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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Focus on the Positive


Over on Facebook I’ve been posting a ‘Good Thing of the Day’ each day this year.

Why?

It has occurred to me that we spend far to much time thinking and worrying about the bad things. And not only the bad things that actually happen and impact us but also the imaginary bad things we dream up that could possibly happen. 

Some of you know that the last couple of years for me have been fairly challenging. 
Thankfully I am wired that I tend to not let these challenges occupy my head too much, but there are definitely times when the dark twin comes out of the shadows and reveals himself. 

I have learned to focus only on the things that I can control and change, and I am actively engaged in this process at present. I have zero control over the actions of others. I have total control over how I respond (note: not react).

My positivity posts are designed to reinforce one idea: That no matter how crappy your day is, there has to be One Good Thing that you can find. I have found it to be incredibly useful for me to take a few minutes, disengage from the busy-ness and simply reflect. Reflect on the people met. The conversations had. The tasks completed. The new thing tried. The successes. The opportunities.

The more I’ve done this, the more my outlook has changed. It gets easier to see the good things in my life, and easier to acknowledge these good things. It gets easier to be grateful for the good things. And easier to express my gratitude.

Will I continue to do this? Yes. Will I continue to post to Facebook at the risk of being boring and repetitive? Probably. I don’t have an endless supply of cat GIFs after all.

That’s that then.

2013 is done and dusted.

I am pleased to see the back of what was, for me, a particularly challenging year. (I also note that it has been a particularly challenging year for many people. The Year of the Snake, perhaps?).

It’s time to reflect. To remove the old stuff of the year from my life to make room for the new stuff that will come my way in 2014.

The absolute highlight (and the thing I’m most grateful for) is that I spend time with my kids often and I am loving seeing them continue to grow into very cool, very promising people. They’ve both had a great year at school and I’m really looking forward to spending time camping with them in January. Their presence in my life is grounding when all else is swirling about uncontrollably.

I didn’t achieve a great percentage of the Resolutions I made this time last year. This was primarily because the majority of them required finance which wasn’t readily available.

That being said, I did establish a gym routine (which suffered in the last third of the year due to routine changes and business distractions). I did tone up and strengthen, and I anticipate re-establishing that routine in 2014. I did learn that I don’t find going to the gym a solace or ‘me’ time. I don’t actually find it relaxing. I’m not sure how to go about changing that. It would be helpful if I could.

I did go on more walks (making good use of the boots I bought for this purpose). I did explore more of Auckland and its surrounds. I had a very enjoyable long-weekend in which I explored Northland (as far as Cape Reinga) with the girl. Amazing scenery and lots of wine.

I still loathe running (or more accurately, walk-jog-walking) so I tend to avoid the opportunity to do this.

I did get to read and relax. I am very happy in my own company and do need this type of time to recharge. I have learned that if I don’t get to hermit, I start to hate people. This, of course, isn’t entirely helpful.

I totally failed in my grand plan to learn to speak Japanese. There is a significant time factor involved. Perhaps I need to calendar it, and set up conversational Japanese classes regularly. That one goes in my 2014 list of to-do’s.

I’ve not traveled overseas since late 2011, my expectation is that I will make up for this absence in 2014. I didn’t get to Malaysia for a friends wedding (regret). I didn’t get to the UK to see my mother and family (regret). Even my kids got to California this year. I love to travel and discover new cultures and people, and I feel bereft if I don’t do it.  It doesn’t help that I do some work for a travel agent so I get to see email after email of travel bargains and exciting destinations. I’m extremely twitchy and the idea of hopping onto a Boeing or Airbus right now is appealing.

Business has been interesting this year.  I’ve been focused on getting my business stable and cutting unnecessary expense across the board (achieved). There has been a lot activity missed out on, but I’ve had my eyes firmly fixed on the end result. January sees a new beginning and the efforts of 2013 will have paid off. I’ve had some great clients that I’ve been working with, as well as some that turned out to be less than ideal. I’ve learned some tough lessons with respect to separating business from personal. In learning how to detach emotion. I’ve come out of 2013 a little harder and a little wiser than when I went in. I am grateful to those that supported me through these trying times.

Emotionally, I think I’m in a better place than I was a year ago. I do hope I’m more open and vulnerable. The guards still go up pretty quickly if certain buttons are pushed, but I think I’m getting better at verbalising what I’m feeling and reacting to. I do feel I did not spend enough time with people this year. I certainly didn’t spend enough time with those closest to me. I’m hoping to be more visible, available, and out-and-about in 2014.

2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse (Jan 31-Feb 18, 2015). I like this overview for us Roosters: “Those born in Ox, Snake, and Rooster years will use patience and determination to support a foundation for success. What you sense about people and environments will be quite accurate. People are drawn to you. It’s an ideal year for research and developing your skills in any area of interest.”

Bring it on.

2014