Reflections on…. living through a global pandemic.

First off, that’s a title for a blog post I never thought I’d write.

Secondly, how ENORMOUS is that virus image? I thought about changing it/ scaling it down but have decided it’s an apt metaphor for how this virus has taken over the world… ergo: the image takes over the page. 

It’s been roughly two years since covid-19 “officially” became a global pandemic, certainly enough time to sit back and reflect – and as it happens, I’ve been indulging myself in observation and musings for several weeks now.

This morning we were lucky enough to start the day with a walk along our local beach, where there were plenty of happy dogs running about, people stopping to chat to each other, some die-hard surfers doing their best to find waves on a non-surf beach, and local humans generally in good spirits, moving about with relative freedom – albeit with masks at the ready.

What struck me is that whilst this landscape looked similar to BC times, there is an undercurrent to daily life that simply didn’t exist at the start of 2020.

At the beginning of the pandemic (here in New Zealand), we felt like we came together as a nation – and we were a team of five million, uniting against the spread of the virus.

As the BBC put it here, relying on science and empathy.

Lockdown 1.0 (as we so affectionately named it) was filled with incredible things:

  • We saw people taking time to walk their neighborhoods (often for the first time ever) and we put teddy bears in our windows for wandering families.
  • People created Facebook groups showcasing NZ brands to support local.
  • We encouraged people to buy vouchers for local cafes and restaurants, to keep businesses thriving in uncertain lockdown conditions.
  • The government rolled out support packages to encourage employers to retain staff.
  • We told each other to check in with the old and vulnerable in our neighborhoods.

Here in my neighbourhood we were even graced with the cycling opera singer, prompting people to lean out their windows and balconies to cheer.

2+ years in, the world, and our little corner of it – looks and feels vastly different. 

As the lockdowns persisted, the people of Aotearoa (much like the rest of the world) have become tired, confused and irritable.

We began wondering (worrying) about the future, and today our news feeds are filled with divisive rhetoric, and stories designed to pit us against each other.

And whilst it’s true that unemployment is lower that its been since pre-GFC days all it takes is a look at our front page news to see where the hearts and minds of kiwis currently lie.

Yes its newsworthy that a self-proclaimed prophet was arrested for allegedly breaching bail conditions after a charge of attending and organising a protest in breach of alert level 3 restrictions – but do we really need to give this individual and his followers so much airtime? 

What about the other anti-vax/”vaccine hesitant” voices enjoying an enhanced platform to share their views? Freedom of choice is important, but when these individuals make up such a proportionally small percentage of the population, you can’t help wonder if these articles are being intentionally published to simply rile people up and get more interaction/ more views (and therefore more revenue)

You can’t blame the  news articles for that right? Right?

Well lets think about that.. we are what we consume. Be that food, music, art or media. If we are constantly being fed negativity and divisiveness instead of the full story of what’s happening in the world – how will that make us feel? What does prolonged exposure to negativity do to our brain?

Obviously not everyone has the time and/or ability to step back and review or analyse what they’re consuming (and how it makes them feel) because humanity is exhausted.

But now, more than ever, we need the good news stories – we need to know about the acts of kindness in our communities, the people caring for and thinking of each other – we need a voice for those that are taking the time to care so that we can reconnect with our communities and each other.

We know now how prolonged stress makes us feel. We’re NOT at our best right now – so perhaps we need to remember some of that lockdown 1.0 kindness.

If you can feel your blood pressure rise reading mainstream articles, or you start grinding your teeth when tuning into the 6pm news – perhaps its time to turn off/ tune out and tune back in with yourself.

We are what we consume after all, and if we don’t stop clicking on those negative and divisive headlines, the stories will not evolve. So maybe show those algorithms what you really want to see? 

Far be it for me to give advice on the internet, but if you’ve made it this far I’ll share something that has helped me navigate the sh*tshow that is the global pandemic: Gratitude.

It takes practice if this is not something you’ve done before, costs you nothing yet can change everything.

I’d start here – take 2 minutes to remember and articulate the good things that came out of this pandemic, it could be little things like:

  • No commute! No work clothes!
  • Learning to cook. (sourdough anyone?)
  • Rediscovering music and fav movies.
  • Watch parties and zoom calls with friends (this would have never have happened previously)
  • TV chat shows via video chat, bringing a realness to media we’ve not previously seen.
  • The incredible freedom that we’ve enjoyed in NZ, comparative to other nations.

Or perhaps we should just turn off socials and get out in our neighbourhoods again.

If the past few weeks have shown me anything, its that whilst there aren’t as many teddy bears lounging in NZ in windows – there are still people out and about, trying to make the most of this incredible NZ summer, and as cheesy as it sounds – a smile and a kind word go a long way.

The Art & Science of True Happiness

Sometimes I wonder if true happiness is the real ‘holy grail’.

It seems like the whole of our existence is spent defining, refining, chasing, striving, comparing, ruminating and generally being fixated on happiness.

Whole industries have been created to tell us what it means to be happy:

  • Buy this car!
  • Get a bigger house!
  • Go on this holiday!
  • Lose that weight!
  • Buy those shoes!

We have advertising companies crafting these wonderful ideal people, living a seemingly perfect life, bombarding us with the idea that everyone else is having a better time than us, and we’re sucked into this cycle of buy, consume, strive, compare and buy again… and when we buy that coveted ‘key to happiness’ we wonder why we are not suddenly, deliciously, deliriously happy.

And and it’s not just about consumerism. We are trapped in this cycle of constantly comparing our unique selves to the rest of the world.

It could be the desire to climb the corporate ladder… ‘better’ job, fancier title, more responsibility, more money to spend on more things so that people can definitely tell you are successful and happy.

It could be based around your looks… constantly dieting, primping, preening, spending hours to get ready with the perfect hair, makeup, dress, shoes…. taking a million selfies to post to social media and prove to the world that you are an effortlessly beautiful human specimen who really knows how to have a good time (…’I woke up like this’)

 

Since when when did happiness come from things?

What will it take before we realise that the only true yardstick for lasting, genuine joy is within ourselves?

True Happiness – the genuine, lasting, deep joy that fills you up – comes from within.

  • It starts with mindfulness, stillness.
  • Taking time out to breathe.
  • Learning to be still in your own body.
  • Learning to enjoy the way your body moves, it’s strength, its gracefulness.
  • It comes from enjoying lifes pleasures with intent.
  • It comes from being present in your own mind and realising you have the power to direct your thoughts.
  • It comes from knowing that thoughts become things – and yes patterns take time to change but it’s worth it.
  • It comes from knowing that what you focus on becomes bigger, that you grow your intent and you shape your world.

 

When you slow down and smell the roses you realise all the other things that you’ve been missing..

The interesting thing about the pursuit of happiness is that it actually doesn’t cost anything. We’ve been duped into thinking that happiness is a commodity – to be bought and sold to the privileged few lucky enough to be able to afford it.

Yes, nice things are nice. But what you are looking for is that feeling of connection and contentedness with your world, and it doesn’t come in a bottle, on a plate or in an expensive shopping bag.

It comes from being able to appreciate how utterly amazing this world is.

  • It’s a good nights sleep, and waking up with the birds and the sun feeling rested and ready to take on the day.
  • It’s smiling at a stranger and having them smile in return.
  • It’s spending time walking – using your feet on the earth and paying attention to your surroundings.
  • It’s talking to random people you meet and asking if you can pet their dog.
  • Its seeing gangs of overexcited kids chasing each other around a park, screaming and laughing.
  • Its a good book, a favourite song, a board game with friends.
  • Its making a healthy nourishing meal and taking the time to enjoy your mad culinary skills.

But most of all, it’s realising that you don’t have to play into the hamster wheel of corporate life, or conscious consumerism – and that you are infinitely powerful in creating your own joy.

And the best thing about it, is that you can start right now.

 

should

Courage to live an authentic life..

People don’t usually wake up one day and suddenly decide they’re not happy with their lives… it’s a gradual thing.. it creeps up on you when you’re not paying attention. It gets down into the crevices of your heart, tucks itself into the secret parts of you that you no longer bother to pay attention to because you’re just so gosh darn busy with the perpetual motion of day to day life.

It often manifests itself in strange and unrelated ways:
– The ‘blah’ you feel when you wake up in the morning..
– How annoying slow people are in the supermarket or on the road..
– The way your ‘fuse’ gets shorter and shorter, or people just become harder and harder to be patient with..

And then you realise: it’s not them – it’s you.

There’s a brief feeling of falling when you realise you’re not excited about life anymore… it’s sort of like you’ve been falling the whole time but you’ve only just realised that the hard earth is fast approaching – and you scramble to open your parachute and then wonder if you even have one.

Because the process of change is a lot like realising you might not have a parachute.. and change can HURT. It’s scary stuff. You might lose friends, lovers, you might just lose yourself.

And the moment you realise you need to change? The ah-ha moment.. the epiphany.. the lightbulb going on above your head?

Its often a glimpse of joy that is so bright, that lifts you up and takes you by surprise and makes you feel alive – that brief moment where you realise that this is how you want to feel. 

There’s a lot of inner work that needs to be done at this point. If you want to capture that feeling again – you need to work out what floats your boat and pushes your buttons.. and you can’t base this around what other people are doing that looks cool, interesting or seems like what you should be doing to be happy. It’s got to come from you.

One of the best parts about your change journey is rediscovering your passions… focussing on the experiences and actions that make you feel alive again. Awake. Fully present and accounted for in your own life. Its a wonderful, truly magical time of discovery and energy.

I often encourage people to write these things down… keep a gratitude journal.. articulate what you are learning and experiencing and feeling – and do this just for you. (The process of writing is another step to manifestation after all)

At this point you are already changing… because you’ve decided that you can’t just go back to sleep now.. you know what you have been missing out on.

But the process of real change is tough. If you want to live a fully present, authentic life then you simply cannot keep doing the same things you’ve always done, you can’t even necessarily keep the same people in your life (particularly if they themselves don’t embrace change, or have any desire to be their best and happiest selves) and this is the hard part: letting go of the people and things you know, to allow space in your life for the unknown. To take the risk because you know that the brief moments of falling can actually feel like you are flying it’s all a matter of perspective. 

And sometimes you can actually hit the ground, knock the wind right out of you – lie there on your back, struggling to breathe and wonder how the heck you are going to be able to move again… or you can bounce. You can jump up, run over to the plane and head back up into the sky for your next adventure…..

Enjoying your own company..

2014 has been a year of change.. a year of contrasting highs and lows. I’m so proud of what I have accomplished, but I know that it’s meant a lot of change both in me as a person, and in my life.

The past couple of weeks I’ve spent a lot of time alone… remembering how it feels to be in my own company. Doing things like lots of walking, taking pictures, getting pedicures, full body massages, re-organising my closets, meditating, enjoying the feel of grass under my feet.. and eating by myself, being fully present in the moment, enjoying and savouring each bite.

I’m happy to report that I still enjoy my own company…

As human beings we crave contact with other people, we seek out others for companionship, to validate us, make us feel special, to avoid dealing with our own insecurities and to hide behind the noise of day to day interactions. When we’re not with others, we’re on social media platforms – we instagram, tweet, Facebook post and stalk, anything to avoid being alone. Alone physically, emotionally and alone with our thoughts.

What is so scary about our inner selves that we constantly avoid our own company?

Why do we buffer our experiences to avoid being alone?

Personally I’ve learned so much about myself in these past weeks. I’ve re-learned the beauty of silence, and spent time embracing my inner voice.. I’ve faced my fears (and still am) and worked out the things that are truly important to me. I feel like I still need to spend some time alone with myself.. and its almost like this sacred time will allow me to move to the next phase of my life. Whatever it may be…

I’m not afraid of what I’ve found when I look within.. and thats an incredibly empowering feeling. When you know yourself and you know your true passions, hopes, dreams and fears.. there is a mastery of self and the ability to live your life in the present moment. It’s not all roses and champagne.. theres a lot of gunk and detritus to work through.. but the end result is the ability to enjoy your own company, and that is a gift you deserve to give yourself.

There is a slight catch – you have to do the work .

 

The things we humans obsess over (Part 2)

So I’ve done 22 days no alcohol now, and I’m feeling pretty good. Previously I’d done 5 weeks in 2013 and that was a monumental exercise in fabulousness. But with this new-ish clarity of thought comes the inevitable reflection on just how utterly obsessed we are with the ‘demon-drink’ …..and I’ve realised how much alcohol is a knee-jerk reaction in modern western society.

 

Had a bad day? A glass of wine will sort that.
Nailed that project at work? You deserve a drink!
Survived the working week with all your limbs intact? Time for a beverage!

 

It’s like drinking is so ingrained into what we do literally day to day that it takes a concerted effort to minimise the ingrained knee-jerk reaction to relax with a drink…..

Think about it:
Oh it’s a beautiful sunny summers night, I’d better make the most of this and go out and have a beer in the sun!
Oh it’s a rainy winters night, freezing out there! I should tuck up with a yummy glass of red wine in front of the fire…

It’s the elixr for the masses, comes in all shapes and sizes, flavours and strengths, colours and packages, it picks you up when you’re down, transforms your face to a smile from a frown, helps lubricate communication all over town, makes you think you can dance and ‘get down’ – it’s what?! ALCOHOL! Yay! *cue mexican wave*

Now I don’t propose to have all the answers to this (or anything for that matter) what I want you to do is simply stop and think for yourself.

To start asking yourself how you feel about drinking…. to see if you resonate with anything I’ve mentioned, and to see if you too could start to challenge the assumptions modern society has placed upon you about drinking. *glug glug*

Could you go a week without drinking? A month? What changes in your social habits would you need to make in order to do this? How would your friends and workmates react?

After almost 10 years in Recruitment (an industry body known for enjoying the ‘odd tipple‘ *cough*) I can hand on heart say that I still enjoy a deep spicy glass of Shiraz, and smooth and velvety Central Otago Pinot Noir, and love the giggly brain-fuzz and silliness from a ridiculously over-priced glass of Champagne…. but my attitude to drinking is slowly changing.

With glorified boozing in adverts tempting me… And bars full of laughing, smiling, beautiful people – waving about their bottles of beer and oh-so-tempting glasses of chilled Pinot Gris as I wander past …I almost feel like I’m ‘sticking it to the man’ some days…. so yeah, fight the power and whatnot, I’m off to pour myself a stiff tea.

 

The things we humans obsess over (part 1)

Lounging around in bed this morning, putting off the inevitable part of the day where I get up and pretend to be a responsible adult, I found myself reading an article about the Oscars most important fashion moments (or some equally inane drivel) and promptly gave myself an internal donk on the head.

This was an article about image, style, impression, capturing a moment, icons, zeitgeist and the like all wrapped up in a piece of material draped around a body. Because that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s material? Didn’t we first decide to wrap ourselves in things because we don’t have fur? Wasn’t it so we didn’t freeze our nips off in the ice age? Or was it because of a gaping realisation that we were cruising around nekkid in a fabulous garden (and had been for ages, why didn’t someone say something??) and thought that a leaf would be an appropriate cover for the bits the god gave us?

So when did necessity (the mother of invention, and by that logic the father of pants) become such an obsession? It’s not ‘what you’re wearing’ but “who are you wearing dahhling?” and since when did we judge a persons worth on their ability to look good in a piece of fabric?

And why (this is the biggest issue of all really) do I own so many dresses, and yet constantly find myself looking for more?

Pants are overrated, but what’s so awful about the human body that we’re all more obsessed with covering it up, than embracing the glorious-ness of our own bits?

Why do we need to primp, preen, nip, tuck, starve, paint and hide ourselves…. why do we let that piece of material speak for us?