Grief is a funny thing. Except it isn’t.

To date I’m pretty lucky in that I haven’t lost many close to me, however I know some pretty special people who have. Being once removed means that you do feel the sadness and loss, however for me half the tears are for my friends. My heart aches for them, I sob for them and I think about them long after the dust settles. As an outsider I’m not sure whether it’s right to reach out to let them know I’m still thinking about them in case I upset them more. For those that have love and lost, please know that there are people that would love to be there when the grief overwhelms. We’re just quietly waiting in the wings.

candidkay

You can go for days, weeks, months with no episodes. You are back to life as usual, feeling like you did the hard work to adjust to your new normal. Usually this new normal is a rearranged normal, a normal that for a time at least, is meant to cover a gaping hole in your life. A deceased mother or father. A failed marriage, perhaps.

And then, suddenly, usually in a very inconvenient and unexpected place, grief washes over you as a wave.  Almost a literal wave, because you’re knocked off guard and it’s just there. Over you, under you, holding you down. You have to remind yourself to breathe.

It sounds a bit melodramatic, but I think if you’re a person who feels deeply (and even if you’re not), chances are grief strikes in similar fashion. It’s one of the great equalizers. CEOs and factory workers may live in…

View original post 949 more words

Advertisements

Seven steps to a happier me. And you.

A long time ago I decided that one of our jobs in this life was to do what we could to be as happy as we could be. Pretty simple right? It was my ‘Ah ha’ moment all those years ago, and I believe that it changed the person that I became.

You see, back then I was a dweller – one of those people who used to dwell on situations and interactions, replaying things back in my mind, questioning ‘why’, or more accurately ‘why me?’. I wasn’t miserable. Far from it. But at times I’d tie myself in knots trying to explain life to myself. It’s not that life was that hard for me either. My parents worked very hard to provide me with everything I needed and even a bunch of stuff that I wanted; they sent me to a good school where I had a good bunch of mates. For me, life was sweet. I had no excuse to why I leaned toward pessimism, except that perhaps it was hereditary or that it was chosen.

Disregarding the former as it was something beyond my control, I pondered the fact that, to some degree, I could be choosing to be mad, upset, disappointed and all those other things that come with a negative mindset. If I was unconsciously choosing to take an unhappy path, surely some good things could happen when I was making deliberate decisions.

So I made a decision to try and make the most of the things that I could control. An attitude adjustment of sorts. And it worked! I became more relaxed and happy-go-lucky, and importantly more positive. So here they are, my tips to becoming a happy chappy.

1. Respond rather than react. Although you don’t have control over everything, you can choose what happens when you’re presented with situations and circumstances. If your first move is a considered response, it is far more likely to be positive than what your first emotional reaction may be.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is full of bumps in the road, and with any luck you’ll be presented with more small bumps than big. But if you choose to trouble yourself over the tiny, insignificant bumps, then unfortunately you’ll probably spend your life troubled. The key is to assess how much the situation really matters at the end of the day. If it’s merely an inconvenience or something you can live with, perhaps it’s better to let it slide. With time you’ll take small bumps in your stride, and with any luck eventually you won’t even notice them.

3. Forgive, forget and let go of the grudges. I discovered that it takes a lot of be happyenergy to stay angry at people, and even more to hold a grudge. It takes effort to hold in all that anger, and it will end up hurting you more than it hurts the other party. So take a step back and review whatever has been done to offend you. Use the same yard stick as above – how much did the action really matter at the end of the day? If the answer is not much, then consider forgiving the person. I’m sure by that stage they’ll know they’ve made a mistake and will be willing to make it up to you. If the action or mistake is unforgiveable, then you might just have to cut that person loose. It’s a pretty dire move, and sounds like a harsh action, but sometimes it just need to be done. The idea here is to set the burden free, so if you are going to get rid of the person you’ll need to be prepared to move on. That means no more dwelling!

4. Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a sure fire way to tie yourself in knots or bring out the green-eyed monster. The thing is, there will always be people who are better off than you, and those that are worse off. You need to remember all paths are different, success is relative and can be measured against many different yard sticks. Pick your path and measure success against milestones. And be happy for others’ success and for your own.

5. Expect less. This one can be a bit of a balance, or it can be a complete false economy. I’ve found disappointment is often set up by our own expectations. If you put 100% into something – whether it’s work, relationships or any group activities – then there is a big possibility that you’d expect the same of others. The thing is that the others involved may not feel the same amount of passion as you do for that particular thing. Perhaps they put their 100% elsewhere, or maybe they’re not 100% type people. For me, adjusting my expectations (to whatever effort is required to achieve a reasonable result) means that I’m surprised and delighted a lot more often.

6. It’s okay to smile. Sometimes you can be so caught up in the negativity, whether it’s environmental or self constructed, that you forget to see the lighter things in life. Even if you are mourning a death or the end of a relationship, the world moves on and there are lovely things happening all the time. If you see one of these lovely things, (e.g. a brand new baby or a puppy) it is quite alright to notice it and to smile. Or if you see something funny, it’s okay laugh. These things will instantly make you feel better, and might even pull you out of whatever darkness surrounds you.

7. Sometimes there is no reason why. Sometimes things happen for absolutely no reason at all, and at no fault of others. Some people think that it’s all part of a bigger picture, whilst others believe in Karma or God’s design. That kind of thinking gives people hope, however I believe that it also puts people on the quest for answers. “Maybe it’s because I stepped on that cockroach yesterday”, or “It’s because I was an evil murderer in my past life”. If you can accept that sometimes things just happen, you can save yourself the anguish of the search for meaning.

Of course there are other things as well – like surrounding yourself with the right people, and ensuring that you’re grateful for what you have – but those were things that I personally didn’t need to worry about. I can’t tell you it was easy either. I was constantly having to force myself to let things go, to allow myself to laugh at the funny things and stop asking why. But eventually discipline turned into habit, and habit became nature. So if you feel like you could do with a positive change in your life, give it a go, even if you start with just one or two of the tips. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly made a difference to me.

What I learned about myself watching my first fight night

The other night I attended my very first live fight…

Anyone who knows me would think that was out of character – I’m not your average blood sport kinda gal. But I was there to support a couple of (unrelated) mates who were part of a reality type internet show called Wimp2Warrior.  You know the type, where they take your average Joe from off the street, train them in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) for 6 months or so, and then set them out to fight against each other. And from hundreds of applicants from all around Australia, I happen to know two! How could I not go?

I can honestly say I was a bit apprehensive. I had seen a few snippets of fights on TV (as my bro is your average blood sport enthusiast) and it was a bit gory for my liking. The sound of a punch hitting skin is not really one of my favourite sounds, and these nutcases are so determined not to “tap out” that quite often broken and dislocated limbs are the only things that stop the fights. And having to watch two people you actually know stepping into the cage… That’s just a different story. Luckily for me they weren’t fighting against each other, despite being in the same weight division.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself hoarse after the first round from yelling –
“Go Adz!”
“Kick him!”
“Elbows!”

Adz in the ring

Adz (blue) in the ring

Granted I’d had a beverage or two, but there I was bellowing at the top of my lungs, telling a friend to hurt someone else! And it didn’t end there. I screamed my support right up until the point he tapped out (guillotine move apparently), then picked 2 strangers to go for before cheering my little heart out for my other friend, Vaughan (who also lost in a split decision by a single point). It was thrilling, it was stressful but I was having a grand old time.

vaughno

Vaughn (left) waiting to hear the points decision

After we left the event my hubby and I were discussing how weird it was that I had gotten so into it. Maybe it was the personal connection? No, that wasn’t it because it took me no time at all to find some strangers to support. Maybe I’m just a sports supporter – I love watching a bit of rugby, a bit of tennis, and I’ve been known to yell a few words of support. But “kick him”?! Or maybe I was a blood sport kinda gal…

I started thinking about the ancient Roman gladiators. I always thought it was disgusting that people would go and watch people fight to the death. Sometimes they had the power to affect whether the gladiators got to live or die, and it was not uncommon for them to vote for a death. Would I have been one of those people, one who would get so caught up in the atmosphere that I’d vote for an execution? I can be so self-righteous sometimes, and I like to think my values and ethics are first class. I had really caught myself out.

I still can’t explain the inner blood nut that I seemed to awaken the other night, but I guess I knew that they’d never let anyone get really hurt – if anyone looked like they were in serious trouble the trainers would throw in the towel. Despite the production value of the Wimp 2 Warrior finale, and the fact that I personally knew two of the competitors, being there live actually felt more disconnected than watching it on TV. You’re further away, you can’t hear any of the noises going on in the ring, and you have a cage between you and the fighters. Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

So for now I’ll take comfort in the fact that I still get grossed out by watching MMA fights on TV. Surely that means that the ancient Roman Cat didn’t get caught up in the hysteria and send gladiators to their death!

NB: I’d like to give a special shout out to Vaughan and Adz. I cannot imagine how hard you boys trained for those 6 months (although I’m about to see on the show!) and how much courage it would have taken for you to step out in that ring knowing that no matter what you’re going to be hurting the next day. Well done – absolutely incredible stuff.

Making the tough decisions

Fotolia_Yes-or-No-decision-making-e1330349370287One of the ironies of modern life is that the very freedom that we consider a basic human right can be the source of so much stress. First world problems, right? But around me I’m seeing so many people hung up on the decisions that they need to make. They fret. Because as per economic theory, there is an opportunity cost for each path they choose. Because sometimes the decision is not straight forward – sometimes there is a need to choose between the lesser of two evils, or two equally bad or equally good ones. Or because the decision is life changing.

  • Consider the lady who’s at a point in her life where she has to decide whether to change jobs to progress her career, or whether she should stay (unsatisfied) in a job so that she will be able to take advantage of the maternity leave benefits.
  • Or the point where a young couple has to decide whether to stretch their budget and step into their first mortgage, or use their savings and go on a round the world trip of a lifetime.
  • Or the expat Aussie, living it up in London/Hong Kong/New York/Singapore with a great career, earning great money, living in a great little flat and partying with great friends. But they dearly miss their family and friends back home, and of course the Aussie beaches and weather. To stay or to go back home?

At a glance each decision comes with consequences that are somewhat equally weighted. Life is full of them. So what would you do?

At the end of the day decisions like these seem to come down to a combination of life stage, your values and your ethics – family, financial, rational, emotional, duty, live for today, plan for tomorrow. Sharing your thought processes with a confindant (friend, family, colleague, or a few thousand fellow bloggers) can help with clarity as we tend to associate with people who share our values and ethics.

However you make your life decisions, try not to let the process and the “what ifs” overwhelm you. Trust that you have the capability to make the right decision for you and then put 100% into making it work. Never look back, even if it doesn’t quite work out the way you thought it would. There might just be another opportunity waiting for you right around the corner. Or perhaps it’s right in front of you.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.”
Alexander Graham Bell

Rude or acceptable? Depends what lens you’re looking through

I’ve been toying for a few days now about what topic I should write about next. I have a list of topics that I’d like to write about, but I want to be sure that my first few topics cover a range that reflects who I am. I was flicking through some blogs and found this post Talk about the weather, not my weight about an Aussie girl following her Italian beau and struggling with some of the culture clashes – Bingo! It became the genesis of this post.

The saying goes that if you can understand the humour of another language then you become pretty much native. Being fluent in both Thai and English I can assure you that there are a few other hurdles to watch out for. Norms and taboos are particularly interesting obstacles, where a misunderstanding can result in hilarity, awkwardness or even hurt either party’s feelings.

fat cartoonA casing point is the weight commentary, as per With Italian Love’s experiences. In Thailand (and apparently in Italy), it is perfectly acceptable to say hello and then comment on your weight – “Gee, you’ve put on a bit of weight. You must be living it up!” or “You’ve lost some weight haven’t you? You’re looking good”. Obviously the latter is preferable to the former, but people serve it up to you either way, and may even throw in a few pointers to assist you in achieving what they would consider their optimum weight for you.

I recall when I was a fragile teenager I was outraged that my mum’s friends felt that it was their place to comment to point out the muffin tops protruding from my jeans, or when they thought it was fine to announce to the whole market in Bangkok that I’d never fit into medium sized pants and they better get the large ones out. You never would have categorised me as fat, but it’s easy to feel large when you tower over everyone and they’re all size 6.

Strangers, even customers, aren’t immune. When Hubby and I were shopping for shorts in a Phuket market, he was met with a shop keeper who told him that he was “very big” and he would need “elephant size” shorts! He is 6 ft 5″ and about 120kgs so the description wasn’t inaccurate, but you’d only never venture down that road in Australia. Lucky for us the shop keeper stocked elephant size so we managed to get some shorts out of the encounter.

Eventually I started to find the regular weight updates quite funny, and the honesty almost refreshing. ALMOST. I recognised that no malice was meant, and it was more like an observation a la “How’s this rain at the moment?”

The social filters and taboos in the Thai culture are there, just as they are in Italian culture. They just are in different places! What is acceptable and what is rude is determined by your frame of reference. Being exposed to two cultures means that I’m lucky enough to have more than one lens to process the world. If there is one thing that I can pass on from my (not so) unique position, it would be tolerance. Just because you believe something is right or wrong doesn’t mean it is so everywhere.