Thoughts: Of Music and a Deep Love of Covers

Hi team!

I hope you’re all holding up ok. It’s day 79 in this lockdown with not a lot on the horizon… except perhaps access to Bunnings next week.

Putting that aside, one of the absolute best things one can do to shift perspective, to stop complaining, to focus on better thoughts, is to listen to your favourite music. A song? An artist? A genre? It can be anything.

I’ve given myself a little positive project.

I’m building a playlist of Covers. You know, songs performed by artists that have a different take on the original performance. We all know ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ by Prince, and performed amazingly by Sinead OkConnor? But have you heard Chris Cornell’s version?

Sometimes artists cover their own songs in a completely different genre. Steven Tyler singing Janie’s Got A Gun on his Country album is fabulous!

This is what I’m talking about.

I’m wanting your recommendations. What cover versions of songs blow your mind each time you hear them?

Here’s a couple more that I love to start you off.

The Pot – Brass Against. (I just love the quirk and the talent on display here!)

Seal – Fly Like An Eagle

So send me your favourites please! Educate me!

^SD

Thoughts: Super Saturday

I have really mixed feelings about this one. So I’ll attempt to put my thoughts down from a variety of perspectives that I can speak from. You may agree with some and vehemently disagree with others…

I’m ok with this.

So. Firstly, the target of 100,000 vaccinations looks good on paper. No question. But in context of population it’s piss poor and hardly aspirational.

‘We’ achieved approximately 130,000 jabs. Given the 100% target of 8,400,000 jabs, it’s really not that great. Barely shifts the needle. Aspiration would be: let’s hit 500,000! Not even close, eh. Personal opinion here: our Leaders aren’t that aspirational, they’re really focusing on the lowest percentiles.

But it’s not all bad. I love the joy of community motivation. I remember dancing to ‘thank you very much’ back in the day. Bedecked in my Boys Brigade uniform, toting a rubbish bag and being all enthusiastic.

However, this was rushed and half-assed. I’m sick to death of us Kiwis doing things half-assed. Half-assed presentation with half-assed presenters. We can, and we should do a hell of a lot better. I didn’t see our better production companies (currently in lockdown and dying financially) involved.

The TV stream was total cringe. There WERE some highlights. I was impressed with some of the artists getting exposed. Some great talent amongst us all.. but I have to say, I can’t un-see Patrick Gower dancing, singing…

I know I come across as a total cynic, but I spent this morning trying to find an upside. And I have.

I am very interested to learn, logistically, what the total possible vaccination numbers could have been. When you consider locations, approved vaccinators, jabs per hour, refrigeration, traffic management etc.

If the number was, in NZ, we could only do 180,000 jabs in a day on a perfect day, then 130,000 is pretty good! And definitely something to celebrate.

That’s what I will embrace. And actively encourage until such time as our total vaccination percentage crosses 90%.

In the meantime, I won’t celebrate Tamaki and his ilk being total dicks. Prosecute them.

I won’t celebrate North Shore partygoers being total dicks. Prosecute them.

Our only way out of this shitstorm is vaccination. Get it done. It’s not for you, it is for our community. Our family. Our vulnerable. Our kids.

^sd

Thoughts: Progress

It’s been an interesting week.

I’ve finished today, Friday, in much better shape than the seven(?) previous Friday’s. Not so broken. Not so drained. Actually looking forward to the weekend.

The difference? I’ve stopped caring about case numbers and our leaders desperately spinning. I’ve removed myself from these four walls and am working in my office again (safely of course). and there’s been a bit of reconnection with people.

Separating home from work has been a life-saver. I really was not in good shape. 50 days of isolation is not good. My colleagues have noticed a sea change in me. (Related: I am blessed to be working with quality counsellors and psychologists who care about me and check in).

This week I’ve been involved in interviewing for some roles on our business – there are amazing talented and beautiful humans out there and I have loved the conversations. Hearing the passion. Understanding the dreams. We are going to gain much from the people we select.

I have come to realise that the key to getting through this pandemic is purpose and hope. Humans need purpose. Humans need hope. Remove these and watch the withering.

There’s also been a bit of a spark ignited in me. I’ve deliberately put my creative side on hold for a few years. Needs must sometimes I guess. But in the last few days I’ve gotten a bit twitchy. It’s time. It’s time to create. So I’m starting to plot and imagine what this could look like.

It’s quite fun isn’t it? All this imagining and dreaming stuff. We should do more of it.

There is always something to look forward to…

Thoughts: Lockdown day 54-ish

So we just had our first weekend in Level 3 Step 3. Lockdown day 54ish? I’m really not sure any more.

One of the more interesting personal impacts of all this Covid lockdown palaver is fatigue, inability to focus on something for more than 15 minutes and a general malaise.

One of the clear things that came out of the Steps announced was the removal of the 5km/no motorised travel restrictions. This enabled me to extend my bubble of one. Joy!

God I have missed people and connection. Two months of lockdown isolation is not a healthy state for this Simon.

Last week I took the step of moving back in to my office for work. As an essential service and given that I can actively avoid people it’s an easy thing to justify. And necessary. The change of scenery and having my two-monitor workplace back has really given me a lift. Mooching around my apartment is no longer an option!

I was delighted to be able to see my son on his 19th birthday. I was worried that I’d not be able to. I am mindful of the loss of these sorts of things for many people in Auckland/New Zealand. It’s been (and still is) a very challenging time.

So I have started this new work week with a bit more of a spring in my step and a degree of optimism.

I hope you’re all doing ok.

^SD

Thoughts: Lockdown New Zealand (August 2021) again

Here we go again…

2021 has actually been an excellent year for me so far.

My workplace is changed, transformed. A toxicity in the culture has been exorcised and and my colleagues and I are getting on with effecting positive change in the lives of those we work with. It’s been good. Therapeutic.

My home environment has gotten more comfortable, more ‘me’. Where I’d been careful about spending and only acquiring things needed, I’ve been able to start to acquire things that create ‘home’. And plants. I now have six plants! I love them. They love me.

And now we are locked down again. I really don’t do well with isolation, which is a concern.

Shifting from drawing energy from people to a more introverted state takes a toll, one that I know will take months for me to recover from once we are able to be more free in the community. But it is what it is.

Given that it’s now day 11(?) and I haven’t really had anything to express would suggest that I’m in slightly better shape than last time. More resilient perhaps. I’m ever-grateful for all those who check in on me. Colleagues, friends, even managers in my customer organisations. I’m truly blessed that I have people in my world that care. I’m not alone.

My selfcare routines are pretty much bedded in now. I’m averaging 10k steps each day. I cook tasty food and save leftovers for weekdays. I watch all the movies and shows. I sleep well. And repeat.

This time around I spend less time focusing on 1pm briefings. I spend less time letting politicians bleat flaccidly in my awareness. I spend less time focusing on loss and worrying about the future.

I do struggle with making future plans though.

Being broadly generic about ‘things we can do in the future’ is ok, but being specific and watching dates come and go and not being able to enjoy the plans made takes its toll. This is a ‘thing’ I need to guard myself with, much to the annoyance of people around me who enjoy planning.

So, sorry about that, but I know myself well.

For me, following the ‘rules’ of the alert levels we are subject to is important. It means that in a nearer future I’ll be able to have my community freedoms back. If I (and my fellow citizens) don’t do my part, it’ll take longer. It’s the least painful and shortest course.

So, good people, get vaccinated, follow the rules, and wait it out.

^sd

Thoughts: Oh Crap, Booked Leave is Here

It’s Friday evening. I’m officially on leave. And I’m kinda freaking out.

I’m not good at this leave stuff. I know all the words, the mantras, the psychology of leave. It’s really important.

I am acutely aware that I have an over-developed sense of responsibility. It’s actually necessary, but currently I am point of contact for over 800 customer organisations. And there is always a whole lot of bad shit going down that my primary contacts and their team need support with. I know my colleagues will handle it, but I’m a wee bit connected…

It’s my birthday tomorrow, which compounds things. I like to reflect, usually, but this year has me off- balance somewhat. Still, I’ll make the most of it.

I’ve decided to make a plan for the next week:

The value proposition of going out of town hasn’t stacked up. So this year I’m staying home, and spending the $ on fine dining and several of Auckland’s top 50 restaurants rather than random AirBnB’s.

I’ve also set a goal of 10000 steps per day for the next 7 days.

And a goal of mastering making tortillas from scratch.

It would be nice to share with a someone, but that’s not where I am right now. Perhaps next year.

Thoughts: Work Leave

Today I booked some Leave. While this probably doesn’t sound all that interesting to most, it’s actually created slight anxiety in Simon-land.

I’m out of practice with taking non-stats time. In 2020 I only had one day off…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a hero complex (still, you can refer to me as a hero if you want/need to), I just have spent too much time by myself these last couple of years. So more time by myself, albeit in a different setting, isn’t that appealing.

Which leads me to options. What are they? And no I won’t be flying to Australia – I’m still aware of budgets…

I’m considering a road trip from Christchurch to Dunedin. A roadie to Hawke’s Bay. Haven’t been to Gisborne for a lifetime.

Suggestions welcomed. Please. (Travel is in early June).

Thoughts: Easter 2021

Oh this is good. A timely break for four days.

My mind is conditioned to think in Quarters after years in business. And this weekend, happily, coincides with the conclusion of one Quarter and the beginning of a new one.

Reflecting. The first Quarter was about recovery. My work is challenging at the best of times, and at the beginning of last Quarter, I was broken. Utterly broken. Probably was a bit a shit with my closest and loved. I had nothing to give and really needed people around to fill my emotional tank. That filling came from unexpected places for the most part, and I’m grateful.

I’m always grateful. I’m very conscious of those who add.

Where I am today is a lifetime of progress from where I was 3 months ago. I’m more content.

Happier? Hard to say really. I’m happy within myself, but I suspect it’s time I opened my borders…

Reflecting. Work is still challenging, but the environment is completely different. I have the same ridiculously difficult conversations. Supporting people facing horrific situations. But now I have support to do so. So I’m much more effective. (Pro tip – find you people that understand and love you). I’m very grateful that my colleagues are now able to bring their full authentic selves to the game.

So, mental is sorted. What about physical? I’m managing to maintain my stepcount. But I suspect it’s time I faced my nemesis – a gym membership – again… the key? I suspect I need a challenge and people I love doing it with me.

Spiritual? An important part of human existence (arguably). An apropos given it’s Easter. I’m very spiritually aware, given my lifetime and background, but I despise hypocrisy and control. And I see too much of this in human constructs.

I value conversations. I’ve been significantly influenced by those following Hindu dharma in recent years. I’m always open to explore other faiths, understandings, philosophies. I’m not sure that I can embrace atheism, given my experiences, and agnosticism doesn’t really resonate.

Please suggest reading material for me to consider. I will read.

So finding my Ikigai… I’m actually very close. I love my work. I love my colleagues. I’m challenged every day.

I have been worried that my heart has been closed. Shut down. perhaps it’s time to open up again. Risk hurt and disappointment, but be alive. Connect with a one.

Hmmm.

So… this next Quarter. What does success look like? What does progress look like?

And for you?

Thoughts: Mental Health and Wellbeing

Ok. We need to talk. I know I’m strong and resilient. I also know that I am severely impacted by the events of 2020 and now.

I know that most people are also impacted, and many people are simply unaware that they are impacted.

I work in a business that provides mental health support. I talk to people everyday about how to support their people, so I’m acutely aware of the world and also acutely aware of self.

I am not quite right. And this is Ok. It’s important to acknowledge. It’s important to be able to talk about it.

I’ve noticed a few things that are subtly dictating my behavior and how I interact.

I am struggling with going ‘out’. I can’t do crowds at the moment. For example, I lasted an hour at the Sky City 90’s party last week. The crowds sucked, Annie Crummer was cool. She’s still got it. Go Annie!

I have increased frustration with my friends. Plans made get cancelled or rainchecked at the last minute so there’s no time to make new plans. Therefore I end up staying home. I can’t take myself out solo to see the Viaduct. Side note: What the hell does one do solo in the Viaduct anyway? Especially when one struggles to interact. (NZ culture looks at single, middle-aged white men out and about with a certain unhelpful filter).

My self-diagnosis (note: I’m NOT a clinically trained professional) would suggest I’m not depressed. My day-to-day is fine. I’m not anxious. I’m just not that interested in being in the world.

I do have friends that care. I could have seen Russell Howard tonight (for example) but the idea of being in a closed room full of strangers? Nope. Couldn’t do it.

I’ve been invited to watch the SuperBowl on Monday with an American colleague. Would love to. But there are strangers there. I don’t have the energy. So I’ll stay home, make chilli and drink Budweiser, and watch it alone.

My tolerance levels have reduced. I get grumpy with friends who tell me about their fun evenings out (having not invited me) with people they’ve told me about, introduced me to, and then actively prevented me from getting to know. And then when I point this out I get ghosted for a week. So that’s cool.

It’s not all a self-involved whine though. Tomorrow will be a good day. I’m going to have fun with a new group of friends. And I’m actively forcing myself to lower my guards. Be open to new connections.

Mental health is a weird beast to manage. As we all have varying levels of physical fitness, we have varying levels of mental fitness.

The key for me is to recognise that I’m not 100%, to focus on what I can manage and improve, and to be kind to myself about the rest.

Oh… and happy Waitangi Day fellow Kiwis!

Thoughts: What the fuck is wrong with me?

Ok people. This one is a bit raw.

Some of you may be aware that I work in a business that provides support to people dealing with various life challenges. My role is fairly frontline – I help and guide managers and business owners dealing with some fairly tough situations within their staff.

(Side note: business managers and owners care deeply for their staff. They’re not dicks)

I’ve never finished a work year so utterly broken and empty. 2020 was a bitch. And we all need to be aware that 2021 will be challenging as there are lingering effects. Don’t be complacent. Don’t stop caring for each other.

This year started. I was prepared to resign. You know, brokenness, emptiness… not a good way to start a year. Actually, it took me ten days in the break before I was able to actually have a normal human interaction with another person. God, I have been so impacted.

However, as the company I work for was acquired in December, things are changed. My conversations with new GM, new CEO, give me optimism.

I’ve noted today that I’m feeling happy.

It’s not a feeling I’ve had for many many months.

As I write this, I’m optimistic. Honestly I’ve become a bit of a recluse… avoiding people where those catch-ups would probably have been helpful. I’m now forcing myself to go ‘out’ because I’ve realised that in the last two months I’ve only been out of my apartment past 7pm only a few times. Not ideal.

So, I guess to all you readers, feel free to challenge me. Get me out.