Thoughts: So Long 2021 and Happy New Year

I’ve had an interesting few days of reflection. Considering how I’m doing in life. That sort of stuff.

My previous ‘Happy New Year’ posts have basically been a bit angsty. Generally they have been an “it’s been a challenging year” vibe and a written process trying to find some good for the year completed and some sort of focus for the new year to come.

“It’s been a challenging year”. Such a cliché.

I did for a moment consider the idea that it would be nice to have a year that wasn’t challenging. But dear god, how tedious would that be?

We need challenge.

I think, for me anyway, where 2020 was a shit show, 2021 has been challenging, but in a transitional way – moving from ‘survival challenge’ to ‘growth challenge’.

It’s been a very good year for me on balance.

Started at a shockingly low point at work, finished on a high. A platform is in place and I’m really looking forward to doing some good stuff this new year.

I’ve been careful managing human connections – minimising my exposure to those ‘energy vampires’ in my wider circle, focusing on those that know me and grow me. Being open to new people has brought interesting and positive influences into my world. I definitely have needed to avoid stagnation and just ‘existing’.

I’m ending 2021 in much better mental shape than 12 months ago. Clearly I’ve developed some resilience, combined with allowing new people in to help. Also, it helps to work where I work. My colleagues are amazing.

One thing I’m able to do this break time is to actually have a decent break. 9 days down so far and I’m just starting to relax to a point where I can begin to recharge.

So, a couple more weeks of holiday will be rejuvenating. I’m also getting to spend a week camping with my teenagers in January. Precious time. I don’t know how many more camping trips I’ll have with them but I’ll take every opportunity to spend quality time with them.

Resolutions… hmmm – I’m not making resolutions this year. Sure, there are ‘nice to haves’ to have in the back of my mind, but I’m not going to resolve to achieve these. Apart from the KitchenAid mixer. I need to resolve to obtain a KitchenAid mixer. Onyx Black. That will make 2022 a success!

Anyway, it’s been a year hasn’t it? I wish you all the very best for 2022. Those who have lost much, I hope you get your mojo back. That you recover quickly and grow quickly.

See you soon!
^sd

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: 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: 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: 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.

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