life, Uncategorized, writing

Recap and look forward

This has been a Year.

I’ve seen it capitalized all over the place – people from across the world have been having a hard time of it, and it was no different for me. It’s been almost four months since we moved cities, which was a total upheaval but has given me a lot of time to reflect and grow. Growing can be painful, but I really believe it’s worthwhile. And I think in the last few months, in particular, I’ve come a long way.

I was watching a friends video the other day (FB Live, have you tried it? I think if I ever did a live thing my kids would totally video bomb me lol), and she was talking about what her word for the year might be in 2017. It got me reflecting on what my word of the year has been in recent history, and while I haven’t always ‘set’ them purposefully, they have been there.

They go something like this ‘Survival’ or ‘Balance’. ‘Not falling apart’ could probably make it to the list too. Because on reflection, I’ve had a few hard years. In 2014 I finished my studies and published my first book. At that point, I was struggling hard, I just didn’t know it yet. One of the topics of my study ripped me apart and I’d spent months spiraling that, and I determined that in 2015 I would put myself back together again, in some fashion. I decided to give antidepressants a shot, and while they helped somewhat, it was a lot of ups and downs, side effects, and eventually feeling incredibly numb.

I didn’t write a lot of new stuff in 2015, though I published several things that had been waiting. Towards the end of 2015 I was toying with the idea of coming off my meds, and I did that and felt a huge sense of relief. I could actually FEEL again, and that was amazing. I’ve not doubted that decision for a moment since, and despite all the turmoil this year has brought me, I’m feeling better than I have in a long time. I am strong. And I have bad days, but I get through those, much like most people do. Life is full of ups and downs.

2016 was a light year for writing too. Very light. I did a good chunk of editing, worked for others, but always put aside my own work.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that my writing has not been a priority for a long time. I’ve been dealing with so many real life issues that there wasn’t room for that creativity and it was much easier to do things for other people. But I’m ready now.

And my word for 2017 is going to be FOCUS. Because it’s time. It’s time I actually gave this a real chance, time I made my writing a priority. Time to stop putting everyone else’s work ahead of my own. This both terrifies and excites me, because if I actually try, then there is always the chance I can fail, and failing sucks. But I’d rather try and know than just keep putting it on the backburner.

2017 will be a year of words. A year of saying no to the things I don’t really want to do but maybe feel like I should. Of saying YES to my own worlds.

What are you saying yes to in 2017?

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life, office, Uncategorized

The Office

A few days ago, I moved into my office.

YAY!

This has been the culmination of weeks of thinking, and shuffling things around, as well as gathering the essential supplies and doing a little bit of a makeover. Being that I homeschool my three kids, and they are a lovely combination of ADHD/aspie/just-plain-weird-like-their-parents, you can imagine that sometimes the inside of my house is very loud. Like, really loud. Sometimes it’s mostly populated by small things that look like children but are actually animals (complete with conversations held in meows, woofs, and getting your face occasionally licked).

photogrid_1477889251055Sometimes, I just need a place where I can go and hide out. A quiet place, filled with quiet, peaceful things. Sometimes, this quiet place is actually loud so I can listen to music without using headphones and can sing at the top of my lungs without being yelled at. But it’s my space and I’ll damn well do with it what I please. Mostly it’s quiet. There is a lock on the door. This is important.

Some lovely friends came and helped me paint a couple of weeks ago, and it’s the purple of childhood dreams. I think this was a subconscious thing on my part, a nourishment, a recollection of simpler days. A reclamation of innocence stolen. Whatever, it’s calming. And I do really like purple. The ceiling is ugly, and instead of patching it up and painting I found some pretty wool lace online and ordered enough to drape. It’s like being in a purple cave decorated by a massive spider web. I like it. I have curtains to go in still, but they aren’t 100% necessary for my use of the space so I’ll get around to it eventually.

photogrid_1477951571993Between having houseguests for most of a week, and every else being down with a tummy bug for the weekend, it took me until Tuesday to move my desk in. This was a big step. Not only would I have to leave the house to use my desk (my office is the small, second room in the sleepout), but I’d have no regular, easy place to work inside.

And you know what? It’s awesome. It’s no longer easy to turn on my laptop and spend endless hours trawling the internet. If I really need to check stuff I can do that on my phone anyway. It’s been less than a week and I am already forming some good habits. I go to my office to work. I GO to work. That’s a huge mindset shift in itself! This morning, sick of juggling an armload of items, I packed my bag instead and called to the kids “I’m just going to work in the office for a half hour!” and off I went.

photogrid_1478209511779To be clear, the office is not far. I can still hear them if anything goes amiss. They are free to come out, but normally prefer to stand on the deck and call me instead. A lot of the time they’ll jump on the trampoline outside my office window, sometimes they will come and work on projects in the big room of the sleepout. If they want to jump on the trampoline and I am not working they ask, “can you go and do some work?” and off we go. How cool is that?

And WOW does that ever feel good after what has felt like months of spinning my wheels. I know that logically that was all important. Settling in takes a long time, and I am only just now at the point where I feel like we really truly live here and that’s good. I still miss a lot from back home, but this is home now too.

Home, and an office.

It’s not complete. There are still things I need, but I’m determined to only put stuff in it I love. I want to surround myself with reminders that my needs and wants are valuable, and that I am worthy of an abundance of awesome. Because I am. And, hey, so are you! In the months to come, I’ll have some really cool stuff to share with you. I kind of feel like I’m starting a new phase of my life, and I’m super excited about it all.

challenges, lessons, life, Uncategorized, writing

Not everyone is an asshole

My friend (and valued member of my crit group) Richard Parry has some thoughts on his blog about the state of things. About the way people interact, about the negative feedback loops we sometimes get caught up in (go read it now, then come back. I’ll wait).

Some days, it seems like everyone in the world is just trying to annoy me, but then I remember that everything is relative and if I’m struggling I’m more likely to interpret other people’s behaviour in negative ways.

Everyone is doing the best they can, but sometimes that looks like being an asshat because they are totally tapped out.

I am trying really hard to remind myself of this. Having moved about 6 weeks ago, I am still getting my head into the right space. Still struggling to get a routine in place. Some days the dishes pile up and we resort to takeout, some days I forget to brush my hair, and the kids hang out in their PJs all day (who doesn’t like PJ days?) and all I can really manage is basic meals (ie: toast!) and to bury myself in a book. It might not look like it from the outside, but on those days, that is the best I can do.

Not every day, of course, and on fewer days the longer we’re here (for which I am grateful). But this being kind to others, and assuming they are trying their best means I have to try and believe that I’m doing my best as well. Which is interesting.

 

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Can giraffes be assholes? 

 

As I get back into writing, I am struggling to really disappear into the story and I have a long held habit of writing myself in-text notes. Historically these have looked like [WTF Cassie?!] or [this is such shit, you can do better]. And now, I hold back on berating myself. Now they are more along the lines of [while this is an inelegant solution, I can see you’re feeling your way through introducing this element to the story, it’ll clean up later] or [bring it back on track, Cassie. You’ve got this]. It might not be as hilarious when reading it through again, but I’m certain it will be more helpful, and in the now? It means I don’t feel so crappy about my attempts to write.

I’m not really sure if I have a point here, other than maybe we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves, and to others. We can never tell what’s happening inside another person’s mind or body. We don’t know what they are going through. Sometimes we can’t even tell what’s going on with ourselves!

Of course, some people are just assholes. But not everyone. And not me. I’m just struggling.

change, life, Uncategorized, writing

Back to basics

We’ve been here in our new house, new town, new region, for two weeks today. The boxes are mostly unpacked, and everybody – human and animal alike – is settled. Apart from me. I am not. I’m just not.

Which is not to say I am unhappy, because at times I really am. I love it here. The house is wonderful, I’m loving having a fireplace again, I love the way we all get up at the same time (even if it’s a tad on the early side!) because Hubby has to get up so early for work. I even love that there is so much less to do, because I feel like maybe I’ve been in need of a holiday for a while now, and am finally getting a bit of a mental break.

But it can’t last forever, and the more time that passes without me making progress on the writing front, the more miserable I become. And yet, I am without direction. I am so out of the habit at this point that I barely feel like a writer, and at times have wondered whether this is it. Maybe I’m done. Maybe I’m just never going to do it again. The only thing that stops me going down that road of thought is the pang of loss and instant sorrow that comes if I think about never writing.

Clearly, I am not done. But also, very clearly, I am without direction, purpose, drive, focus.

So today I went back to basics and booted up 750words. I’ve used this website off and on for YEARS now, and I find it most helpful when I am struggling. It doesn’t seem to matter what the struggle is, it just helps to vomit up my brain-goo and this is a good way to do it.

I feel better already.

Screenshot (1)

 

july, life, Uncategorized

On the Move

Once again, it’s been a long time – I have a really good reason this time, though it’s by no means ‘over’ and will mean I lack any rhythm for… well, until whenever it is that things stop being all up in the air.

You see, we’re moving cities! We’d talked about this in the past – I’d said Wellington was the only other place I’d live, he said that he’d be pretty depressed if we still lived in Taranaki in ten years time – and we made a plan. It was a five year plan. It was a plan that meant our eldest would be old enough to babysit the other two, and he would be finished the degree he started working on part time by the time we moved.

That was a year ago.

A few months ago a job cropped up that he was seriously interested in. I said he could apply. He didn’t get it, but by the time that happened we’d all had a massive brain shift which saw him applying for more jobs, me beginning to get my head around the fact this might happen, and the kids bursting at the seams for a move.

And then last week he got an amazing job. And that means we ARE moving, and all of the things that come along with that – prepping our house for sale, house hunting in another city, research research research into good places to live with a family, homeschooling groups, lifestyle, packing, decluttering, crying, saying goodbye – are now here. Big time.

I’m still getting my head around this. It’s not something I have any experience with, but it feels like it will all have happened in no time at all – we’ll be living in a new house, in a new area, far away from our friends and family (well, most of them) before we even really know it, and I have a feeling it’s going to take several months after that until it’s really sunken in and we’re feeling settled. Or me, at least, the kids are busting a gut to get on with it – let’s hope their enthusiasm lasts!

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April, challenges, lessons, life, monday check in, Uncategorized

Kill the Hare! I am the Tortoise.

For years I have been running on deadlines, on sleepless nights (child and study induced), on jam-packing my whole life with ALL. THE. THINGS. I studied, I wrote, I raised kids and played the perfect housewife. I raced everywhere, mostly against the clock, and against my emotions.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my life. My husband is my best friend, my kids are fucking epic. We’re incredibly lucky, and I am so blessed to be able to stay home with them. None of that changes that my brain is a bit wonky. I’ve always overcommitted and then burned myself out delivering. I have always taken on more than I can chew in an endless battle to fit more into the day/my life. I’d get so stressed out trying to do all the things that I resorted to binging everything. Work, study, housework even (yes it’s totally possible). I was the Hare, rushing rushing rushing to the finish line. I can go so fast! I can do it all!

Until now.

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Just because. Flowers are cool.

I’ve tried many times over the years to stop these self-destructive habits – hell, I do so well juggling all those balls that people just kind of assume I’ve got it all under control most of the time – but I have tried. I learned how to say ‘NO’ more often, I put my own stuff first. I started saying ‘I’d really like to do that, but I need time to think about it before I can give you an answer’. Even then, I would still rush and push myself harder than I could. Well, until I fell apart and just couldn’t any more. And let’s be honest, I did that a bunch of times on a smaller scale over the years. Collapsing into a heap, exhausted, drained, unable to function well.

 

So in some ways this last round of major depression was a really good thing. I had to stop. I took my meds, and they wiped out my motivation so even though I kind of felt like I should be doing more, I just couldn’t. I could not. Nope. None of it was happening.

I think I really needed the break. All pressure was off, and if I felt tired and unable to do stuff, then I knew it was the meds, and that was a lovely thing to fall back on. Nope. I’ve just gone up a dose and am adjusting. Nope. I’m not quite where I need to be. Nope. Nope. Nope. No, I just can’t right now. I can’t.

And that was good for a bit. It was. And then I recovered, and now I am off them and OH DO I BURN. I want to do all the things. My brain is firing again. It gets excited and goes down rabbit holes and it feels all the wonderful pleasure of the world again. It’s a beautiful thing. The creative drought is over. I’m back, baby!

But the Hare is dead. I know I can take a breath. I know I can say no, and I can consider things, and I can put my needs ahead of others. My brain may be diving off, exploring options, but that incessant need to do ALL. THE. THINGS has dulled somewhat. I’ve got a voice in the back of my head, the ghost of the hare that tells me to run and binge and doitallnownownowNOW.

But I am the tortoise. I’ve looked at my daily habits, I’ve assessed my goals, and I know that burning out isn’t going to get me where I want to be. Since the beginning of the month I have written and revised more of my own work than in the last four months combined. And I’m not even working that hard. I’m writing a little bit. I’m revising a little bit. I’m doing my paid editing gigs a little bit. Each of those three things, every day, and the progress is delicious.

I’ve found a new, far more rewarding addiction. One I’d never thought would ever work for me. It’s called… pacing myself.

WTF. Yes. I’m still getting my head around it myself. But here’s hoping it serves me well for a long time – long live the Tortoise!

life, Maiden mother crone, March, writing

March! Autumn! Huzzah!

Autumn is probably my favourite season of the year, and I am SO happy it’s here!

IMG_20160227_162133We spent most of the last week at a camp down in Foxton with other homeschooling families, and while it was nice to get away and make some new friends, I am really pleased to be home. Back in my own space, with less noise. I did love being in the tent though, and was pleased to find that the whole family can cope with camping – even my super townie husband. I see many more camping trips in our future.

Back to the point of this post though… The time away gave me plenty of space to think. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes it’s not so good. As you might know, I’ve been slowly reducing my medication (that’s going well!), and have just this past week come to the realization that actually my depression might be a symptom of anxiety, rather than the other way around. I’m not feeling depressed, though as I drop my dosage, I can hear the voice of anxiety coming back. So that gives me something else to work on. It’s good to narrow it down.

In writing news, I’ve been flailing a bit with the third book in the Maiden, Mother, Crone trio. I know what needs to happen, but the middle is sagging and I feel like it’s not got as much depth as the previous books. I’ve made the executive decision to press pause on it for now while I go back and edit book two, as I think that will help me strengthen the final part of the series.

Flailing, in general, seems to be a good word to sum up where I am at. Lots of things have been happening and I am struggling to find balance and time, and motivation to get all the things done that I would like. This first chunk of the year seems to have been filled with death and illness, and I’m not loving it. I don’t like seeing the people I care about hurting or struggling, and there is not always a lot I can do about it. What I can do though, is take better care of myself. It’s a wake up call that I’m getting older, and that good health isn’t a given.

change, coffee, February, Friday, I'm in love, lessons, life

Friday, I’m in love…

 

2016-02-03 09.18.27
Here is an unrelated picture, simply because all blog posts should have pictures. I took this the other day and it made something I don’t like (agapanthus) into something I do. WIN!

Seeing as February is the month of love (well, for some people, I’m not really a Valentines person, though I do love celebrating my wedding anniversary which is this month!), I thought it would be the perfect time to bring a little gratitude and joy to my blog. I’m trying to incorporate this more into my life and have definitely noticed that it’s easier to be grateful for things the more that I do it – even when life isn’t so great. If you can reach for one thing and feel some genuine gratitude for it, then the world looks like a nicer place.

 

In saying that, sometimes I’m just grateful for coffee. Like, really grateful. Or chocolate. Where the hell would I be without coffee and chocolate?

Anyway, friend and fellow author, Meryl Stenhouse, suggested I jump aboard her love train this month (okay, that might sound slightly wrong… it’s too hot, I can’t think straight), and I thought, yeah, why not? And then I thought, YES, let’s rock this shit!

So here I am. And what are we going to talk about today? I had hoped to get a video done for you, but that ain’t happening. I’m suffering some pretty major fatigue right now (I’m so grateful for the afternoon nap I got to have yesterday) so that will have to wait. I’m falling back on an old love.

Today, I am in love with words. Well, to be honest, I’m in love with them most of the time, but today, this week, more than normal. You see, I have been struggling hard to re-form my writing habit, but I’ve written something every day for a week now and that feels pretty bloody awesome. While the words don’t feel AMAZING, and I don’t think the story is going to blow anyone’s mind, I am PUTTING WORDS ON THE PAGE, and that in itself is an awesome thing. Not always an easy thing, but an awesome thing.

Because if you love something, you should do it. You should bathe yourself in that thing and just, you know, roll around, lounge in it, as much as you can. Because even if you’re not feeling fabulous, doing that thing? Finding your bliss? Well, it helps. It turns out that if I’m not writing on the regular, I don’t feel like a real person anymore. This is my thing.

Find your thing. And then do your thing. Love it hard, and don’t let anyone, or anything, stop you from enjoying it.

change, February, lessons, life, monday check in, planning, reading

February, forward

After my last post, I made some changes – the biggest of these was having an action plan. Plans are so very important. They give you steps to follow even when you don’t feel like doing much. They help you feel pro-active and in control. I’m a big fan of plans, and eternally grateful to my good friend Meryl Stenhouse for helping me to come up with this one.

As a result of this plan, I am already seeing an improvement in my mood – see, just having a plan helps! I didn’t even wait til today to get writing! I started on Friday, with just 300 words. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I can tell you this: I’d rather write even 300 words than nothing. It’s an achievable goal, even on the worst of days, and a jumping off point on the good ones. When I told myself I needed to get back into the habit of writing, I gave myself no goal, and so I flailed. I expected a lot, but never gave myself a chance to work up to it. Not only is 300 words totally doable, but if I can get them done before lunch it means I have heaps of time to get other things done.

post swimModeration. Balance. I’ve struggled with those things so for long, but I think this time I might actually be coming at it the right way. I’m writing. I’m exercising. I’m taking care of myself. I’m reading books. And I’m spending lots of quality time with my family – and not feeling frustrated, because I am actually fitting everything in!

I went to the Dr this morning, and she supports me in reducing my medication. We’re taking it slowly, and I’ll check back in with her in a month to see how I’m doing. I’m not so nervous about it now, because I think this is the right call (and I’m totally okay if it’s not. This is a journey, and I know it takes time and nothing is certain). I feel really good though, and I hope that at some point in the future I won’t need the meds. If I do, that’s fine, but if I don’t, then that’s cool too. I’m glad I tried them out, because they helped me through a rough patch, and helped me to find myself again.

Anyway, this is kind of all over the place, sorry! To sum up, I have a good feeling about February. I’ll be adding a second post to the week, so you can expect a ‘Friday, I’m in love…’ post in a few days time, on, you know, Friday. Looking forward to sharing with you some of the awesome things, which will help keep me feeling grateful 🙂

friends, January, life, Uncategorized

January?

Well, we’re almost through the first month of the year, and I have very little to report. The three weeks I had booked out as ‘holiday’ quickly become a month, and more – and seeing as February arrives in just a few days, I’ve decided (with a little help from my friends) to officially declare January a holiday month.

This is completely abnormal for me. I don’t do holidays or relaxing very well, but right now, I can’t seem to summon the energy for much of anything else. Which really bugs me. I had big plans for the year, and right now, I can’t be bothered with any of them.

So, it’s time to go back to the Doctor. For me, there is little worse than feeling so blah. I can barely summon the emotion to feel upset, or happy, about anything. It’s like I am in zombieland. I would rather feel something – anything – than nothing. My creativity has entirely dried up, and even when I know doing something should make me feel better, I can’t make myself. I feel like I should hate feeling like this, but you know what? I cant even tap into that emotion right now. I’m living in a world of meh, where everything is grey and the air is dust. There is no joy here. And I need that to change. I don’t feel like me, I don’t feel authentic.

I think I want off my meds. Which scares me a little too, because I don’t want what I was feeling before either, and I’m not really sure what to expect. What comes next? I’ve been on this path since April last year, increasing dosages every 3-4 months as I flatline again, and again. Ug.

Mental illness sucks. But I know I don’t want this place where I’m at right now, and I know that I will try a whole lot of other things to find a way out of it, to find a place where I can feel joy again, because I want to be present in my own life, living it, not just walking through it in a daze. My family deserves that, and I deserve that too.

I AM okay. There is no need to worry about me, and I tell you that honestly. Life is a journey, and I will keep on travelling.