll be less than perfect?

No, I don't. I'd rather have it imperfect and done than wait for some never to be perfection.

The downside, of course, is that tomorrow my therapist will call this a manic episode. It's obvious I'm manic, after all, who in their right mind would cut a huge chunk out of their hair without giving it a thought? It seems sometimes that whenever I vary from what people expect, it's labelled 'manic'. What I see as putting long term contentment ahead of short term style is to my therapist a sign that my sanity isn't what it used to be. What she's never understood, what I doubt she'll understand this time, is that I'm relieved. I'm calm. With mania, I'm constantly in motion. Right now, I'm happy to sit and soak up the moment.

Three cheers for making it happen.

A week of curiosity

Last week, the Celebration of Wellness artivity was to embrace your curiosity. Ideally, it would be a chance to look at how your mind works, but I pointedly ignored that.

I know how my mind works. It's a source of near constant tension in my life that my brain bounces around like a gummi bear on speed. I don't want to waste a week dwelling on something that seems negative in my life. Eventually, I'll find a positive. But for now, I decided to explore curiosity in a far more fun way.

I have a confession to make. I love mixed media. I think that the people who work in mixed media art are amazingly intuitive and creative. I envy them their ability to create something so vibrant and wonderful from a variety of scraps, paints and inks. I wish I could create such beauty. I've always been curious about how they manage to do so. So here, instead of a work of my own (my computer is playing up, and it's not loving my photo files), is a list of sites that have inspired me this week to embrace my curiosity:

Artsyville Aimee is an amazing artist. I love the brightness of her doodle art. Without fail, when I'm net capable and feeling less than glowing, a few minutes of looking through her blog cheers me right up!

The Art of Collecting Yourself If you're participating in the Celebration of Wellness, you'll already know who Rae is. I stumbled upon her blog while looking for creative challenges, and stumbled upon a rare chance to find myself in the most creative, fun way possible. Rae's honesty inspires me every single day.

All I Did Was Listen Lordy, I love this. It reminds me of one of my favourite books: The Persistence of Yellow. Lots of beautiful thoughts surrounded by colour. Rachel is a psychologist, which is a career I'd love to have. I always worried that I'd take on all of the sad rather than being able to focus on the amazing strength and courage found in every person.

The Empty Nester Grammy is a beautiful soul who inspires me constantly with her wisdom and conviction to live life in as meaningful and positive way as possible. Sometimes, looking at how other people stand up and make a change in their life is a perfect way to learn how to make changes in your own life. I hope that one day I'm as wise and wonderful as Grammy is.

ABC Creativity Choc full of fantastic creative journaling prompts, this is the place that encouraged me to try creative journaling. I'm intrigued by the idea of archetypal self portraits; I can't wait to settle down and try a few!

Jenni Horne makes me question what new techniques I can try. Reading through her posts made me deeply curious as to what I can try to enrich my creativity. What can I use in a way I haven't before?

There's dozens more sites and blogs I could mention, though I might stagger it some so as not to get too overwhelming.

Enjoy! I'm off to try working with texture paste for a while.

Mother Theresa 'Anyway' Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered
Forgive them anyway
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives
Be kind anyway
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies
Succeed anyway
 If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you
Be honest and frank anyway
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight
Build anyway
 If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous 
Be happy anyway
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow
Do good anyway
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough
Give the world the best you've got anyway
 You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

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The Art of Stillness

Stillness. Peace. Tranquility.

I long for these. I imagine life to be so much richer, more enjoyable and fulfilling with these three virtues in your life. What scares me, though, is the idea that it may never happen to me.

All my life, I've been told my brain flits around subjects at a mile a moment. It's been a constant source of tension- things that seem perfectly understandable to me can be incredibly hard for others to follow. I'm always in some kind of motion, always doing something. More often than not it takes at least an hour for me to fall asleep: it takes that long for my mind to stop rushing from idea to idea, and settle enough for me to sleep. It's exhausting.

I've tried to meditate, but I've yet to manage more than a few seconds of quiet. I feel as though the more I try, the more my mind rebels. Thing is, I'm tired of flitting. I'd love to be able to just put my focus on one thing at a time; to start something, finish it, and then move on to something else. At this point in my life, I think I'm seeing life stillness as the ability to devote myself to one thing at a time, wholeheartedly. Stillness is slowing down the constant frantic motion of my life, lowering the stress and calming everything down so that life flows more smoothly for myself and those around me. It's removing from my life the things that don't work but I feel duty bound to keep. It's choosing where my energy goes, and learning to stop giving my power away to non-deserving causes. It's setting clear boundaries, and sticking to them. It's guarding my time so I don't have to try to catch up later on.

Stillness, it seems, is a commitment to live my life in a way that makes serenity possible, rather than inadvertently making it unlikely or downright impossible.

It's a tall order, though, so perhaps I'll start off small.

  1. Continue to start each day with a cup of tea and no distractions.
  2. When I remember something I have to do, write it down and go back to what I was doing.
  3. Start new things only when I've finished what I've already been working on.
  4. Stop trying to meditate. Try and create quiet moment every day and enjoy them, rather than trying to force your mind to still.

Tim Minchin and his Orchestra

Sorry for the post flood, but my computer died and I'm borrowing my friend's while she sleeps.

Because the theme of the blog has been a bit, well, depressing, lately, I wanted to post a happy thought.

Recently, I got to see this:

Image from here

Very, very amazing. I've mentioned Tim Minchin before. He's an Australian comedian who plays the piano like it should have a health warning, an evil streak, and a turn of phrase that leaves me speechless. He is one of my heroes. As much as I adore him, though, if you find yourself easily offended by someone who happily points out the flaws in your beliefs, he is someone to avoid like the plague.

I loved this show. Hard. It's one of those performances you have to see to believe. My inner photographer was overwhelmed by how many times I wished I had a camera: the orchestra bathed in purple light, Tim and his piano in aqua made me wish I could draw well enough to at least capture the feeling of the moment. The visual aspects of the show were beautiful, and the music was divine.

I can't remember ever having seen an orchestra perform before, and wow. I want to see them perform again, not just modern music but classical as well. I'm fascinated by the sounds, by the richness of the music an orchestra creates. I could cheerfully spend days listening to them. To hear 'Not Perfect', which was already one of the most beautiful songs I'd ever heard, made somehow more beautiful? Heaven.

I can't wait until this comes out on DVD.

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Wishcasting Wednesday: Sparkle

How do you wish to sparkle?

I've been struggling a bit with the Celebration of Wellness, in so much as healing means acknowledging  large amounts of emotional debris. Once you've acknowledged it, sooner or later you have to deal with it. It hurts. It's scary. It's hard to look back at some bad moments and work through the things you couldn't deal with before.

Pushing all that baggage away just gave it time to pile up.

If I'm brutally honest, right now I feel wrung out. I feel like I'm struggling; caked in dirt and as far from sparkling as possible. It would be easy to step back, call it too hard, and walk away. Painfully, obscenely easy. But damn it, I want to sparkle. I want to feel vibrant, not exhausted. I want to be able to see my inner light. I want to work through all the bad stuff so there's far more room for the good.

I want to sparkle with positivity.

I wish for the strength and grace to move through the painful, dark moments and into my sparkling future.

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Confessions on Play

When I was in high school, I took a subject called Early Childhood Studies. Part of the assessment involved working at a school based playgroup.

I hated it.

The reason for my loathing came from the fact that I got stuck refilling paint, scrounging more paper, dicing fruit. While I took care of the work, everyone else was outside playing with the kids. To make it so much more hurtful, instead of forcing the others to participate in the less fun parts of running a playgroup, my teacher just marked me down for not interacting as much as everyone else.

At first, I cried. I worked my butt off, and I was in trouble? After an hour or so of self pity, though, my anger took over, and I made a decision. I decided to play. Let someone else take care of the boring stuff: it wasn't my responsibility. So for one day, I played. I laughed with the kids, I enjoyed myself. Kids were laughing, happy, gravitating towards me to show them how to use the monkey bars and showing me their sand castles. I loved every second.

The paints began to run low. I told the student who came to tell me this where the bigger containers were, and how to refill them. As a bonus, I told them where the paper was kept. I played. I had fun.

One of the kids put a sparkly silver hat on my head, and I told them I'd wear it with pride.

My teacher took me aside, towards the end of playgroup. It wasn't running as smoothly as it usually did. It looked bad to the parents, apparently, because my teacher was upset. She lectured me, but one of the things that stays with me even a decade later? She told me I was scaring the kids.

No, really.

One thing I know about young kids? They're not great liars. If they're scared, they don't laugh and ask you to help them reach the monkey bars. If you scare them, they go and hide behind their parents- they don't come and ask you to paint with them. They avoid, not approach.

For everyone, the day was a struggle. I think part of the issue was that I'd been looking after kids since I was eight. I already had experience with keeping kids amused. I already knew when to start prepping fruit for morning tea, or to look out for the paints running low. No one else in the class seemed to have that same life experience, and I didn't think to let them know that there were hints and tricks. I should have let everyone know in advance that I was no longer prepared to be alone in taking care of the boring stuff.

Instead of asking me to share those hints and tips with the others, my teacher wanted me to 'put the playgroup first', accept a lower grade, and stick to the shadows. Thinking myself a failure, I did what she asked of me. Once more, I played the grown up, when all I ever wanted to be was a kid.

Play was already an issue for me. Before I was 13, I was looking after young kids. In a lot of ways, my childhood ended when I was 8. I had to be a grown up, had to be mature and responsible for young lives, had to carry an awareness of the bad parts of life long before I should have.

Play, for me, is a foreign concept.

I don't want it to be. I want to be free and fun, i want to not be so grown up all the time. I just don't know how to get there. I feel there's a gap between where I am and creative freedom. Not an impossible distance to jump, but an uncomfortable one. I find myself running to the edge, ready to jump, and then I stop. I freeze. I panic.

Maybe my teacher was right: maybe I'm better as the boring behind the scenes type? What if I am scary? What if play and creativity make me somehow bad? I can list dozens of examples of the people around me treating my creativity and playfulness as something hurtful. It made others feel that they're were somehow lesser; less creative, less fun to be around, less everything. It was unhelpful; playing doesn't feed kids, or clean the house. You can't make a living out of it. It's a hobby, nothing more. There were so many ways in which I became tangled up in other people's issues.

I think that's why I freeze. Since I was too young to stop them, people have tied their beliefs and issues to me like lead balloons. They are so heavy I worry I can't make it across that divide, that I'll fall into the nothingness between where I am and where I want to be.

It's time to start freeing myself, one piece at a time. Today I think I'll start with the idea that creativity is a hobby, not a lifestyle. I'll give myself time to work up to the idea that play is scary.

Reworking Meaning

Today, it felt like a supreme act of will to just get out of bed. The notion of finishing my creative tasks? Eep. Impossible. The problem is, most of the tasks in progress are things for me. Celebration of Wellness activities, prep for book making, prep for a craft circle tomorrow... all rather self focused, which is both good and bad, since I don't want to do anything for me right now.

My therapist, of course, calls it a bipolar thing. I think it's more something that happens when you don't put yourself on top of your list of priorities for the majority of your life and then try and change it. This is what happens when you listen when people tell you stupid things about yourself: that you're not good enough, not creative enough, not ever going to get better.

Bah. Negativity. It's so easy to fall into that mindset, no matter how old you are or your state of mental wellness. More often than not, you don't even notice it's happening. No shock, the hard part is getting back out of it. There are probably a million and one different ideas for how to get out of the negative mindset (I'll probably post different ideas from time to time), but for the time being, I'll just talk about one.

Here's what I know about me. It's not that I can't do these tasks. I can. I want to. It's a mental block based on the notion that it's for me. So to solve my sudden halting of creativity, I need to change the language. Take the me out of the equation temporarily.

There was a challenge at the Creative Collective blog last month to make little gifts or cards to be left in public places for strangers to find. Though I can't remember exactly which blogs, I've seen bloggers who have left decorated canvases as gifts for strangers. I love this idea. I love the idea of leaving it to the universe to lead someone to the card or gift. How nice would it be to be having a bad day and stumble upon something beautiful, a reminder that things can get better.

Tonight, then, I'm going to make some small, pretty cards to be left in public areas over the next little while. In a way, it is for me. To move past this block, I need to create something. It's better to start small and work my way back to larger projects. It's mixed media and painting practise, which I've been hoping to carve out some time for lately. But, and here's where the semantics comes into play, it's mostly for someone else. It's not something I plan to keep or sell or gain any major benefit from (if I squint and don't pay much attention to the notion of 'benefits').

One of my bipolar induced lessons is that sometimes changing the way you look at something makes it easier to do. I can't always do it, but when I can, the change is large. I hate doing things for me some days (like today), but if I can find a way to make it doing something for someone else? I get it done, usually without much trouble. Maybe I can't be bothered to make sure I eat three times a day, but if I can remind myself that it makes life easier for my flatmate (I'm grumpy when I forget to eat), more often than not I take the time to make myself something good and healthy to eat.

My BFFs grandfather, who was an amazing, amazing man, used to say that if you take care of the cents, the dollars take care of themselves. It's just as valid as a life lesson as it is a budgeting tool.

Lessons from an unquiet mind: Stepping back (Part One)

I'm adding a new discussion topic to Cracks and Photographs that centres on the positive lessons you can find in mental illness. Mental illness is one of my passions- it's one of those topics that rev me up and set me off if I feel as though mental illness is being misrepresented. Instead of ranting and raging against the status quo, I thought I'd add some of the life lessons I've learned because of mental illness. I think that in life, if you move past the initial fear of something, you can almost always find a profound life lesson in there somewhere.


I feel as though a lot of aspects of my life have screeched to a halt this week. It's a roller coaster in my life right now.

I have rapid cycling bipolar, for which I cannot currently be medicated. Because I'm not medicated, one of the things I need to be incredibly careful of is my stress levels. I know when I reach a certain point, that it's a warning sign for a manic episode. And when more of the neon warning signs start flashing, life has to come to a grinding halt. I need to step back.

It's one of those moments that makes me glad I'm bipolar. It gives me an excuse to do something I've never felt allowed to do. As an adult, to step back from commitments and put yourself first? Downright unthinkable, isn't it? And if you're a parent, it's practically a hanging offense. But because I can't be medicated, I've had two choices forced upon me: step back, or fall into a manic episode. Stepping back is the lesser of two apparent evils.

To step back is to distance yourself temporarily from the stressors in your life, no matter what they are. It means admitting that you can't help those around you when you're running on empty. Mostly, though, it's admitting one very important notion: you deserve to be a priority in your life.

Sometimes those stressors are also known as loved ones. It hurts to say 'I can't help you right now', or 'I am not answering the phone for a few days to think over some things. Please don't contact me unless it's an emergency'. But you need to. When you're a snarling mess, sometimes the nicest thing you can do is send the kids to stay with a friend or relative for a night or two and get them out of range of your meltdown. Sometimes, stepping back is the kindest, most loving thing you can do for those around you.

Ask yourself: are you happy right now? Or do you feel overwhelmed, like you're drowning in stuff and other people's needs and wants? Do you feel like someone has cut about 9/10ths of your fuse? When was the last time you really laughed, or really smiled? When was the last time you had a totally good day, free of fighting and stress?

Do you feel like the people around you are a help or a hindrance? Do they help you meet your needs, or make it impossible for you to meet your needs?

All notions of duty (being a good daughter/son/wife/husband/partner/worker/whatever), responsibility and looking good for those around you aside, are you really happy? Is the way you're living now actually working well for you, and making life better and easier?

What did you do on your last day off? Did it involve housework, catching up on jobs or running around after other people? When was the last time you had a whole day where you had no responsibility to anyone but yourself? How did you spend it?

What will happen if you take time off and focus only on yourself? This is an especially important question. We all generally feel as though something bad will happen if we hand over the housework, the child raising, the job stuff to someone else or put it aside for a few days. Instead of a vague something, try and figure out what it is you think will happen. Then, when you have an answer, think about this: is the world really, truly going to end if you don't do whatever it is you're scared about not doing? Will the entire business collapse if you take a day off? Seriously? What will happen if you don't have a perfectly clean house? Or if the kids stay at a loved ones for a few nights?

If you're answers are along the lines that it's been forever, and that the world will end, you should at least start thinking about taking some you time. It's always better to take the time before you're a complete and emotional wreck. Prevention, as they say, is better than cure.

Think about it, and I'll post again in a few days with the second part of this topic.

Wishcast Wednesday: What limits do you wish to set?

My choices today are to search through a dozen gig of photos for one that suits this theme, or to go outside with a cup of tea and watch the rain. The kettle is boiling as we speak.

This week over at Jamie Ridler Studios, the theme of Wishcasting Wednesday is the question what limits do you wish to set? I've spent the day with this question at the back of my mind, trying to narrow down the list in my head. Maybe I'd like so-and-so to stop doing that annoying thing they do... maybe I'd like to set a limit on phone calls late at night... there were just too many options until I realised one very important fact: every single idea was something I would like to see other people limit, in order to lessen its impact on me.

Silly, huh?

I wonder sometimes how many people feel the same. Does anyone else ever sigh deeply and accept unfair treatment, all the while getting frustrated that nobody in their close knit circle treats them with the dignity and respect they want? Has anyone else ever sat there and let themselves be verbally abused and blamed for things that they had nothing to do with? Has anyone else excused ill treatment because the other person is overtired, sick, stressed, or they need to vent? Has anyone else ever bitten back their anger because those justifications are self inflicted? Oh, she promised to be here but she went out partying last night and needs to sleep.... that's fine.

I'm guessing probably a lot. A lot of people probably crawl into bed some nights, devastated that they move heaven and earth for people who treat them so poorly. It would be so wonderful if they could realise their poor behaviour and change it, wouldn't it? You'd be happy then.

It's obscenely easy to externalise, to ignore your issues and focus on someone elses. But what if, instead of begrudgingly wishing that the people around me would change how they treated me, I wished for the ability to set myself limits as to how much bad behaviour I'll accept from those around me? What if I gave up wishing for some mythical white knight to stop the badness, and got to work channelling my inner Macguyver and scrounging up some rubber bands and chip packets? I'm guessing it'll be a lot more interesting than sitting alone in a room drumming my fingers and doing my one woman version of 'Waiting for Godot'.

This week, then, I wish for the strength to set myself limits, to stop myself accepting hurtful behaviours out of fear of causing trouble. I wish for the strength to see the difference between 'causing trouble' and protecting myself from unfair treatment.

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Celebration of Wellness: Wellness Mood

This one was a shocker. Looking at where I'm at with the different aspects meant seeing that my excitement about progress may have been a little bit early. It was actually really depressing to realise just how small some of the areas are.

The trees, of course, are meant to indicate where I'm at. Lets be honest here, that doesn't look great. The good news is, even though where I'm at seems a bit bad right now, it's not through lack of trying, more through a random series of setbacks. There's lots of things coming up that have been planned and worked on. Even if the above ground measurements seem far less than what I'd like them to be, the root systems are huge. Hence the purple and silver area. Every silver and gold line represents actions that are working towards the healthy growth of each area. They merge and tangle, working with and benefiting the other trees. It's depressing to see how little physical progress has happened, but it's pretty good to see that there are signs of life.Trees need strong roots to grow. Hopefully it's the same for areas of wellness.

When I looked back at the painting, I realised there's symbolism aplenty in this. The spirals remind me that things change constantly, that just because you're somewhere now doesn't mean you'll stay there. Onwards and upwards, as it were. Trees are strong, powerful living beings. They bend instead of break, and are long lasting. Originally I was going to use waves, but they seemed wrong. I like that they're a way to remind myself that trees take a while to grow (it's a journey, just like the Celebration of Wellness is a journey), but they're stronger and more lasting because of it. Trees learn as they grow: their shape alters depending on their surroundings. Strong winds, and they lean to one side, their branches growing as though giving direction. They grow around obstacles if they can't go through them. It's one of the reasons people talk about trees in terms of wisdom gaining. Taking time to learn, to make things stronger and better rather than just rushing in blind? That's something I need to remember. It would be nice to wave a magic wand and have everything be perfect. But it wouldn't last. Change comes from effort.

Purple is a colour I love, mostly because it speaks to me of strength and courage. Pink is a colour of calmness; there was a theory that painting cell walls pink would lessen jail violence. While a lot of people associate black with monsters and scariness, I tend to associate it more with growth and new beginnings. So many creation stories begin with darkness that gives birth to life. Blue is a colour of creativity, gold and silver represent solar and lunar energies (both of which can be useful in reaching your goals), and white is a colour I associate with spirituality and faith- including the faith in things getting better. All of it seems kind of appropriate.

For now, this is a work in progress. It's almost barren right now, but through the year I plan to add to it, to add leaves and flowers and new growth as it happens, until one day (however long away it may be) those trees fill their space and move beyond it, blending together into one big knot work.

Celebration of Wellness: Where I'm at

I'm a bit late with the challenges for the Celebration of Wellness blog party.

Originally, this challenge was to create a time capsule to show where I am at this point in my life. As is becoming quite usual this year, my original grand plans ended up as something completely different.Originally, I imagined a box filled to overflowing with representations of the different aspects of wellness: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, environmental, spiritual, and occupational. Instead, I got the idea of Persephone's ascent from the Underworld stuck in my head, and painted how it related to where I'm at.

I feel like I'm walking my way up a million stairs to get out of the darkness, and into the light. It's rough sometimes, and for a good long while it was hard to imagine that there was something bright and beautiful ahead. Life gets that way sometimes. It's easy to get scared by the darkness, to begin to feel as though it's all there is. Like somehow the world got sucked into a black hole last time you blinked. Sometimes you manage one or two steps a day, sometimes dozens. Still, it's darkness.

Lately, though, I've been starting to see the end of the tunnel. At first it was the slightest lessening of the darkness. Now, I can imagine it as a world; all bright colours and fresh air.

You realise quickly that, even though you can see the outside world, even though you can imagine the feeling of cool fresh air, there's a long way to go before you actually get outside. There's still hundreds, maybe thousands, of steps to go, and the ascent is getting steeper each and every day. Eventually, though, it'll get easier.

It's like that, healing. I remember seeing on a forum once an analogy that seemed so utterly perfect. Healing is like being in a basement full of hot coals. It hurts, you hate it, but you're still scared to leave. After all, whatever is up the ladder could be so much worse than where you are. Change is scary, and even if you hate where you are, it's still at least a bit comforting to know it's twelve steps to the ladder and that it's half a degree cooler in the far right corner.

Sometimes, you go running towards the ladder. You decide there's nothing worse then where you are, and you'll take your chances with whatever is up there. But a metal ladder in a hot environment? You make it up maybe two rungs before you let go. It's too hot, too painful. Suddenly where you are doesn't seem too bad.

One day, though, you have to get out. Something happens that makes it impossible to stay, and you force yourself up the ladder. It hurts like hell, but you somehow make it all the way to the top. The next room is cooler. The next ladder doesn't hurt as much; each and every time you move forward, you're also moving further from the heat. Eventually, you're not even in the house anymore.

I haven't quite gotten away from the hardest part of the journey. But it's coming. An until that day comes where I step outside, I'm just going to be happy I can see the outside world again.

Creative Goals: Bookbinding

It doesn't matter how amazing the internet gets, I'm always going to love books. Whether they're cheaply mass produced or old and beloved, books are one of those things I can't imagine my life without. I love the sensory experience of books, which is something sadly lacking in computers. Oh, sure, you can feel each identical key under finger pad for a moment as you hurriedly type. But books have a smell, one capable of reminding us of long forgotten events and moments.

I love that covers and pages each have a texture to be subtly explored while your eyes flick over the words. As you read, your fingers absently move over the cover and the pages the book is open to. If the cover is embossed, fingers trace over the raised pattern, sometimes without your notice; subconsciously, you memorise the pattern and the feel of a favourite book. Even years later, you know the feel of the book, and running your fingers along the embossed pattern you remember the feeling of enjoyment that came from the original reading.

Each page of a journal is a promising expanse of white to be filled as you see fit. The tap of keyboard keys doesn't seem to come close to mirroring the beauty of the soft scratch of a pen and the rustling of pages. Books are a community experience, where people can add a piece of themselves at will. I have a book of poety that was given to my Grandmother in 1926. The flowing, beautiful birthday message is a trip back in time, a captured moment of joy and love. Her aunt searched out this book, took the time to write in it her wishes for my Grandmother's life, and sent it to her. My Grandmother treasured that book. Some books have notes and ideas scribbled into the margins, giving future readers insights and potentially, a chance to explore a different opinion than their own. Stumbling across a note included book in a library is like finding a hidden message.

Given how much I love books, it's hardly surprising that one of my 2011 creativity goals is to learn to make my own.

There are some beautiful hand made journals out there (here, for example, are some of the most beautiful I've seen), and while I'd love to buy many of them, they're also deeply inspirational. I'd love to create something even half as beautiful.

My (very) long term goal for book binding is to one day make myself a few books like the Book of Shadows in the movie Practical Magic (you can see what I'm talking about here). Beautiful, isn't it? What it is, at its most basic, is two books as one; a larger section and a smaller, almost hidden one behind it. So far as I can figure, it's just about extending the cover so that it's able to cover the two books easily and making it strong enough not to fall apart. I really love the notion of that book, but definitely not the price of it. I don't want to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a book unless I've made it myself. For me, it's ok to spend a lot on making something, but I feel uncomfortable spending that much on something if I think I can manage it on my own. The examples for sale I've seen are astoundingly beautiful- I possibly will never manage to make it that beautiful, but the idea of trying seems like a good one.

So far, though, my brave and wonderful need to try bookbinding has remained at the research stage. There's a wealth of information and ideas online, so much so that you could spend a lifetime reading the different ways of bookbinding without ever giving it a try.

I don't think I'll try the leather worked covers, but I've been toying with designs for mixed media covers. I love the idea of making sketch books or note books in various sizes; and at the moment I'm very into the idea of creativity based fundraising. I live in Queensland, and while I avoided being flooded, I'm feeling an incredibly strong pull to finding ways to help.

Two of my favourite resources when it comes to crafting are at and Both are free, and if you're thinking of trying your hand at a new skill, they're certainly worth exploring. So far they've given me a wealth of ideas to try.

Celebration of Wellness pre challenge

I've decided to participate in the celebration of wellness challenge over at The Art of Collecting Yourself. If you haven't heard of it, give it a look. It's a nine month challenge to creatively explore the different aspects of wellness: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual environmental, and occupational.

There was a challenge for Valentine's Day; we were asked to create a Valentine for ourselves. An affirmation of love towards ourselves. I figured, meh, easy. Right? Make myself some cutesy card full of love hearts and adorableness, and be done with it. Scribble in some random 'things I love about me' list, sign it with a flourish, post a photo here. Easy. Done.

Not so done.

I find in life that it's all the simple things, the ones you shrug off as obscenely easy, that knock you on your butt with their difficulty and profound learning experiences. If I think I can breeze through a challenge, it's normally because I'm not aware of something. I tried a few times; walked towards my craft supplies inwardly listing things I could do. But every time, I turned away, and found something else to do. Last year, I read The Art of Extreme Self Care by Cheryl Richardson. It's a good read, and a great book for people who tend to just say yes, putting everyone elses life before their own. One of the activities, though, I could never quite manage. It was a simple activity; every time you saw a mirror, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself 'I love you'. Again, it should be easy.

Creating a Valentine for myself seems a lot like staring into my reflected eyes and saying 'I love you'. I feel guilty, as though in taking time for me, I'm somehow denying someone else that time and energy. I've fallen into that mindset for years, if I'm honest. It's taken a while, but generally, I've managed to reduce it to white noise in the back of my mind, unnoticed until I do something big for me.

Truly acknowledging and believing that I'm worth the effort of treating myself well might take a while. Still, I wanted to do something, something that I love, something that makes me happy and slowly teaches me to believe in my talent. So I spent Valentines Day (or at least the part where my partner was at work) creating, working to decorate a book I've been meaning to do for ages. It's not finished yet, parts are drying and things need tinkering with, but when it's done I'll post a picture.

Until then, I hope everyone else had better luck with the challenge, or at least enjoyed their baby steps as much as I did!

Theme songs

Music is magical. Throughout my life, I've felt connected to life far more with music involved. For as long as I can remember, my mother and Nanna's homes were filled with music, their radio always on. Last year, I started making music a more active part of my life.

Ali Edwards has a yearly inspirational activity called 'One Little Word'. She, as well as any else who wants to give it a try, chooses a word to live for a year. This year her word is 'light'. There's no set way to pick a word: ask and the Universe will give a hint, fall madly for some wonderful quirky word that is just so you. Open a dictionary randomly and keep doing it until you find a non-medical word ('rectum' as your year's word will only be funny for so long, perhaps?) Sadly, this doesn't work for me in the slightest, no matter how much I love the concept. I tried it one year and found that, as much as I love words, it was impossible for me to stick with one for an entire year. I couldn't even last an entire month with one word.

What I've found works well for me is to have a theme song for the year.

Last year and this year I've stumbled upon songs that seem to sum up how I feel, while providing a much needed kick in the butt to keep moving forward. Last years song, Not Perfect, came from the gorgeously amazing Australian comedian, Tim Minchin. If you've never seen his work, he's amazing- but if you have issue with people who disagree with religion, and with alternative healing, then you might want to give him a miss. He's not a fan of either. I tend to be a fan of exploring the things I care deeply about- if I don't question it, then it's not something I'm overly passionate about, so it doesn't bother me in the slightest that he has issue with spirituality.

The version of 'Not Perfect' you can find here, from The Sideshow, tends to be the one I love most. Mostly because this was the first time I'd ever heard it, and it was a sucker punch of a song. I'd been having a bad few weeks, so to have this song just suddenly appear in my life was a bit of a shocker. And it broke my heart, because it's right. How little attention do I give myself? How many times have I needed something- space, time, peace and quiet- only to ignore my needs to help family and friends in crisis? How many horrible things do I say about myself, even in jest? Too many, especially when I realise I believe them all. And the lyric 'it's tucked away behind my eyes, where all my screwed up thoughts can hide, 'cause God forbid I hurt somebody'? I cried. I don't cry. It was like having someone I admire pointing out just how much I keep hidden, just how many times I let people treat me badly in the name of 'keeping the peace'. How many times had I been dishonest that week and said I was ok, because my family never copes well when I'm struggling? How often do I ignore my resentments, fears, issues, because to be upfront and honest about why I feel the way I do means acknowledging the involvement of family and friends, and that's never going to end well? Even a year on, I struggle with those issues, but having a song to listen to when things go badly gave me a much needed push to work on them harder.

This year's song is one I'm copping a bit of flack over from one of my friends. My Chemical Romance gets seen as Emo a lot, which means that publicly acknowledging I like them means copping it from those in my circle of friends who are heavily anti-emo. Personally, I love MCR. I love the theatricality, I love the anger- and I especially love that their music is a lot of times about getting back up whenever you're knocked down and keeping on trying.

Sing, which is I think the second song released from the Danger Days album, tends to show up on the radio whenever I'm having a bad day. It's one of those songs that I love to crank up and sing along to, and it's like looking and penguins on bad days- you can't be sad listening to Gerard Way singing 'I am not the singer that you wanted but a dancer'. It's physically impossible not to at least smile at that.

It's another song all about stepping up and doing something, about using your voice even if you don't want to, and I think this is another year I need to work on that.

Sometimes, the universe shows you a direction you need to take in the most fun and amusing ways.

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