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 – 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: Learn to Celebrate the Wins

I have to confess that the last few years have been quite challenging, across pretty much all aspects of my life, but as I write this, I am reflecting on the fact that I am happy. I am content.

How did I get to this place?

It occurred to me that when things in life challenge me – be they personal challenges or work-related challenges, I actually have choice around how I react to them (do I panic and lurch from crisis to crisis?) or do I respond to them (take a breath, take a step back from the situation and consider all options). I have learned to recognise when I have absolutely no control over situations. As such I have learned to accept these situations and as a result of this acceptance I lose no energy or sleep because of them.

Don’t get me wrong. Tough situations are tough. They do have an impact. They do force change upon us. But for me, the key was developing resilience – that ability to bounce back quickly to the pre-crisis state.

One thing that has helped me develop this resilience was developing a plan. Understanding that there are controls/frameworks I have to live within (long boring story) and planning for my future, taking these frameworks into account and instead of feeling constrained by them, making them work for me. Harnessing them. Allowing them to chip off the rough edges and to help me develop focus. I am a much better version of myself today than I was two years ago.

I could have been wallowing in a ‘poor me’ mental state but I chose not to.

I think that we pay too much attention to the negative. The bad things that happen. The office politics that get us down. The increased workload. The day-to-day stresses. If we pay attention to the negative, we allow the negative to increase. We start looking for the negative. We feed the negative. And the negative compounds. I suspect this is part of the human condition.

To counter this I have learned to celebrate the wins.

I now look for the little positive things that happen and I revel in them. It may be a win at work. It may be seeing growth in a colleague. It may be finally getting the roommates cat to sit next to me on the couch (this one was hard to achieve!). It is important to reprogramme your mindset and change your focus.

Recognising and revelling in the little wins is one thing, but it is important to go a step further. I’ve created a list. It is a list of goals or milestones that I want to achieve or acknowledge over the next three years or so. It’s a ‘living document’ which I add to regularly. The list items are currently mostly financial goals around saving etc. but they’re also practical goals. They’re also milestones to look forward to: A new place to live. Home ownership. Significant birthdays of my kids. That sort of thing.

And the amazing thing is, since I wrote this list at the beginning of July, I’ve ticked off three things already. There is an acceleration occurring because they’re written down. My sub-conscious and my conscious mind are working in concert to achieve these things.

So, write things down people. And when you achieve them, celebrate them with something that is occassional. For me, it’s wine, a cigar and a firepit. What is it for you? What will you do?

Good luck!

^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.

Springtime in Christchurch

I have just returned to Auckland from a long weekend in Christchurch.

I had a bit of trepidation about returning there after so many years. In fact, I was last there in 2009, so my memories of the city were pre-quake. Even now, nearly 4 years after the September 2010 earthquake, the city is still in disrepair. But what I saw was growth. I saw opportunity.

I spoke to many people. Locals that worked in jobs: hospitality, retail, trades. There is a sense of absolute optimism and resilience there. They know that the Christchurch that will rise from the ashes is going to be something special. The heart of the city still beats.

There is an understanding amongst locals that this is a long term project. Innovation such as the re:Start mall is fantastic and helps instil the vision of the future. The conversations were eye-opening. Politically there are disparate views, but there is a coming together of shared destiny. The insurance companies seem to have been absolute bastards and are involved in outrageous behaviour at the expense of the people of the City – and I am sure that this is something that will be addressed in the future.

re-Start

The rebuilding of streets such as New Regent St gives hope.

newregent

Many of you know that I lost friends in the CTV building collapse, and this trip presented my first opportunity to say goodbye and reflect on the character of those lost. Seeing the 185 empty chairs installation was poignant. Seeing the memorial on the site was moving and I am grateful I was able to spend some time there.

chairs ctv

I loved seeing how in the midst of the work of removing derelict buildings, new buildings are going up. I loved seeing how random spaces are being turned into sculpture installations and how street art is prevalent. Others being turned into laneways with bars and diners, ready for when the people return to the CBD. It’s so healthy seeing how people are beautifying things that would normally remind of a desert experience. Where there are shattered pillars, there can also be colour and life.

rubbleFlowerBedstreetart

We also visited New Brighton and Akaroa. Contrasting destinations, accessed through very different landscapes, but collectively showing that Christchurch will survive. And will survive well.akaroa1akaroa2newbrightonI’m glad I visited and stayed. It was a good time for closure. Christchurch is still a beautiful city, with amazing people. I will be returning sooner than later.

Murray would be proud and pleased to see what Christchurch is becoming. RIP.

NOTE: Special Thanks to Jeff and Naomi of Centrepoint on Colombo. Fanastic motel, and fab service! I heartily recommend you stay there!