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.

Thoughts – Isolation 2020 – 12

I’ve run out of words.

The days are blurring in to each other.

I’m now surprised when I learn that the weekend has started.

I still find weekends tough going.

I get my long walks in – I am aiming for 10k steps on Saturday and Sunday, and I’m achieving this. So that’s good.

Apart from that it’s the same. Wake, chores, read, watch TV, and wait. Wait?

Yep, I’m waiting for an appropriate time to go to bed. God I’m bored.

On the plus side I’ve been able to plan my future obsession with Le Creuset cookware. So that’s something to look forward to.

How are you all doing?

Stay kind. Stay safe. Stay home. Level 3 is still lockdown. Ask the Minister of Health about that if you have interpretation questions.

^SD

Thoughts: Isolation 2020 – 11

Yep. It’s official.

Weekends are the worst.

I’m absolutely fine during the week. I have my work routines and tasks. I’m having good energy meetings and phone calls, and feel like I’m helping people.

But then get to the weekend, and I am finding it incredibly difficult to distract myself from focusing on the fact that the last human contact I have had was a month ago. A handshake.

I miss handshakes. And hugs.

On the plus side, I’m better at calling people for a chat. Video-calling people to see faces. I’ve had some fun and interesting conversations.

It’s really hard reprogramming yourself. Reprogramming behaviours, expectations. Switching from drawing energy from connection with people to drawing it from connection with solitude. I’m fortunate in that I seem to be able to move from extroversion to introversion when needed.

But it’s not easy.

It will be interesting to see what the Level announcement will be today. I suspect it will be staying the same until after Anzac Day. Mainly because people are starting to relax their lockdown behaviour in Level 4, and a move to Level 3 will trigger more behaviour that is contrary to the spirit of New Zealand’s response: Stay at home. Stay local. Don’t drive anywhere.

I could be wrong though.

At any rate, Level 4, Level 3 makes no difference to my bubble-of-one. So what will be will be.

I hope you’re all doing ok.

Be kind to each other. Wash your hands.

^SD

Thoughts: Isolation 2020 – 10

For those that aren’t in New Zealand, we shut down from (including) Good Friday through to Easter Monday. It’s traditionally the last significant long holiday weekend and marks the entry in to Autumn and Winter.

Easter is the last opportunity to travel, camp, relax and reflect with friends and family. And this year, that opportunity was lost.

Easter Sunday was the hardest day for me so far, psychologically speaking.

I woke at the usual time. Made my bed. Went for a decent walk around Auckland city. Saw the people out and about, exercising, spending time with loved ones.

And I remembered that I was alone. Doing this lockdown, alone.

I’ve been so good in my isolation up until Sunday. My resilience has been evident and I’m drawing strength from the sources that are available to me. Until Sunday.

None of my usual go-to’s were working. The books I’m reading didn’t interest me. The Netflix documentaries that usually educate and inspire, bored me halfway through. The movies I love made me yawn.

This wasn’t a good sign.

I wasn’t even in the mood to chat, to message, to communicate.

Bedtime couldn’t come soon enough.

And today, Monday, I’m back to normal. Woke up. Made the bed. Cleaned. Did laundry. Played some PlayStation. Watched some Netflix.

It is like yesterday never happened.

On reflection, I have missed connection and intimacy this weekend, but I’ve come through the other side quickly. I have shifted my focus.

There will be an end to this lockdown. Covid-19 will be either contained or will become a part of global life. Things will return to a semblance of normality. There is HOPE.

And hope is what gets me through. Those of you who are close to me know that I’ve had three years of challenges, and that season of challenge ends in May. So my hope-focus is all about what next. Where will I be travelling to (and yes, I will be travelling)? How is my next life stage going to be framed? I’m desperate to explore cultures I’m not familiar with. Desperate to explore their food and learn their histories. (And yes, I’m watching ALL the Netflix food shows).

Where there is hope, there is also anticipation. There are the little things, as well as the big things that I am looking forward to.

I’m looking forward to being able to invest in a Weber kettle BBQ. I want to learn/understand low/slow cooking with charcoal.

I am looking forward to being comfortable having guests over for a meal. Well, I just need to buy three more dining chairs, but I have a plan in place for that.

Actually I have a plan in place for many and most things. Which is why I’m just waiting.

I have learned over the last three years to utterly let go of the things that I can’t control and pour focus and planning in to the things I can control. To line things up so when the time is right, I can press go.

Sunday? It’s in the past.

Sunday was a gentle reminder that I need to ensure I pay enough attention to my own care and well-being.

Make sure you do the same.

Love to you all.

^SD

Thoughts: Isolation 2020 – 3

One of the more irritating things I’ve noticed so far, and it’s been going on for weeks, is the steady stream of media reporting about how ‘[famous person] has tested positive for Covid-19’.

Why do we need to know that [famous person] has tested positive? What purpose does it actually serve?

This reporting leads into a darker place too. It disturbs me when I see comments from people based on their perception of who [famous person] is. Tom Hanks is loved. Prince Charles less so.

But who the hell do we think we are, playing God? Making a call that some people are worth more than others? Making a judgement that someone doesn’t deserve to be infected whilst another is? Or worse, wishing the demise of the person less loved.

That’s just a bit shit and a little inhumane, in my opinion.

We need to be more empathetic. We are all under stress at the moment. Be kinder. It’s not hard.

Thoughts: Isolation 2020 – 1

So far, 2020 has really not turned out the way people thought it would. Whilst I had an excellent 2019, I know many did not and were really looking forward to a new broom being taken to the new year.

And then COVID-19 happened. Unbelievable.

We are living in historic times.

So, as soon as a Level 3 > Level 4 response was announced, my company acted. I was working from home within a couple of hours.

I do have an advantage that I’m quite used to living by myself and also I am quite used to being productive working in my own space, so the next four weeks should be ok.

My heart goes out to those impacted by all that is going on. I worry about those infected. I worry about the wellbeing of my octogenarian parents who are at risk. I worry about my friends who are in business and are hurting because everything has stopped.

But in the interests of reducing my own stress and making sure my resilience is holding, I will make some of my own fun when I’m not working.

I’m starting with an Isolation Beard. Think Castaway with a less attractive and somewhat fatter lead.
Food exploration. I am thinking about what is something I’ve not tried to create before.
I should have my stock of green coffee beans replenished today (phew) so my daily caffeine requirements will be sorted.
Books to read – I have plenty and I still have my goal of reading 100 this year.
I will make more phone calls. More video calls.
I will check in on more people. Well, I actually already do, but will make a more conscious effort to do so.

So, if you want or need to chat, I’m here. Let me know your digits and we’ll do it.

Thoughts: Camping 2020

I’ve just returned home to Auckland after a week camping with my teenagers. This has been something I have instituted each year in January for the last eight or nine years. It has been a time of presence, of renewed connection, and it’s something I value deeply.

We stayed at the Coromandel Town Top 10 – our second time. The first was six years ago, so I was curious to see how the experience has changed.

I have to say, the campsite is looking good. Better than I remember it from 2014. The staff were all very friendly and kept the place looking immaculate.

The joy of camping is all about getting a bit rough – but not too rough. One still needs WiFi/Data and ample power sockets to keep all devices charged!

Every tent needs fairy lights!

Each year I acquire at least one new ‘thing’ to make the next trip better. This year was a Campmaster three-burner stove and 2KG gas cylinder. It was great being able to cook at our tent rather than have to fight for space in the communal kitchen, elbowing between the pairs of German tourists and the very grumpy mums and dads who were wrangling hordes of children-under-5!

It was a different week though. Teenagers don’t have a lot of motivation (generalisation, yes) and are quite happy reading, napping and watching YouTube.

They’re still a bit camera-shy

I did manage to get them out of the tent for road trips around the Coromandel. Driving the 309 Road across to Hahei to go see Cathedral Cove was fun. Master 17 is learning to drive so he was paying a lot of attention to a road that curved, had few lines, and became gravel. He wasn’t feeling all that confident…

I did misrepresent the walk to Cathedral Cove somewhat, and Miss 14 wasn’t entirely impressed. She didn’t actually complain but in her words ‘Oh it’s a nice beach. Lots of people’ kinda summed up her feelings.

It was interesting watching Master 17 take photos of rocks, trees, paths etc. to use in creating textures. He’s getting into 3D modelling and rendering and wanted to see how much better his own photos would be than stock textures. I was very happy to see this!

Camping is also an opportunity for me to experiment with a degree of ‘feral’. I don’t grow facial hair as a rule so it was a curiousity for me to see if a) I could and b) how grey I actually am. Happily the result of a 8-day trial wasn’t too horrific and I am not traumatised by grey. However, I felt it made me look older which is something I am NOT trying to achieve. So as soon as I got home, off it came.

Coromandel really is a special place. I thoroughly enjoyed getting into ‘nature’ and given I work in mental health and wellbeing these days, it was a great reset ahead of the 2020 work-year.

I do have a tinge of sadness though. I wonder how many more of these weeks I’ll be having with them. They’re getting older and have their own lives. It is quite possible that that was my last. I really hope it wasn’t. We shall have to see.

^SD

Thoughts: 50 not out

So, today is my 50th birthday. I’ve been approaching this date with a degree of trepidation. For me it’s a big number. And no, before you think it, 50 is not the new 40. It’s 50.

I have returned from a few days flying solo in Raglan. Raglan is quite possibly the best town in New Zealand to head to for a time of reflection and resetting. And reflection and resetting has been very important for me to do this week.

At the top of the list: My life has not turned out the way I expected.

An upbringing in an environment of Mum, Dad and the kids probably set the expectation that that was what life was supposed to be. Study hard, get a good job, find a girl, settle down etc. etc.

This is the Kiwi multi-generational procedure on repeat.

I did these things.

And they never quite fitted.

I find myself at 50 on the cusp of something new.

I don’t have the ‘happy family’ I once expected and was conditioned to expect. But I do have a happy family and I am happy and content. My kids are my pride and joy. They inspire me.

I don’t have the house, boat, bach and BMW which was the aspirational cry of my youth. Life has thrown me curveballs, which I seriously miss-hit. I’ve de-materialised significantly. Yes, circumstances dictated that I needed to, but it’s also been of choice. Some things have simply become less. It’s healthy.

I have learned what is important to me and what isn’t. I have learned what adds to my journey and what doesn’t. I have learned what values I hold true to and what values can be improved upon.

Most crucially, I have learned to choose wisely.

I have learned a lot about the nature of people and being human.

I’ve learned that people come into your life for a reason. I have learned that It’s not immediately apparent what that reason is and I’ve seen that sometimes years pass before the reason manifests. But it always does, and you have to be open for it.

I’ve learned that human connections are not things I can control. So I relax and see them for what they are and enjoy them. I do like to meet people and connect, recognising that that connection could be for a lifetime, for some years, or only for some minutes.

People come into my life and leave, sometimes without a trace. And you know what? I’m cool with that. They are on their own journey. As I am on mine.

All I can do is strive to make the connection, however fleeting, as meaningful and healthy for both of us as possible.

I’ve learned that the people you surround yourself with influence who you are. Your character. Your attitudes and beliefs. I am who I am in part due to the friend choices I have made. I have learned that it’s ok to end friendships if they are causing harm and making me a worse person.

Choose your people wisely.

I’ve learned about work/life balance. I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s no such thing. It’s just life, and you only have one life assigned to you. Everything you do with the hours in your day is subject to choice.

Choose your time investment wisely.

I’ve learned to look for the good, the humour, the fun, in everything. It’s about getting of the beaten track. Walking down that alley. Going around that corner. Just because it’s there. I adore exploring and talking and discovering.

I’ve thought long and hard about success and failure. I’ve had my share of both. By conventional standards and expectations it could be said that I’m a failure but I thankfully no longer hold conventional standards as my yardstick.

I’m still standing. I’m still smiling. And I have new goals and aspirations.

I feel that I have lived several lifetimes in my 50 years and I am looking forward to seeing what the next few lifetimes bring.

For me:

I will continue to care.

I will continue to communicate.

I will continue to listen and to learn.

I will continue to be open.

I will continue to risk being hurt.

I will continue to tell people I value them.

I will continue to tell people I love them.

I will continue to trust.

I will continue to wander and to wonder.

I will continue to be the best Simon I can be.

^SD

Thoughts: Dealing with Annoyance

It’s sure been an interesting time in my life.

Processing the passing of my birth mother has been a bit of a big deal for me. I was able to be in the moment as well as being somewhat out-of-body at the same time, dealing with the various stages of grief that one goes through.

And now I’m in the stage of Annoyance.

Annoyance is the feeling you get when someone or some thing makes you fairly angry or irritated.

My mother has annoyed me. Yes, it’s a purely selfish response but I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed that she’s gone. And what’s worse is that she hated to annoy anybody. Which is partly why she is now gone. She didn’t want to be a bother so didn’t call her doctor for three days when she should have. Sigh. Lessons learned.

So how have I been dealing with this particular annoyance?

Well, I recognise that the source of it is completely out of my control so all I can really do is focus on the good things. The little time we did have. The memories. The fact that I was able to meet her and that she was able to meet her grandchildren. This is pure. And it is healing.

On reflection, I have learned over the last few years that I have an incredible resilience. I don’t get stressed about things. I don’t really get angry. I have learned to keep my mouth shut and listen (mostly). And consider my response to stimuli rather than react.

Yes, I have been living through the consequences of decisions that I made in the past – owning it, accepting it, growing from it, moving forward.

Yes, I have been impacted hugely by the actions of others. But I recognise that I have no control over other people and what they do or what they say. I don’t necessarily know their stories. Their pain. Their stressors. All I can do is look for the good in the situation.

This approach prevents me from burning bridges or removing people from my life on an emotional whim. Don’t get me wrong though – I am very good at recognising and understanding when a person is toxic for me and I have no energy in my tank to continue to give to them. Thankfully this doesn’t occur very often.

Someone once told me that their approach is to ask themselves ‘Will this actually matter in five years’? It’s tough to do when you feel the red mist starting to swirl but it is worth making the attempt.

Take a step back. Breathe. And get on with your life. You only have one.

S.

Thoughts: RIP Mum

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been. Out of nowhere I got news that my birth mother, Rachel, had passed.

It’s been a lot to process.

I have known my whole life that I was adopted. It has never really been a self-defining part of my life, and I always had in the back of my mind the motivation to track down my origins and see if I could get to know my biological family. Years came and went. Every couple of years I’d get motivated to progress things. I obtained my original birth certificate, located a name, located a home address from the 60’s. Then I’d hit a roadblock and have to park the search. Over time, the Internet evolved and around 2007, my mother (well, someone with her name and broad location) popped up on a genealogy website.

I had confirmation. She (I thought it was her) was alive.

I found someone with her surname in the local telephone book, and one night made the call from Auckland to Somerset, UK. I finally had a current address.

I had actually forgotten over the last decade who the person on the end of the phone was, and was delighted to meet him at Mum’s funeral. He’d kept the secret.

So around Christmas 2007 my mothers life irrevocably changed. As did mine. I met her for the first time in 2011. The memories from that occasion flood back with such clarity.

And now I find myself in Somerset, saying goodbye. It’s been hard. The grieving process has been brutal and now the healing begins. I am so grateful to my cousin who has been handling everything – I think we’ve helped each other get through this time.

The funeral was lovely. In a setting steeped with history and legacy. I was proud to be able to address the congregation with some thoughts. I have posted this below for posterity.

So now I continue to sit, and to think, and to process.

 

 

Pieces of the Puzzle

Good morning everyone,

We are here today to celebrate the life of Rachel, my mother.

Everybody here has memories of Rachel. Each memory is different, each memory personal. Each memory is a piece of the puzzle that when collected together presents a picture of who Rachel was.

That’s the great thing about life. People, all of us, have the opportunity to impact others and leave behind a lasting memory.

My story is a little different to most here and I’d like to share some of it.

Rachel was an adventurer. She went to New Zealand to have an overseas experience decades before that became a common thing for young people to do.

I was an outcome of that adventure.

Growing up with my adoptive family, I always felt… different. I think differently to them. I see the world differently to them. I certainly have a mischievous streak and a wanderlust that did not come from the nurture I received. It was always in the back of my mind that I needed to find out more about who I was.

It was around 2007 I think, that I tracked Rachel down. All I had was a name on an original birth certificate and a very basic Internet. I remember finding a Somerset Sealey (I can’t remember who it was) and making a telephone call to locate Rachel’s current address and to ask if he thought it would be ok if I wrote.

Mum received that letter shortly before Christmas Day. And I know her world changed. I like to think for the better.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I was able to come out here to meet her for the first time, and meet many of you here today. My blood relatives. I remember arriving at London Heathrow and seeing her in the arrivals hall quite clearly.

Thank you Mo for being there at that time also.

That moment in 2011 was a time where some of the missing pieces of my own puzzle were located. And placed.

Rachel and I were able to get to know each other as adults without the angst of a parent-child relationship getting in the way. She was desperately proud of her family here and she loved telling me about all what you were doing. She was delighted to get to learn of her grandchildren, my son Aidan and daughter Caitlin, their strengths and interests, and to see her heritage passed on.

Rachel and I realised early on that I am definitely cut from the same cloth as her. My extreme curiousity comes from her. My off-beat sense of humour comes from her.

At this time I would like to acknowledge my birth Father, Phil. I am so grateful to him as he made it possible for Mum to come to New Zealand in 2016 to see me in my habitat, and also to meet Aidan and Caitlin and give them an opportunity to meet and get to know their grandmother. He sends his condolences to us all.

Rachel reflected to me that she felt that she and Phil were incredibly selfish when they gave me up for adoption. I told her that far from being selfish, her actions at that time were completely selfless.

Because of her, I have had a good life, raised by great parents, knowing nothing but love.

And now Rachel is gone.

But she also continues.

In me, in her grandchildren.

I know that she wouldn’t be comfortable with all this attention but I also know that she would be ‘right chuffed’ as to what is happening here. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that this connection grows and strengthens. That this connection endures.

The puzzle that is Rachel may be completed today, but there are more puzzles to complete.

More pieces to find and to place.

I hope that you will help me as I honour her memory through living and in some way, perhaps, I can help you also.

Thank you.