Loss, Suicide and the Ugly parts of life.

Over the past week, many people have discovered the passing of Anthony Bourdain. Whilst I haven’t done the typical “RIP” post to facebook that everyone tends to do in these sadly increasing circumstances, this particular death has hit me pretty hard. It’s odd when a celebrity dies – you don’t know them at all but their faces are so familiar to you, you’ve heard them talk, sing, you’ve read about their lives. They’ve told stories in your living room for years.

Personally, I feel he was different to most so called “celebrities” – so raw, unapologetically human and flawed – with such a deep zest for life, travel, people and food. So many people identified with him, admired him and connected with him in some way. His realness made him relatable, and his struggles resonated. He made it ok for a lot of people.

But I have to talk a little about the elephant in the room. About mental illness, depression and the struggles that people go through in their hearts and minds every day.

In this age of social media, we’re more connected than ever, and lonelier than ever. This is a world where we compare ourselves and our happiness to the “highlight reel” that people project to the world through their online personas.

Its a world where we’re so afraid to really show ourselves, to appear less than happy, less than perfect. A world where everyone harps on about mental illness and daily struggles, but people are still afraid to admit it’s happening to them.

One thing I observe is that the people who decide to take their own lives are often deemed “happier than ever” by their friends a family… we forget: its when people are alone, with their thoughts and their fears – that they are the most vulnerable. When the mask is off, and the mental boxing gloves come on, and the battle rages once more in hearts and in minds. People are afraid to be alone with their own thoughts. 

Depression, anxiety and mental illness in general – it never goes away. Not really. So even if a person seems fine – it doesn’t mean they are without struggle, or they are ‘cured’.

In an increasingly vapid society, where looks and personas and “personal brand’ reign supreme – its more important than ever to occasionally consciously disconnect from anti-social social media, and reconnect with self. To step away from mental self-talk and ego, and into the present moment.

Living in the present moment, in the now, is so damn powerful. It allows us to connect, experience, relish and squeeze joy from our lives and experiences.. the ego is only thinking about the past or the future and it sucks our joy with false worry and fear.

When someone who seems to have all this figured out, who seems to thrive in the present – succumbs to fear, anxiety, depression – and ultimately takes their own life – we often think “shit, if they can’t see past this – how am I to get past this?”.. and we are sucked back into that fear pattern.

But comparison is ego – it’s mind talk, it takes away your power and your ability to find joy. If you catch yourself doing this, and having these thoughts – you have the power to stop them in their tracks just by acknowledging the fear, and not following the thoughts. It takes a lot of practice – but it’s a powerful tool.

I think a lot, and I often ponder what my “legacy” will be for the world.. ultimately we all want to make some kind of impact. We want to make sense of  the world, and our place in it. When we look to a man like Anthony Bourdain, and observe and understand the impact that he made in so many peoples lives  – it can be both overwhelming (comparison) or inspiring – depending on our lens of the world.

Personally, if I can make people think, feel, give them tools to help them make sense of their lives, craft writing/ string together words that resonate, maybe a feeling of being less alone than they thought – and ultimately if I have been kind, then thats is a pretty sweet legacy.

In the meantime – check on your strong friend. Don’t wait – don’t think about it and not do it – drop them a “been thinking about you – hope you’re doing ok ?”  message… you just might find you get the same response… and we’ll all be a little less lonely.

FOMO

I’ve officially reached that part in my healing journey where the intense FOMO is kicking in.

(Loosely translated as “fear of missing out, if there’s anyone reading wondering WTF I’m on about)

I’m thinking about a glass of Australian Shiraz in a manner more befitting an elixir of life, and I can feel my bottom lip sliding out like a petulant toddler at the insta and FB pics of people out and about doing cool stuff in the real world…… whilst I listfully gaze outside wondering how much more fun everyone is having than I.

In typical me fashion I’m grabbing hold of these thoughts and reshaping them into fuel for healing… and at the same time marvelling that I’m FOMO instead of just being exhausted and watching from afar with no desire/ energy to join in. Amazing what a difference a few weeks make.

It feels like catching glimpses of the person I’m becoming… someone not battling every day with invisible chronic illness, plastering a smile on her face and telling everyone “I’m okay”….

With the clarity of hindsight I’ve actually been FOMO the whole time these past 6+ years but simply too exhausted to focus on what I’m missing, expending all my energy reserves on just getting by.

The world seems flush with possibility as my energy fuel tank slowly refills…. where can I go now I’ve got the fuel to travel??

 

Healing and joy, odd combo huh?

One of the most healing things you can do for yourself is to be still. Put your feet up, or leave them bare and put them on the grass.. and just. be. still. 

Feel the sun in your face. Notice the breeze. Listen. Acknowledge your thoughts but don’t follow them. Breathe. 

Healing and the modern world seem so at odds.. healing takes time, stillness, patience and connection – all the things that contemporary life abjures.

We all want to feel amazing but there’s this enforced ideal that we should be able to attain this without effort, quickly and conveniently. 

We’re disconnected, disenfranchised, dissatisfied and discombobulated by our modern lives. 

No wonder people feel lost.

When I was 11 I had this life theory… (surprisingly astute for someone who had barely reached double digits… but I was always a little deliciously weird) I decided that when we are born onto this earth, each of us has a piece missing. My eleven year old brain saw that everyone tried to fill this missing part of us with different things… 

Some people wrote music, some people surfed, some drank a lot, others turned to god. 

The truely unhappy people, as I saw it, tried to fill themselves up with just one thing, thinking that this ONE THING would make them whole again. 

But whether you fill yourself up with Jesus, with booze or with buying things it won’t work – because this ONE BIG THING can’t fill all the little spaces in ourselves. 

The secret to life, I believed, was to find all the little things that make your heart sing, to keep searching for the joy – even in the dark places…. because that is what makes us whole.

11-year-old-me was onto something I believe. 

So as I heal… slowing down and reconnecting with stillness, breath and all the messages I’ve been too busy to hear.. I’m rediscovering all the little parts of life that bring me joy. 

And there’s so much to discover. 

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?

Healing is not linear.

Repeat after me: healing is not linear.

Then try not to cry because out of the blue you have new pain in new places, you can’t sit up again, and you feel like a deflated balloon (except with energy sucked out of you instead of air….. looks pretty much exactly the same though)

“Okay. Okay I’ll rest for a bit” you tell yourself, as you trudge/shuffle towards the bedroom to lay down.

F*CK. I can’t reach the covers. I pretty much can’t move. I have fallen and I can’t get up.

“Is this being old?” You ask yourself.

You were always wondering when you’d feel like an adult, so is it this? Is this my NOW MOMENT OF ADULTHOOD?

“Wow” you think to yourself, “this sucks”.

Post-surgery reflections.

No matter how prepared you think you are….. you are not prepared for everything.

No one can explain to you that several days later you will be exhausted from the act of folding two pairs of pants and hanging up two t shirts, to the point where you need to lay down before you fall down.

No one mentions that the general anaesthetic is designed to literally freeze your bowels on the operating table, and that combined with the power of the pain meds to do the exact same thing, everything is working against your bodies natural elimination process. And hooeee that hurts. It hurts your stomach, your stitches, your arms and legs ache and your back feels like you suddenly aged 67 years overnight. (and spent each one of those years stooped over in a coal mine chipping away at a bloody rock)

So you’re stooped over, but trying to keep moving, one hand on your back, the other on your abdomen (gotta protect those stitches!) shuffling round the house, feeling older than your days, monitoring the pain, making sure you keep on top of the timing of the meds/ keeping the pain at 1-3/10, battling the breakthrough pain that you know will make you cry like a baby, slowly rifling through every pair of casual pants you own, assessing their waist height and the strength of the elastic to try and predict the potential level of torture, debating over the nana slippers versus the funky sneakers (because how far are you willing to lower your standard of dress…?) and despite this, despite ALL this, all you can think is: soon, I can get my life back.

I won’t be in agony every single month for 10-15 days, I won’t have to cancel social events and struggle at work, I won’t lose so much blood my haemoglobin will drop to critical levels and require a life saving transfusion or two, I won’t have cervical shock and my body begin to shut down, I can function like a normal person again.

I will be able to walk 100 metres without palpitations and the threat of passing out. I’ll be able to go to meetings without needing to rush to the bathroom. I’ll be able to wear the clothes I want. Go out to dinner with my partner. Have weekends where I can safely and comfortably leave the house.

The hardest thing about chronic illness is that you’re forced to make it look like everything is fine.

I’m officially a week into a minimum four week recovery period. Today was a bad day for pain and discomfort. But tomorrow may be a good day. We’ll see. ….just for now, I will maintain my mantra: “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay”……….

 

Changing it up, for a change.

Once upon a time I methodically broke my site down into wellness/ reiki and food/ recipe stuff.. I was trying to be useful to others rather than necessarily giving myself a place to write down my thoughts and ideas. But I don’t want to run a site – I basically want to express myself in an electronic time capsule.

In some circles what I’m doing here is called “blogging”, and in other circles (likely the more fun ones, where there’s wine and perhaps marshmallows on stick around an actual fire..) this is called “ranting”.

Whilst I’m known to wave an imaginary stick in the air and yell “get off my lawn!” from time to time, I’m actually a pretty happy human, and less prone to ranting than you’d think. So for want of a witty catch-all phrase for this part of the site we’ll title the published pieces “blog/ rant”. 

Perhaps in time I’ll find something better, but since this is technically “talking to yourself on the internet” I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Take my hand, sweet sister….

[Author: Catherine McInnes-Wright]

Take my hand, sweet sister. You are not alone on this dark night.
I know this life has brought you to your knees. I see the shadows of doubt and fear etched on your precious face. I see your strong shoulders bowing under the weight of the whole world’s pain. I see the dried blood on your soft hands from clawing your way out of all places you did not belong.
It is time to rise.
Come with me to the water’s edge and look into your own radiant eyes. For it is there you shall see your blazing truth: You are too beautiful to be hidden. You are too powerful to stay small. You are so much more than the life that contains you.
Set down your sword, sister. You are a warrior, but your power does not lie in weapons. Your true strength lies in the mysteries hidden beneath your sumptuous skin. It swells in your shining moon-belly, cascades over the mountains of your honeyed hips, and pulsates through your thunderstorm-heart.
Let us journey through the desolate lowlands of sorrow to the epic wall you built around that heart so long ago. See the wall now covered in the moss of sadness and the vine of regret. Allow yourself to take it down brick by brick with trembling hands.
Let your sacred tears cascade like a waterfall upon all the wounds that your own sword has inflicted. Listen as your heart beats stronger and more insistent with every tear drop, in perfect time with the rhythm of life: Love. Love. Love.
With a free heart, watch the land come alive again. First wild flowers will burst forth, and then whole jungles full of rainbow-feathered birds and roaring beasts. Do not be afraid, darling one. They are all here for you.
Travel to all the forgotten places. Dance naked beneath the shining starlight of your intuition. Rediscover the ancient mysteries drawn on the walls of your womb and the wisdom of the ever-changing scarlet tides of your blood. Step boldly into the long-suppressed fires of sacred anger, allowing yourself to be engulfed and transformed by the raging flames.
Tiptoe carefully into the darkest shadows of yourself to behold the savage dragons and the tender little girl they protect. See every muddy, bloody, wild part of yourself, and embrace it all. Your messiness is your magnificence. Your humanness is radiant beauty in motion. You are a powerful, magical creatress.
Know your lover deep in your heart. Feel their integrity, strength and courage, so that when you see them — for the first time or the hundredth — you may recognize their true divinity.
Remember the devotion of your sisters and the endless lifetimes we have gathered together. Let us always make circles and dance with Maiden Earth below us, the red tent holding us, and Grandmother Moon above.
Surrender to your own sacredness. Let your sword stay fallen and your walls continue to crumble. When the world brings you to your knees again, when you can barely see through the darkness, know this: You are love. It radiates through every cell of your being. Let it shine out onto everything and everyone you touch. And rise.
***

 

Rarotonga Feasting: Moonfish in Pawpaw

Just a quick note/update, as there’s still much relaxing to be done in Rarotonga… Last night I whipped this dish up with local ingredients and it was easy and super fast. No exact measurements – I’m on holiday after all you gotta go with the flow!

 

Into two double layered tin foil boats, combine

Half an onion, thinly sliced, three gloves freshly minced garlic

Two teaspoons fresh chillis

Fresh salt & pepper

Two medium Moonfish fillets over the top of the onion/ chilli mixture (any NZ fav fish would work, but non-gamefish will flake apart rather than hold together, so needs less cooking and should be combined with other ingredients much more gently)

1.5 tablespoons coconut milk spread evenly over the fish  pin the two packets

Small handful finely cut coriander over the fish

Seal up into packets, and put in a medium oven to poach the fish in the mixture and juices

 

Cut up a handful of fresh green beans, put this on the stove in a pot with about two teaspoons of coconut milk, and half a teaspoon of the same chilli used on the fish, cook on low until a little more tender (but still with some crunch)

Cut up baby bananas, add to the beans, add more coconut milk (another teaspoon) take off the heat and let is rest with the lid on..

 

Halve a a ripe pawpaw, and scoop out the seeds, then create a deeper ‘boat’ in the pawpaw.

 

Take the poached Moonfish out of the oven, use a big spoon to add it to the beans and bananas, combine, perhaps add a little more coconut milk if it needs it, then add another small handful of freshly chopped coriander.

 

To serve, add to a plate with rice, and spoon the mixture into the pawpaw….. we had ours with champagne but I’m sure a nice mild Pinot Gris would pair just as well.

 

Vegan Green Goddess Dressing

A vegan/dairy free take on a modern classic dressing – this takes around 10 minutes from start to finish, and will keep in the fridge for up to a week… but I doubt it will last that long!

Ingredients

2 large cloves garlic

Juice of 2x medium lemons

2x gherkins

1x teaspoon olive oil

1x teaspoon apple cider vinegar

A handful of frozen baby peas

A handful of fresh parsley

1/2 Ripe avocado

Pinch of black pepper

2-3 teaspoons of water for the consistency you desire

 

Simply combine all ingredients in a food processor in the order stated above, until you reach the consistency you want – I used this as an alternative to my usual tahini-based dressings on a buddha-bowl with bulgur wheat base, steamed winter veg of broccoli, cauli, green beans and carrots, and spicy potato wedges to zing up the dish for a weekday work lunch. All up this took about 25 mins of prep and I had dinner and two huge bowls for lunch.

 

Lists aren’t just for organising..

Everyone has heard the phrase: ‘count your blessings’ – that’s a crude way of saying that what you focus on becomes bigger. Thoughts become things. But how do you get into that mindset? How do you shift your focus so that you see all of the goodness in your life, and stop focusing on the negative things?

 

One of the tools I love for this is making a list of THINGS THAT ARE AWESOME. This is a simple thing that takes just a couple of minutes of your day, and can leave you feeling absolutely marvellous.

 

Heres my list for today:

Things that are awesome: vogels toast with avocado and marmite * reading a book with an amazing storyline that you keep thinking about * snuggling up in white linen on a lazy Sunday morning * well organised closets * singing in the shower  * discovering new tv shows several years after everyone else and getting to binge-watch * getting the urge to write and paint again  * making holiday plans * making winter dinner party plans and the thought of busting out the slow cooker again * Sunday baking sessions * making lists about things that are awesome…