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: 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.

Thoughts: And 2020 is done

It’s done.

Looking back, I have to say that I have learned much about myself this year. I’ve had to dig deep – deeper than ever before. I understand my strength, my resilience. My vulnerabilities.

It has been a year where the sources of support I’d usually expect to be able to draw from were reduced or absent. It’s been a year where I finished utterly broken.

I’d love to venture into more detail about my work but that really isn’t a great idea. I can however say that in 8 days of recovery I’ve gotten from 0% to about 50% of where I need to be.

This has been a year of some significant milestones and achievements, and whilst I do take time to pause and reflect on these, my residual energy levels aren’t yet high enough to properly enjoy these moments. These accomplishments.

This year, my Christmas celebrations were muted. A few hours with my teenagers was great, but unusually for me – no decorations. No excitement. No anticipation. Nothing really to look forward to. Plans fell through. And so I’m doing everything I can to rest up and recharge. I’m doing everything I can to clear my head and my more importantly, my dreams. I have been replaying and revisiting work conversations which isn’t helpful. I can report that with the acquisition of a new pillow, my rest last night was full. No work dreaming.

I will be ok (I’m very self-aware) but it’s taking a lot longer to recover than the few days I thought it would take. Which highlights how much care I need to take.

So, what am I doing?

Focusing on gratitude is key for me.

I’m grateful for my few close friends who kept a watchful eye on me who this year. I’m grateful for my colleagues who checked in on me – and I checked on them. The mutual support has been so so important and so very good.

I’m grateful for the new people that I’ve met this year. I’ve noticed that people in my circle have slowly exited – through isolation, busy-ness and distraction mostly – so I’ve had to breathe and start again. It really is quite tiring getting to know people enough to trust them with ‘Simon-world’… but to those I’ve let in, thank you. Thank you. My guards are coming down slowly and you have helped me immeasurably.

I’m grateful that this year I’ve developed some better habits: regular walks, smaller portions. I cancelled my gym membership (after 18 months of only using their bathrooms). Perhaps 2021 will see a re-motivation… but knowing me it’s unlikely. Gyms really aren’t my natural environment.

I’m grateful that I’ve ticked quite a few things off my various life to-do lists.

I’m grateful that my teenagers have thrived and are succeeding. It’s good to see them happy.

Continuing the family theme, watching my adoptive parents having to deal with enforced change due to age in the last few months has been draining and impactful, but seeing their grace and dignity through these challenges is also inspiring. I do need to acknowledge the effort my sister has put in to help them through. She has definitely gone above and beyond. Being able to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary a week or so ago was great.

Seeing this makes me appreciate the time I have.

So here’s to the New Year. The trick is to recognise that it’s pretty much going to be more of the same. So I’m planning accordingly. I will continue to tick things off my lists. I will re-open myself. I will continue to explore. Explore nature, explore food, explore New Zealand. I will continue to Dad.

Thoughts: Level 1 and Back in the Office

Ugh. Grown-up clothes…

Goodness. I’ve just finished my 7th work day back in the office.

It’s been strange. Whilst it has been good reconnecting with my people (note: our work lives are incredibly important for our purpose and mental health), I’ve found myself still needing to create space.

So I go home for lunch. I’m lucky in that I live a 1 minute walk from the office. I’m sure it would be fine eating in the office but I just need the space.

I’ve enjoyed starting to reconnect with customers. Having meetings offsite. Driving around again. The fact is, we are really busy right now and the mental health of our ‘team of five million is frayed’. Supporting my customers to look after their teams amidst making some challenging calls is draining.

I’m very conscious of the need to protect my own health.

How have you all found things? Happy to chat if you need. Be kind to yourself and each other. Be tolerant.

^sd

Thoughts: Isolation 2020 – 13

I think this will be my last reckons on isolation. We are now at level 2 so things are a bit more relaxed.

It’s been hard. The last 7 weeks or so.

My day job is in mental health and wellbeing. Every day I have had conversations with managers and business owners. Hearing their stories. Their pain. Their concerns and worries. Talking to people with their voices full of emotion. Full of tears.

My problem has been that I have been giving of me. Pouring out my emotional tank to encourage others. The lockdown has prevented me from actively refilling it and by the time Level 3 ended, I was spent. Drained.

I can honestly say that I have been impacted by my isolation.

Thursday night I made an attempt to go ‘out’. I made it as far as buying food (ya gotta support local) and then dashing home.

Friday night I went to a ‘welcome back’ gathering at a fave place. It was actually really good. Met some people. Got a hug. The first physical contact with a human being since March 23rd. It was sooooo very good.

I only managed 90 minutes.

Reintegration to society and people contact will take time. As strong as I am. As resilient as I am, I’ve been impacted.

And I know that every single person in this country has been impacted.

We need to be aware of each other. And kind. And tolerant. We are not going to be reacting to things normally for quite some time.

When you talk, listen. Hear the underlying story if you can. And just care. And love.

So, here’s to us. We now have a tale to tell our grandkids in a few decades hence. Be strong and be vulnerable. Allow yourself time to heal. You will.

As I will.