Want to fail-proof your New Year’s Resolutions? Look to the moon.

So, it’s almost 2 weeks into January. I bet most of you set some resolutions, goals, aims, whatever you want to call them. I bet this isn’t the first year you’ve done it. And I bet some of you are already wavering on those lofty goals. That’s human nature – when we go all in and face a setback, it’s easy to throw in the towel. But it doesn’t have to be that way; I’ve found a way of setting my “resolutions” and goals that has meant that I’ve actually been achieving them, and it’s so much easier than I thought it’d be. Allow me to elaborate, because this might help you, too…

A little over a year ago, I came across this blog post written by the lovely Vanessa, and she instantly had my attention. She wrote beautifully about the meaning and importance of the cycles of the moon in her life, and it resonated with me incredibly strongly. After expressing interest in how she incorporated the moon phases in her life, Vanessa also kindly sent me an email, explaining a little more about how she lives by the moon. After a bit more reading of my own, I learned that as the moon goes through several phases while it orbits the earth, it is believed that each phase is a “good time” to do certain things or ask certain questions of yourself, starting on a new goal/dream/desire each new moon.

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It really hit me then – this was what I needed in my life. I’ve always been a goal setter, a list maker, a checker, someone who needs a target to aim for. I’m need my compass set in the directions of my dreams at all times, otherwise I’m totally lost. But it’s always been hard for me to know when to set aside to sit down and re-assess where I’m at – like most people, I tended not to do this until I was so lost and spun out of control, that 10 minutes of contemplation just wouldn’t cut it.

I’ve spent the last year living by the moon phases. And, unlike previous years, I’ve actually achieved a hell of a lot more than ever before; my typically unrealistic New Year’s resolutions hadn’t all fallen by the wayside a few weeks into 2016. By December 31st 2016, I had a lot to be proud of; physically, mentally, emotionally, materially, I’d made progress.

There is a truckload of information on meanings and methods available online (just Google “moon phases”), so I won’t give you all of the opinions and options out there – instead, I just wanted to write about what’s working for me.

 

First, I like to write each phase of the moon into my diary, so it’s front of mind. This will obviously be different depending on where you live, but I find this calendar to be pretty helpful.

Then, when I open my diary on January 12th and see I’ve written in there that it’s a full moon night, I set aside a bit of time before I go to bed to sit quietly (maybe outside under the moon if the weather is working with me, or up in my book nook), light some candles or incense, and reflect.

As I wrote before, it’s believed that specific moon phases align with specific situations and questions, and I did a lot of reading  about what was best to focus on in each phase. Again, there are a lot of different ideas out there, but I combined and condensed a few sources that made sense to me, and came up with the following list of questions; on each moon phase, I mull over the corresponding questions and write down anything I want to come back to…

NEW MOON
– a time of conception, new beginnings and starting new projects
what do you want to start? what are your goals? what do you desire?

 *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

CRESCENT MOON
– resolve is tested, time to grow and overcome fears
what do you fear? what do you need to guarantee the survival of your vision?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FIRST QUARTER MOON
– a time to decide who you are and where you intend to go, time to reach a major turning point but facing outer resistance
– set your intentions and create an action plan

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

GIBBOUS MOON
– a time of waiting, a period of adjustment as you adapt to reality and limitations, time to gain perspective and see where changes can be made
–  what isn’t working? how can it be fixed?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

FULL MOON
– re-evaluate and come to a compromise between expectations and reality, any difficulties are learning opportunities whether you succeed or fail
– what difficulties have you encountered? what of your original goals have you manifested?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

DISSEMINATING MOON
– time for introspection and review, ask questions, share ideas, gain clarity, time to deal with the outcome whether you’ve achieved your goals or not
– review your original goal; are there any questions that need to be asked and answered? is there anything that no longer serves you that you can let go?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

THIRD QUARTER MOON
– do you enlarge, rethink or replace your original vision? pull things apart and see them from a broader point of view, search for meaning
– review your original goal – enlarge, rethink or review? have you let go of the things you needed to?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

BALSAMIC MOON
– time to stop striving and rest/retreat, grieve any losses and let things come to their natural end
– spend some time alone to reflect on the cycle, consider what is coming to an end, clean your physical space, rest

 

And that’s the bare bones of it. If you’re really into it and astrology is your jam, you may want to create a more elaborate ritual. If you’re not really into the “hippy dippy” stuff, you may want to just use this more as a goal setting guide. But whichever way you want to look at it, I’ve found that being guided by the moon phases has made it so much easier to break down what I want and work out how to get it. It’s forced me to slow down, think things through, focus, ask the right questions of myself, and commit to my goals (after all, each moon cycle only lasts 4 weeks before you can “reset” your goals).

Photo Journal: Doorways of Tokyo

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Monday morning. Bleh. You’re meant to feel well rested and ready to take on the week on Monday mornings; as I type this on Sunday night, I know that’s probably not gonna be the case.

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The past few weeks have been a little stressful. Mum and dad have been travelling (yes, I’m one of those kids who worry about their parents). We had Christmas. A sibling struggling with her health. Trying to do the work of three people alone (in an unexpectedly busy period) while the others took annual leave. Adjusting to some new medication. A few migraines. Lots of social engagements. Health issues. A seemingly never ending to do list. And it all came to a head this week, the busiest one I’ve had in recent memory. I’m spent.

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After spending the morning on the road, checking out Anglesea’s Riverside Market, enjoying some tea in the sunshine, and celebrating my beautiful little niece’s birthday, the washing and dishes are now done, house tidied up, dinner (and lunch leftovers) cooked, and I’m kicking back with a pile of travel magazines by my side to flick through after I’ve written this.

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Following a (just) stifled anxiety attack earlier today, I got to thinking about the things that calm me. Reading, writing, scrolling through the Instagram feeds that inspire me, taking photographs, being in new places, visiting chaotic markets, travelling… Funny that an anxious introvert finds so much comfort in foreign, often busy places. I thought of the last trip, to Tokyo, which was so good for me.

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Walking around, alone, with just my camera and my thoughts was relaxing, therapeutic. And some of the photos I most enjoy taking when I’m travelling are of doorways.

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I love the idea that I have no idea what lies behind them; the possibilities of the stories contained within are endless. And, as the owner of a fairly active imagination, that fascinates me..

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But today, it’s Monday again. I’ve got home made okonomiyaki for lunch and 73 sleeps until my next adventure. Sometimes busy gets uncomfortable, but that’s what life is all about. It’s about being busy and uncomfortable and stressed and overwhelmed, but also about the opportunity to learn and imagine and discover, to find your own peace and joy in amongst the mayhem. And I’m grateful for the chance to prove myself worthy of it every morning 🙂 Happy Monday! xo

There is NOTHING wrong with being real

I posted this photo on Instagram on Tuesday night:
IMG_3799After talking to a fellow blogger today about the dangers of social media’s creation of fake perfection, talking to my soul doctor about the pressure to achieve impossible standards, and reading a line in the @girlspo_positive book about how social media often shows us only our peers’ highlight reels, I wanted to put it out there that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being real.
This is me, the unfiltered, unmade-up, end of the day, real me. It is unbrushed hair and PJs. It’s no make up. It’s insomnia and depression and anxiety. It’s dad’s freckles. It’s clumsy and insecure and unable to sit still. Its mistakes and lessons learnt and completely human. And that’s ok.
Keep posting the beautiful photos because it’s always good to look back and remember the perfect moments. But don’t think you have to delete the imperfect moments; those are the ones that make you real.

I did it in a moment of slight madness (since my mental health has taken a bit of a hit, I really don’t have many photos of me anymore) and was surprised at the really positive responses that came at me, including a very good friend posting her own photo and “be real” message the next day. The reactions this photo generated made me think that we have some real problems if being real is no longer the norm and garners such praise…

When I took this photo on Tuesday night, it had been a long day. I was still recovering from the whirlwind birthday weekend that ended up playing out despite my initial reservations and protests. Monday, my actual birthday, presented some challenges centering mostly around food, which were compounded by some of the relationships in my life. Tuesday was a full work day, punctuated by a quick tea/coffee date with fellow blogger Lisa from Lisa Eats World.

I can’t remember who I heard this from, but I remember being at some kind of bloggy event a while ago and someone saying that if you read something interesting from someone you find fascinating and inspiring, reach out and see if they want to grab a coffee with you. Just before going to Japan, I read Lisa’s post about how she quit her job to become a full time freelance writer, instead of it being just something she dabbled in on the side. I was intrigued at this lady who was brave enough to do something I’d always dreamed of, and wanted to find out more, so I sent her an email and we decided to catch up when I got back from Japan. Among other things, Lisa and I spoke about how dangerous social media can be in creating false impressions. I’m no longer on Facebook in large part because of the constant “keeping up with the Jones'” attitude so many people had started taking and the competition to have the most publically perfect life. Not for me, thanks.

A few hours later, I had an appointment with my “soul doctor” (AKA my psychologist), and it was a good one. There was a lot of helpful information to come out of the session, including this absolute best piece of advice I think I’ve ever heard from a medical professional: “you need to be kinder to yourself and learn to accept your new lifestyle, and everything that comes with it.” This was on the back of my answer to the question of how often do you exercise – “every day!” I said, without hesitation, almost surprised at being asked. Without working out every day, how could I possibly control the damage that eating would do to me?? My soul doctor smiled at me and told me gently that I didn’t need to do that anymore. That exercise should be something you do because you love your body and want to keep it healthy, not to punish it for fueling itself. Anyway, that got me thinking – accept my new lifestyle. I didn’t need to be a fitness freak anymore, that’s not my job now, nor is it my passion. I have permission to let that go. I don’t have to look like a perfect little gym bunny anymore. I can be more “real.”

After that, I got home and sat down to my Girlspo+ workbook, and happened to be up to the chapter on comparisons. Reading the line about how are always comparing ourselves to everyone else’s highlights reels hit me hard, because it’s SO true. No one ever posts the unglamorous, embarrassing, real life shit on their social media accounts, because we want to present images to the world that show how fabulous our lives are. I hope that’s not how I come across, because I’ll be the first to admit my life is anything but glamorous. So I posted this picture.

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This was me at around 10pm Tuesday night, after everything that had come before that point.
This is me, for real.
This is no filter (how hard that was!), no make up, no straightened hair.
This is a full day on 5 hours sleep.
This is the rash on my neck that pops up when I get stressed and anxious, and the corresponding rash that presents in bleeding welts all over my scalp.
This is depression and anxiety and disordered eating and insomnia.
This is a daughter and sister and wife and friend.
This is bingeing and purging and dieting, over and again.
This is laughing with friends over the stupidest jokes.
This is crying with them when they’ve been hurt.
This is 12 tattoos and stretch marks and cellulite and surgery scars.
This is my dad’s freckles and my grandmother’s auburn hair.
This is a wealth of knowledge from reading more books than you could imagine.
This is a dream to travel and explore and learn.
This is trying to turn it all around.
This is a determined smile knowing that all the hard work is starting to pay off.
This is a tired smile knowing that I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to live tomorrow, all over again.

Behind every few pictures of the beautiful homemade meals that pop up on my Instagram, there’s been an epic fuck up, like an oven set to grill instead of bake (seriously).
Behind every amazing travel shot, there has been nights out with friends missed, extra work undertaken, and wearing the same clothes year in year out to save the money to get there and take that shot (again, seriously, I’ve had this skirt since year 10…).
Behind almost every incredible burger and cupcake you see, there has most likely been a lot of self-hatred and harmful behaviour and thoughts afterwards.
Behind all those lovely cups and pots of tea, there’s often been tears or anxiety attacks that have led to their necessity.
Behind all the books you see me reading, there’s an underlying need to escape reality.
Behind every photo of my tattooed legs, there is an insecure girl who doesn’t believe the unadorned parts of herself are worth recording or being seen.

But all those fuck ups and sacrifices and anxiety attacks and scars add up to a real person. Not a pretty, perfectly curated life for and on social media, but an actual living, breathing human. And the whole point of this rant is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with posting the beautiful shots that we work so hard for. Keep posting the money shots of the sunsets in foreign lands – you worked hard to earn that! Post those gorgeous new shoes you worked hard to earn the money for. Post the gym shots that show off the body you put the hours of sweat in to earn. But don’t think that you need to delete every imperfect moment that led up to those shots, because those moments are your life.

Post some of those real moments while you keep posting the beautiful, perfect ones. Because those perfect shots are only possible because of all the imperfect moments that came before them. Those perfect captures are the moments created by your sacrifices and hardships and fuck ups, and they make you REAL, and that’s not something you should ever feel the need to delete.

Finding myself in St Louis Cemetery #1, New Orleans

St Louis Cemetery No. 1
425 Basin St. New Orleans
http://www.saveourcemeteries.org/st-louis-cemetery-no-1/


I wrapped my oversized cardigan around me a little tighter as my feet crunched over the leaves that peppered the footpath, and the early morning wind blew as if it were trying to pass right through me. I’d woken up that morning in New Orleans, the city I’d been inexplicably drawn to, and a long way from home back in Australia.

 

It was with some trepidation that I passed through the entrance of the St Louis Cemetery No. 1. It wasn’t the whole being in a cemetery thing that had me unnerved; I’m oddly at ease among the graves and stories of the past. What I wasn’t at ease with at that time was myself. I arrived in New Orleans with this feeling I couldn’t shake, like I didn’t fit in anywhere, like I didn’t belong. On that thought, the wind blew through me once more, as if urging me on through the front gate, as if pushing me toward answers.

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I moved silently through the decaying tombs, many dating back to the 1700s. Generations were contained within single crumbling structures; how many were truly remembered? What were their stories? The tombs would have been beautiful originally, but the deterioration they faced over the centuries only made them even more striking. Intricate wrought iron crosses and arrows decorated gates encircling tombs, while large stone and marble placards listing the names of the souls resting within lay on the floor beside many of tombs, gently pieced back together, having fallen from the places they’d originally occupied.

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Looking out over the praying angels perched on top of mausoleums, eyes turned to the heavens, I could see Treme Street and the housing projects beyond. Arriving just as the gates were unlocked for the day proved to be the perfect time to visit, with no one else around. I was a long way from the mayhem and commercialism of the tourist hub that is Bourbon Street; I was, proverbially, definitely not in Kansas anymore.

 

I guess travel is the ultimate opportunity to reflect and recharge; we all know the cliché of people “finding themselves” while travelling. New Orleans was so different to anywhere else I’d been. The people there seemed to live authentically, fearlessly. Free. As someone who’s spent the best part of her life held back by fear, I was hypnotised by that thought, ready to start my own new chapter. And, as if the spirits had me in their hands, the last thing I saw before I left the cemetery was an old book, the pages browned and torn, sitting on top of a tomb; as I walked past, the wind blew the open pages shut.

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S2, Ep1: one year on, leaving my heart in New Orleans, and thanking you all

Don’t worry, you’re in the right place – it’s still me, I’ve just decided as a first birthday present to the blog, I’d honour the journey of the past 12 months a little better with a new and more fitting name, a facelift and a bit of a make over! A whole year… crazy!

I started this blog because I needed an outlet, and writing is what I’ve always turned to, as both a creative and emotional outlet. I’ve spent my whole life writing; even as a kid, I never went anywhere without a pencil and paper. When I started writing here 12 months ago, I was finally starting to find myself and what makes me happy instead of putting all of my energy into trying to conform to what I thought I was “supposed” to be. In short, I was feeling pretty ordinary. I had crazy dreams, but I, myself, felt an ordinary little thing. It’s a hard lesson to learn that you actually don’t need to give a damn about what other people think of your choices, nor do you need to justify what you’re doing to anyone else. The things I like doing are what this blog is all about – travelling and eating and cooking and reading and learning and exploring, hence the name change! It’ll also hopefully make things a little easier for people to find me in cyberspace amongst the plethora of other blogs out there.

I read something ages ago, and can’t remember where I read it, but someone had been interviewed and said that they thought of blogs as a sort of a high tech time capsule – once something’s on the internet, it’s there forever, like it or not. I like the idea that in 100 years, maybe someone else sees some of this, and knows what the world was like for me and my generation. How extraordinary our dreams were, what we worked for, what we ate and what we read. I don’t flatter myself that I’m interesting or important enough for that, but you never know…

So, even though I write this primarily for me (which is why I write and post pretty much every day; it is literally my outlet and keeps me sane!), THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to everyone who’s read what I’ve had to say over the past year. Thank you for taking time out of your day to look at my photos and read my stories and leave your comments and share it all with me – now, I’m writing for you guys, too!

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I’ve also given the site a little change in appearance and photos – I thought after a year it was time 🙂 This post explained a bit about why I chose that photo I took in Egypt as the photo you’d first see when you visited my blog. That’s changed now; the first image you’ll see now will be New Orleans. For the same reason that you saw Egypt for the first 12 months – that city changed me, again.

It’s hard to really explain why. It’s another world. It wasn’t America, it was something all it’s own. You couldn’t pigeon hole it or really pin it down. It didn’t really conform to anything or fit any one definite box. That’s how I felt as a person when I got to New Orleans. Which, ironically enough, made me feel like I finally did fit and belong. People there did their thing, their own thing, without any fear. They were free. As someone who’s spent the best part of her life held back by fear, I was hypnotised by the thought of it. I had a lot of time to sit and think, over a cup of tea and some Café du Monde beignets. I wanted to make some changes in this new year. I felt like 2014 was my warm up, my pre-game. I was preparing myself, mentally, for shit to get real. I had all these things I wanted to do, but was too scared to actually just try them. I might fail. People might judge me. It might be the wrong thing. Maybe I’ll regret it later. Maybe I’ll regret not doing it…

I saw a psychic in New Orleans. We’d never met, obviously, but she was disturbingly accurate on everything she told me. It wasn’t a case of “you’re doing to die at this time and win the lotto with these numbers;” rather, she put a voice to my inner thoughts. Things I’d been thinking for a long time and hadn’t shared with anyone, not my sister or best friend or husband. She confirmed everything I had been thinking about. It was almost like she was my way out of fear, the “it’s meant to happen for you, so just get on with it” that I needed. I bought myself a silver ring at a little silversmith on a tiny street to remind me of that.

I’m back home now and, having taken her advice seriously, things are changing. Or, rather, I’m changing things. I’m starting a new job next week. I’ve booked a trip to Japan for later in the year. I’m making time for real friendships and letting go of toxic ones. I’m trying to trust more and love more, despite the possible consequences. I’m looking after my body a little better. I’m making time to read and write and draw again and tinker on my piano. And the hardest part of all, cliche be damned, I am trying to follow my heart and disregard the preconceptions and judgments of others.

I might have only been there a few days, but New Orleans was so good for me. It changed my soul. I felt like a completely different person there, and I’ll never be able to fully understand why. Maybe it was being around musicians and cooks and writers and artists and bohemians – I’m a bit of all of those at heart. It gave me the one thing I desperately needed. I can’t tell you exactly what that was, but I got it there, and my soul feels so much happier now  : )  So, thanks for sticking with me this long, I hope you guys hang around for a bit longer, because even though I started this for me, it wouldn’t be the same without all of you! On that note, let the adventure continue!