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Creative Writing, Mental Health

Cry Pie

An experiment in tragic comedy (it’s true, I just think it’s funny)…. I call it “Cry Pie”

I had a girlfriend a while back. The first one since the end of my marriage. She was lovely, confident, caring and importantly – super into me.

Things started out amazingly. Our first date she drove an hour down from the coast to meet me and try my zoodles.

Our second date I drove us all the way to Byron Bay from Brisbane, stopping over night at Tweed Heads to attend a gratitude life class.

I sent her pineapples at her work instead of flowers and she bought me whisky and cheese from Tasmania.

I realised however that her being super into me and lovely and kind was not enough. I wasn’t ready to be back into a relationship.

I told her this, I apologised and we cried. I tried to end it kindly and before anyone got hurt but she insisted that I wasn’t thinking straight.

I had been going through some minor depression whilst grieving over the loss of my ‘old life’ and she was convinced the black dog was sabotaging us.

She agreed to give me some space.

I felt lost and afraid without her. She gave me some space but not enough. She still messaged me and wrote to me. I began to believe that perhaps she was right. How could I be so silly to turn away someone this keen on me?

I ignored the red flags, the fundamental misalignment of some core beliefs and some niggling doubts over parts of her and me and my readiness to commit.

We tried again and for a moment the pain felt less.

But not for long. Those red flags and doubts couldn’t be in my head. I am self aware enough to know when my anxiety is ruling me and I know how to recognise thoughts that are born of depression.

I knew I had to end it. Again. The first time had resulted in hours and hours of tears. I knew that this time would be worse.

She had visited me on the weekend, I had been sick and down and low and she had come down and cooked for me. We had eaten a slice each of feta and chard filo pie with salad together and watched a movie.

I made the phone call. It took four hours to convince her to let me go. It was agony. My heart broke as I felt myself having to hurt her. She told me all the things I would lose and told me again that I wasn’t making the right decision.

I eventually put the phone down and fell into an exhausted sleep.

I made it into and through work the next day somehow. I came home hungry. I’d been forgetting to eat again and it was making me week.

I opened the fridge and I saw the pie. I cried.

It sat there, manifesting the kindness and care I had rejected. I slammed the fridge door shut and ordered take away.

As I lay in bed all I could think about was the pie. I should throw it away. It was a few days old now, it wouldn’t be any good anymore.

But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t commit this final act of rejection. I couldn’t discard this symbol of one person’s love for another.

I closed the fridge again and left it shut for another few days.

I began to feel better but I knew, I knew the pie was there.

It had to go. But if I couldn’t throw it away.

I would have to eat it.

There was four slices left. Easily enough for four meals but this had to happen now. My eyes welled up as I lifted the dish from the shelf and remembered her cooking it.

I could barely see as I piled the slices onto the biggest plate I could find and forced it into the microwave.

3 minutes to gather my strength. 3 minutes to pull myself together.

I snapped out of a near trance at the sound of the microwave beeping. Eyes damp, nose red and streaming from the tears.

I wasn’t even hungry.

I carried the plate and sat over it.

I plunged my fork into the first slice and boldly began to shovel pie into my face.

It was way past it’s best. The pastry soggy, the filling over nuked by the microwave. I drowned it in BBQ sauce and kept shovelling.

Each bite, chew and swallow relieved a moment with her. The long drive, walks around the coast. The tenderness, the intimacy.

As I shovelled I remembered.

As I remembered I cried.

Unrestrained floods of tears spilt onto the already collapsing piles of pie.

As I sobbed and heaved and choked I could taste the salt of my tears in every bite.

After what seemed like hours I held the last forkful up. I had re-lived every moment with her. I looked down at the fork and with a whispered goodbye I finished the pie.

I probably should have thrown it away.

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Mental Health

To-do vs Can-do or Obligations vs Opportunities

I sat down early this morning to start work on a to-do list. It’s time to snap out of holiday mode (I’ve been back for weeks) and continue progressing some of my goals for this year.

As I started writing

– greyhound media campaign
– kindness crew and other volunteering
– rally fundraising
– podcast
– reading list
– army painting
– listening list
– videos
– apply for citizenship
– apply for Masters
– writing projects

I felt an all too familiar panic starting to rise from the pit of my stomach. Thoughts immediately began to manifest physically. Physical pain, shaking, sweating.

Anxious me is terrified of obligation. He would rather stare at a wall than make a start on something. I’m going to get trapped in apathy. Again.

I caught the panic in time to realise I needed to reframe.

Why was I feeling sick? I really want to do all of these things. They all progress my goals, most of them are actually pleasurable activities or for worthy causes.

The root of my anxiety around doing things is partly due to my thought process.

I’ve spoken to you many times about my ‘thought storms’. When an idea enterers my head it rapidly spawns off shoots and related concepts. Within seconds a massive complicated mind map starts to appear. This works very well for me professionally. I can use it to solve technical or creative problems quite quickly. The thought storm rapidly shows me all the options and when I lock down the most likely one I can shift to a more linear and systematic approach to working through the problem.

However when I am thinking in an area without clear boundaries the thought storm can expand outwards so rapidly I never get to the point of locking down a path to concentrate on.

If I multitask something like a to-do list all these thought storms manifest concurrently and I end up staring at walls feeling sick.

For reasons I won’t touch upon now when I realise I have to spend time on something for a while I immediately get fidgety – inside and out. It’s a feeling that makes me feel so uncomfortable I will do almost anything to avoid it. Even if that means staring at a wall.

Combine the gift/curse of the though storm with this deep seated fear of being locked down into any one path for any significant amount of time and we have trouble. Paralysis is not a surprising result.

Usually my approach to this problem is to try and focus in on taking one step at a time. This can work to get tasks done but doesn’t really do much to treat the overall feeling of dread that having things to do can create.

This morning I had a lightbulb morning. My to-do list is actually a can-do list! I don’t have a list of terrible shackling obligations I have a list of wonderful amazing opportunities! 

As I took a moment to really consider the items on the list – instead of just assembling them together I began to feel better.

The greyhound media campaign is a cause really close to my heart. I am getting involved again with Gone Are the Dogs and working with them on a campaign that will show representations of men who are kind to animals. Now whilst I am nervous about being in some of the imagery I am passionate about reframing views on masculinity, kindness and caring. This is a can-do that absolutely aligns with my core values. This is not an obligation – this is an opportunity to live authentically and true to myself, to really stand up and be counted.

I owe the Wake Up Project a lot. Their kindness cards are what helped me get started with active kindness practice. I always keep a set on me and try to remember to engage in random acts of kindness whenever I can. This has helped me doing kind as well as being kind (I word good). Jono’s podcast series has been inspiring and I love the mission of this organisation to share a message of kindness and courage. I have the opportunity to give a little back this weekend where I will be volunteering at an event they are running. What an amazing opportunity and a wonderful thing I can-do!

Entering the Mystery Box Rally is probably the biggest leap I have taken forward this year. We have already hit our $3k fundraising target and now we have the opportunity to raise even more. We have our costs covered so have no obligations. The more we get now the more goes into cancer research. I have an amazing partner in this journey and I know we are going to give it our all. We have the opportunity to make a massive difference in our lives, to be the people we want to be and all whilst raising money for a cause very close to our hearts.

I won’t bore you with the details of each list item – but I have found something to be grateful for and excited about in each and every item.

I don’t feel trapped or paralysed any more. I feel energised and excited and am overflowing with a powerful lust for life.

How we tell our stories and how we frame them is so important to our wellness.

The difference for me between ‘I have so much I can do’ and ‘I have so much to do’ is staggering. I’ve gone from physically manifest sickness to energetic joy just through managing my perspective.

What is particularly exciting to me is how many of these list items involve connections with you my friends and with friends I am yet to meet.

I feel like my actions are starting to truely align with my beliefs and core values and this brings me an amazing sense of peace and self-worth. I can feel a confidence growing in me that I never expected to find. I can feel those seeds of self-kindness that I sowed so timidly staring to find firm roots.

Exciting times my friends, exciting times.

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Mental Health

Bad People vs Bad Choices and Self Compassion

As I sat with a dear friend recently, who was going through a time of suffering, a simple concept became crystal clear to me.

We spend a lot of time saying things to ourselves that we would never say to someone we cared about. We tell ourselves we are a bad person and that we probably deserve our pain. Our loved ones might argue and tell us that we are good but we find it hard to listen because a complete reversal seems impossible.

In reality it’s more likely we have made a bad choice here and there. The intense self critic instantly equates bad choice to bad person.

This lack of self-compassion, or as I prefer to think of it – self kindness, can be devastating. We would never ever dream of treating someone we cared about in the cruel way we can treat ourselves.

If our best friend told us of a bad choice we would not make them relive it over and over and over again, punishing them with every retelling.

We would say to them ‘you are not a bad person, you may have made a bad choice’. If we were feeling particularly wise we might go on to explain that our next choice is far more important than our last.

We can’t change what has passed. We can however dare greatly and be courageous with what is now.

I’ve been rather unkind to myself regarding some sub-optimal choices. For example in my enthusiasm to hang out with a good friend last night too much beer was consumed and YouTube was on far too loud far too late.

The repercussions are a bit of a hangover this morning and a slightly annoyed neighbour who knocked on the door.

When I woke up I began to tell myself I was bad. I’m an idiot for drinking on a school night, I’m a bad neighbour and I don’t think of others.

These moments of negative self talk spiralled rapidly into other areas of my life.

You got carried away, You always get carried away. You over share, you are too much when it comes to making connections. You aren’t good at all, you are selfish disrespecting other people’s need for space.

I told myself all of this within a heartbeat of waking up.

I’m no more bad than I was before I made a couple of dubious choices. My relationship with the neighbours is far more dictated by the next choices I make than the last.

I do need to learn to sense boundaries and tame my enthusiasms but the right people will know that I’m trying and that I just mean well.

I’m not bad, I’m not ever sure my choices are bad as such. Dubious, ill informed or potentially sub-optimal maybe.

Self-kindness is the hardest part of kindness to learn but perhaps the most important.

I could easily have not noticed what I was doing to myself this morning and set myself up for a fall. Luckily I have writing to turn to and you wonderful friends to share with.

I don’t make excuses for a few less than great choices, I own them, but I will stop dwelling on them and telling myself I am bad because of them.

This is actually a wonderful time to practice gratitude. In everything there is an opportunity to be grateful because in everything there is a lesson to learn.

I see that I need to learn to ‘go with the flow’ but understand I will most likely be forgiven for my enthusiasm so far.

I’ve also learned that lots of IPA and very loud YouTubing on a Monday is not the best idea.

So friends next time you are angusihing over a choice you have made and telling yourself you are bad because of it – stop.

You aren’t.

Be kind to yourself, be who you are right now, in the moment, be authentic, align with your values and dare greatly.