The Hero’s Journey… Week Two of Creative-hub Shortcourse

I’ve enrolled in a creative writing short course.  For years I have effusively written and shared experiences and my struggle with mental health and just generally juggling the nuances of life, Love, family, friends and career.  After promising my closest friends (most notably my former and future husbands Steve and Damon) I decided to take some affirmative action, and try to polish this shiny little creative diamond that’s been forged under the pressure of years of being an over-sharing hot mess hurricane.  

I like to write.  

That isn’t to say I think I am particularly good at it, and my raging ADHD means I rarely finish or effectively form or edit pieces or projects.  Really, I’d rather just spew words and then press the share button on my WordPress page.  It’s clearly very self-indulgent and inarguably therapeutic.  Not necessarily inspiring or impressive, but it’s something meaningful to me and the handful of readers who take the time to read my clumsy, roaming ramblings.

Strangely, over the years, the word that seems to come up most often when someone reads my meanderings is “brave” and I find that lovely but strange.  The core interesting theme worth mentioning about this class, is that we are focused on writing “the hero’s journey”.  That’s rather lovely isn’t it.  I’ve said countless times that we all have to be our own fucking hero.  We are so inescapably the hero (or villain) in our own story, and now I am charged with the privilege of creating a fictional journey that I may or may not share with the world. 

Eek.

Sharing as I’ve done to date doesn’t feel brave.  Living is brave.  Being alive and not becoming bitter feels brave.  I know so many who succeed at this harrowing expedition of existence, and I have met so many cowardly, mean-spirited, villains who do not contribute to the rich tapestry of existence, but rather take advantage and feel entitled and always have excuses and rarely do anything meaningful or bold. So, the gift of being let down, thrown under busses, lied to, lied about, and brutally betrayed by people I thought I could trust has given me what other’s call courage.

I don’t think it is courage, think at this stage it’s just numbness and nobody can kick me while I am down, because, quite frankly, I just no longer give a fuck.  Maybe marrying a man who was once an ordained monk has giving me a sense of cheerful nihilism.  I am aware, sharing my vulnerability and experiences may be ammunition for evil or insecure dipshits who have an axe to grind concerning me specifically, or perhaps just generally.  That’s about them, and their decision to be tragic and contemptable characters in my story or their own doesn’t actually have much to do with me.  More the pity for them as my character arc has landed me these past couple of years in a kind of happily-ever-after cocoon. The safety of where I dwell daily was built in response to my many failed attempts to help or be a lightning rod of hope or change, or to behave in ways that I thought were kind or heroic.  

Now in midlife, my journey to this point ended in exhaustion, but I’ve been blessed and feel so honoured to have completed countless doomed quests and misadventures. I’ve ditched my messiah complex and feel just fucking fine most of the time.  And when things get scary or my trauma/PTSD sneaks up and bites me I can hunker down in my burrito/cocoon safe in the knowledge the feeling will pass and I’ll be able to get back on track.  There’s nothing epic or superhuman about my character arc these days.  It’s been an honour to share it with people though.

I don’t have so much to say or write about since my nervouse breakdown and the reboot that occurred as a result.  Truth is, not much happens because I actively live a life of calm reflection and I vigilantly avoid chaos and drama.  Some people might disagree, but it’s all relative.  

I’ve chosen this existence after a long and agonizing journey on a path of naivete, ridiculous generosity, and a tedious tendency toward self-destruction.  Living a life that was at times exciting and enlightening, but I wouldn’t say brave, has been a privilege and I don’t want to go back to being cringe-inducing OTT and over-doing everything and ever-egging every batter.  Sharing with people what a dipshit I can be is part of my attempt at always trying to be a bit better, while clearly knowing I’ll never actually have my shit together.  Just doing my best with the limited time I have on this earth.  This simplicity is just one of countless examples of what is called the hero’s journey.  We all get to (and actually have to) be the hero or the tragedy in our own story.  If we overcome and grow, it is a triumph and a story worth sharing.  If we learn nothing and play the victim and do not embrace opportunities to change or evolve, we are living a tragedy.  Both outcomes are useful.  One is inspiring and the other serves as a warning.  

You still with me?

So.  Second week and the very first exercise has very nearly broken me.  Loving it.  It’s dangerous and terrifying and I don’t even have to get out of my pyjammas to feel confronted and conflicted and alive.  I am comfortable feeling uncomfortable and this certainly delivers that sensation.

This “hero” is still (and quite frequently) in pyjamas… but I’m facing the abyss and ready to write.

I’ve had no problem putting myself in the line of fire on stages, social or traditional media, or just living my life out loud and in people’s face.  I flew and fell and failed and thrived so many times and in so many ways and it landed me in a serene state of regeneration and recovery.  I was missing something though, and I’m fucking terrified of the task at hand.

All I have to do is write and re-write an opening scene to a story I never thought I would write.  Following instructions from our tutor (who I sincerely suspect finds me insufferable and obnoxious… which is not only fair but accurate) as authentically as I can.  Rather than doing that, I decided to crawl over here to my blog and bitch and moan and procrastinate a little rather than just doing the work.  Doing stuff is scary.  Avoiding stuff is scarier.  I’m drifting between both and adequately mastering neither.

The hero’s journey begins with a single step, and for some reason that first fucking step feels like it’s going to fling me into an abyss and I may never land anywhere meaningful.

Sharing my actual life was easy. and empowering and owning my dipshittery was freeing. Writing a story is going to require a bunch of courage, creativity and conviction that I’m not yet certain I possess.

Guess I’ll post this and go work on my assignment and time will tell eh.

Thanks for reading.  

XXOO

Cold Feet, Warm Heart, Hot Head…

Love is a powerful, complicated, magical, mystical, terrifying force.  To Love and be Loved requires equal doses of strength and vulnerability unlike any other exchange or adventure we embark on in this life.  The Love we did not receive as children and the Love that broke our hearts as we progressed wending our way down the paths of puberty, coming of age and so on as we change and grow, will be for each of us in our turn the yoke that shapes how we give and receive Love… it all affects how we view, crave, and behave in the face of romance, passion our pain defines how and when and for whom we yearn.

It is a magical clusterfuck indeed.

Love will kick your ass, break you into bits when it changes, shifts, evoloves, walks out on you or ends.  That same force, from a different source can stitch you back together so you can face the world again.

Some people guard their hearts and their emotions and vehemently avoid connection and the sting of rejection.  Others toss themselves willy-nilly into and out of flings or relationships searching for something that may be staring them squarely in the eye, too close or at a distance, but they are so distracted it never quite comes into focus.

A shitty, lonely, traumatic childhood left me beautifully broken and my strategy for filling up the empty was to Love the absolute shit out of every-fucking-thing-all-the-fucking-time… then bolt.  I see magic and beauty in everyone because I was told in countless words and actions that I was broken and a burden and destined for failure. Well, that was all clearly untrue and I never want anyone to feel the way I did so I lift people up and cheer for others to the point it is almost pathological.

People who were brave enough to believe in me at my lowest moments paved a path for an incredibly successful adventure. Being told I was a failure regardless of what I did or do or am, made me both fearless and constantly afraid. Being shit on by people I ought to have been able to rely on made me want to be a force for good and help myself and others to get better not bitter in the process. This doesn’t always work out, but I’ll keep on trying.

My first husband often says I give people whiplash.  That’s actually quite fair and reasonable as an analogy.  With me, it is all on and I am all in and obsessed with people for a hot fucking minute, and just as quickly and completely disappear, sometimes never to be seen or heard from again. For years.  Or weeks.  Or forever.  Or whatever.  I am not an easy person to Love, or understand and I am a bit full on for most people.  A default of being told, shown and repeatedly treated like I was unloved and unloveable, meant a lot of craving attention and validation which is EXHAUSTING and can be very dangerous to myself and others.

When I married Grumpy Phteven I really did believe/want/hope it would not end.  But it did.  And I stayed well past it’s use by date.  But now that all of that pain, grief and drama is behind us, I cherish our friendship, our history, and the bond we share after creating four fantastically difficult and delightful humans.  I Love him.  That is forever, and not a day goes by that both of us don’t breath a sigh of relief that our marriage is over and our friendship remains.

At some point, arguably before I was quite ready and definitely after I was absolutely certain I’d one day like to actually be in a relationship, an aloof goof/spunky monk (who I definitely manifested one evening while talking to my dear friend Wiebe) arrived and was brave enough to accept the challenge of embarking on a relationship with me.

Nearly three years later we are weeks away from a wedding in Rarotonga.  In typical Dee-saster management style I freaked out, and suggested I don’t want to buy into “heteronormative and misogynistic paradigms designed to keep weird witchy women like me gagged and invisible” and I called off the wedding.  Thankfully, former husband assured future husband that it would be best by far to ignore my need to napalm things, and wait it out.  

Damon has been all in since the beginning of our romance.  He has offered support, Love, patience, and kindness like I have never known.  The fact he is a tall, good looking, successful white man – is not something in his control.  The damage done by men to myself and women I admire was not at his hand, and he is, was and will always be an ally and force for equality, and a voice that amplifies the success and strength of the women in his world.  I fell in Love with these things, and I trust him completely, but I remain triggered and traumantised and working through so many issues.  This recovery and facing my anger and disappointment is a journey I will be on for the rest of my time on this earth.  

When the dust settled and after a bottle of Lothlorien feijoa wine and several songs were shared with no power or Internet connection up at the farm, I rescinded my stupid suggestion and we reconnected as the vulnerable, fearful, fierce lovers and friends we have become and are destined to be.

Damon has reminded me countless times that I did not mis-represent the challenges he’d face falling in Love with a free-spirited wild thing.  He is just as quick to speak words of gratitude for the calm and kindness that rule most of our days and decisions.  We are a team and together we are building a safe and welcoming place for people and nature to thrive and revive.  And we are facing our fears, demons and insecurities together as the dream comes closer into focus and our relationship blossoms.  

So, in a few weeks, on a beach by a lagoon on a tropical paradise, surrounded by some of our most cherished friends and family, we will embark on a great adventure together. Not to fix anything, not to prove anything, not to change anything, but to draw a line in the proverbial sand and create a life together. We will continue our trajectory with a common goal to lift each other up and be the best versions of ourselves together and as individuals, facing in the same direction and moving ahead together.

Cold feet are okay.  But his warm heart keeps my hot head accountable.  In the timelessly cheesy words of 70’s songsters Crosby, Stills and Nash:  We are one person, we are two alone, we are three together and for each other.  And we are going to do great things and make magic. 

Thank you for joining us on the journey.

I wish you so much Love.

Thanks for reading.

Getting Ready to Roar

I carry in me a pulsing orb of grief and rage that has been fed for decades. This hot, aching, ball of energy sits in my gut and is fed a feast every time some dipshit talks down to, mansplains, talks over, gaslights, deflects their own responsibilities, bullies, or takes credit for any women’s work or her ideas. Suffice to say there is ample fuel to feed this unwanted but continually fortified flame, and it is nourished further when I hear stories of my female or female/feminine identifying friends getting fucked over or made to feel small. This feeling is the furnace that makes sure I champion and cheer on the feminine forces in my life, and amplify and celebrate their success while quietly cradling their fears and insecurities privately while we talk together safely about such things.

I am struggling with a lot internally and universally lately.  The fear and confusion caused by the pandemic seems to have, in far too many ways,  given a voice to the scary far right angry and controlling aspect of humanity who have somehow successfully taken away women’s right to safe medical procedures to terminate unplanned and even medically unviable pregnancies.  I can’t even fathom how already marginalized women in the increasingly Gilead-esque landscape of some parts of the USA are faring in these strange and uneasy and genuinely scary times.  Canada is (thankfully) issuing a political/medical refugee visa for women who need a safe medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy.  But what will happen to some girl raped in a slum somewhere who does not have any hope of accessing such help?  These changes, that carry on removing all care and responsibility from the male and place the burden, blame and responsibility on women seem to me to be a direct attack on women, and the poor and vulnerable most severely.  

Let’s bring this down a couple notches and lighten it up at the end for anyone who has stuck with me thus far. We will go down and get back up by the end of this brain dump. That’s the plan. Join me to see how it pans out won’t you!

I spend almost half my life now on a farm away from people and totally off-grid.  

Outdoor bath 🛁 on crisp autumn night…. Good for the soul.

I threw myself into so many causes, and was kicked so squarely in the teeth, and thrown under so many busses by far too many people who ought to have been kind to me, that now I am scared and tired and grieving for the optimistic Dee I once was.  No pity party required though, I suspect I am genuinely happier, healthier and more blissed out and full of gratitude and hope than any of the cowardly pathetic bullies who hurt me. Not sure if that is called Karma, or just cause and effect. But I am happier than the busy old me ever could have imagined up here healing and licking my wounds. Everyone deserves a chance to heal and reinvent. I am not the first nor will I be the last to do so.

The world’s full of beautiful, wonderful, kind people of course, but it is also full of opportunistic bullies and mean, insecure, power-hungry narcissists and sociopaths.  These are just facts.  I was never much good at spotting assholes before they could do damage, but I am incredibly good at cutting them out once they have. I used to trust everyone. Don’t do that. It’s a terrible strategy. So now I fight my battles planting things, vetting anyone keen to get anywhere near me or my tribe of trusted friends, and nourishing myself and nature far away from spotlights, stages and microphones.  This will change and I will roar again when I am ready.  For now, I am safe and watching the world and planning my strategy to re-emerge.  

On the farm, we have a slow and unreliable satellite internet connection, not dissimilar to a mid-range dial-up connection in the late 90’s.  We don’t have any streaming services here so we watch DVDs and since we’ve chowed down on every single episode of Colombo multiple times, we have switched over to watching Quantum Leap.  

It would not be inaccurate to say that at least some part of my morality was shaped by Star Trek (STNG specifically), Quantum Leap and Jem and the Holograms. All of these Television programs had strong female characters. Star Trek and Quantum Leap also embraced cultural and intergalactic species tolerance, curiosity and respect. Jem was painfully white with a few token diverse characters. Gotta find those DVDs so I can refresh my memories.

I digress… Where was I?

Oh yes.

Quantum Leap had an episode in the final season where Dr. Beckett leaped into his great grandfather, a Yankee Captain who (according to the episode) assisted the great grandfather of Martin Luther King jr. as a conductor on the underground railway freeing slaves and helping them find safe passage to Canada prior to the Emancipation Proclamation being issued by President Lincoln.  His great grandmother was a fierce, feisty Southern Belle who had seen her farm looted and her first husband killed in Virginia.  She inherently knew what was right, and identified slavery as an abomination.  She could not believe the idea that blacks and women would both have the right to vote one day, as the world she lived in did not give any indication that such equality would or could be possible.

Civil war/underground railway episode
This ☝️ gave me nightmares for years… episode about the KKK

So here is what I am saying.

Humanity has been faced with shoveling shit since we first found how to control fire or write on cave walls.  There have been shifts in power, privilege, and oppression back on forth and up and down and all over the place.  

Now is not the time to bury our heads or let bullshit, fear and some noisy minority farther marginalize anyone who isn’t born into their club or carrying a Y chromosome silence us. Now is the time for us to stand in unyielding solidarity against misogyny, racism, greed, fear and ignorance. Now is the time to build up and help out and remind every goddess in your life that she is a powerful and important force to you and in this world.

Now is the time that we women and allies of women all get ready to roar.

Thanks for reading.  Love from my hurty heart up here on the farm. 

XXOO

Damon Lost and Found

My fiancé, friend, foreman and formidable force for good Damon is an incredibly cuddly character.  He’s more a night owl while I am inaruably an early bird to bed and to rise.  So with him being the snuggler that he is I sometimes wake up feeling like the Velveteen Rabbit from the beloved Hans Christian Anderson Tale.  Over the last few years Damon and squeezed and hugged me most evenings, and his Love has healed a very sad and tired wee Dee.  Not that I wasn’t real before his arrival.  I’d been poked and stoked until all that was left was smoke there was no more fire (thank you Martha Wainwright for the feminist anthem).

Interestingly, I get genuinely annoyed when people say that Damon has “made you so happy Dee!” because I worked long and hard and stared down my demons and shadow self then changed my destructive ways (many of them at any rate) and grew my very own fucking happiness.  Damon is his own human as am I, and we are each responsible for our own happiness.  Still, despite being annoyed at the insinuation it was him who made me the happier, healthier old witch I am becoming, it is worth paying tribute to the fact that we do indeed make a pretty good team.  

We’ve had a few days up at the farm together with plenty of work and play woven into the narrative.  We’ve become very fond of a couple I social poached at my BFF Emily’s birthday party just over a year ago now.  We are on a similar journey, as they have taken on a bunch of property projects and are battling ginger with the same level of exasperation as we are feeling with our plethora of pampas.  We went out for dinner Saturday and lost track of Damon who we sent on an errand, as I had the keys in my bag and he locked his phone in the car and a three hour kerfuffle ensued.  Strangely, it was an incredibly important turning point and reminder of how dedicated I am to the aloof goof/spunky monk.  He was unsurprisingly salty by the time his son’s girlfriend Olive rescued him from his several mile hike heading home to the farm, and we had a long and emotional chat about our relationship that reminded us both how lucky we are to have found each other, and we have since spent the remainder of our time here on the farm stopping every few minutes to say thank you to the other for the life we are carving out.  

We really do feel like the lucky ones.  The vast majority of our days are spent content and satisfied and feeling overwhelmingly blessed to have found each other and managed to stay together through the very rocky start I put us both through.

Now we are living the dream, and building a long and intergenerational legacy and rarely (if ever) need step foot into stuffy offices or attend endless meetings.  We have charged headlong into a slower, steadier pace and completely removed ourselves from corporate ladders and the rat race.

And we are moving ahead shoulder to shoulder with new and old friends who watch with wonder and encourage us to succeed.  Our friends Mel and Simon could have (and many would have) been scared off by out dramatic Saturday adventures, including me quaffing too much rose and singing national anthems very loudly as we taxied back up the hill to the farm after abandoning the foot search for Damon and returning to find the phone I had left up the hill on the kitchen bench.  My phone is equipped with a “find my Damon” feature.

And after a hectic and exhausting few hours, I did indeed find my Damon.  And I realised that I am keen to keep him and him above any other with all my happy hobbit heart.

Have a great day, thank you for reading.

XXOO

Degrees of Despair – Be Designed for Creation

While I am stressed struggling with a now shoestring budget to complete an ambitious outreach project to further our regenerative narrative, friends in Ukraine are burying civilians and posting pictures of corpses with their hands tied behind their backs.  M posted images of Bucha, the valley of bodies on her story the same way I share pictures of flowers, kids, frogs and banana plants.

Four years ago almost exactly, I was eating and drinking with her and a handful of my new friends at the Avere conference hosted by my now dear friend, the eternally kind and delightfully quirky D.  Today M is on the front lines fighting like a warrior goddess to defend and protect her way of life and her people.  D is determined to continue his work to protect nature and encourage electrification and I am buoyed (if not continually worried) by them and the news that they share.

Meanwhile, a mentor of many years and a very powerful and well-travelled man has taken the time to write to me and suggest that history is about to repeat and a war that affects the entire planet looms as a palpable possibility.  I know this, but hearing it from someone so wise and often so accurate in his take on the state of humanity is a source of worry for my mostly calm but still cluttered mind.

This weekend, as I was charging my little rental LEAF at the Warkworth New World ChargeNet charger, there was a woman ahead of me who had to put back some eggs, tomato sauce and butter after stretching her payment across coins and two cards to try and get her fucking groceries.   Obviously I paid for the items she put back and ran out to give them to her.  It was about ten bucks which means nothing to me and was the difference between having eggs and butter to her.  When I handed them to her, sad, soulful, beautiful brown eyes that looked a bit like mine got misty, and all I could do was grasp her shoulder and smile through my mask.  She said “bless you” and I wanted so much to hug her like in the days before covid when we could still do that.  Poverty is an actual fucking problem here in Aotearoa and it is getting worse as the rich get richer and the poor get shit on and exploited.  So many people do not know what it is like to struggle and labeling people as “lazy” or “bludgers” and living large in four bedroom houses bought before the housing crisis makes me want to fucking throw shit through windows, but I never would and I never will, as that is destruction and I am designed for creation.  

So what is my reaction to all of this?  How does a soft hearted eccentric like myself deal with degrees of despair and imminent fear of looming GFC or depression and the most  profound possibility of nuclear disaster or global war in my lifetime?

Apparently I write.  As I am doing now.  To affirm my freedom and control over my own heart and mind, and to flex our connection to each other.  I write in the hope that regardless of the position of the people who own the eyes that will scroll through this blog know that we are all on this planet today together.  We are both still here, and we (probably) both still crave peace and prosperity, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. It is my hope and belief that we both still envisage a future where the planet and people can and do live in harmony with each other and nature.  Even through this incredibly trying and exhausting time, I still believe that greed, hubris and fear don’t define or control us.

And I will keep building a place where people can go to regenerate and connect.  I will keep digging holes and planting seeds and battling what seems to be an impossible mountain of possums and pampas grass to give a small plot of land a fighting chance to thrive as a safe and secure place for birds and bees and plants and trees that are being pushed to the brink of extinction by monoculture, short sightedness, pollution and stupidity.

Every kg of carbon not put into the air.  Every seed planted.  Every good decision to help and not harm keeps us moving forward.  We can all affect the world around us by giving a fuck.  We can do good things and the ripples of those actions carry on infinitely and derail the trajectory of evil and destruction.  Even the fact I can still share this and you can still read it means all is not yet lost so we must keep going, and keep striving for a better, safer, kinder world together.

And if even one other person stumbles across this and is given that little scrap of energy to just keep going, fanning the fire of their own kindness and hope, then there are seeds being planted and they will grow.

I’m scared and tired.  But my feet are firmly planted in the soil and ready to see things grow.  I do not exist to contribute to destruction I am here to nurture and heal and there will be so much demand for that in the time ahead.  So I’d better just keep my head down and be the change I want to see and do the best that I can with what I know, and when I know better, and when there is more resource and scope and opportunity to do better, you better fucking believe I’ll answer that call.

Until then.

Be safe.  

Thanks for reading.

Simply The Best, Birchfield and West

Knocked out this blog on the flight from Auckland to Christchurch

While I am not entirely certain how it came about, it has turned out that I have the world’s best former and future husbands.  Currently sandwiched comfortably between my first and second marriage, I have not yet officially filed the divorce papers with Phteven and the wedding between myself and my beloved aloof goof has been rescheduled several times thanks to covid.  So we’ve settled on an island elopement in July with all of our 7 children (plus a Phteve and his partner Michelle) in tow.

Through this journey, I’ve met dozens of people going through less than blissful emancipations from marriages and relationships that have come to an end.  Seeing this time and again, I was compelled to start a group/community/tribe which has not yet found footing on solid ground or a clear direction, but has a working title of “Heartache and Cheesecake”. Why? Because there is always a plethora of pain and comfort food in the most difficult stages of any significant uncoupling or change.  

So far, this entity serves as a sporadic but safe place for women navigating change to come together and be supported by other warrior women with a variety of skills and experiences to share.  This has all happened with the support and blessing of both husband units, and one or the other of them has suggested friends or acquaintances they have met or know who may benefit from access to the group.  Pretty rare and wonderful having a couple of cool af allies tying up the past present and future in a safe and fulfilling package for myself and some lovely women we know.  I can’t imagine how I’d feel or if I’d be able to cope without the love, support and daily contact with both of these integral forces supporting me and telling me to stfu when I spiral on a less than useful trajectory.

Why was I compelled to write this blog today I wonder?  Well… I am sat next to Damon flying down to the deep South for a week of work, research, forest bathing, and serious snuggling.  We cherish our time together sans children, and find the safest way to protect our space and time together is to actually get the fuck out of town so the kids can’t find us. We adore our many MANY babies but they are safe in the care of our former partners for a fortnight about and when we are in the same city they always do seem to find ways to arrive back to our new family home in Pt. Chevalier.  

Youngest kids jumped out of the pool to enjoy vegan dinner made by future husband for the whole fam and former husband… pretty sweet gig really.

A phone call to my ex, overheard by my fabulous (and very patient) fiancé ensued while we quaffed our coffees in the Koru lounge.  “Remember that the neighbours left us a bunch of feijoa that San won’t be able to eat so help yourself, and grab the mangos and some snacks for the kids lunches from the fridge too.”  I chirped at my former husband and forever best friend.  We also discussed board papers, business and I filled him in on the tent project being slightly over-budget but well in hand.  He took the time to admit he’s proud of the work we have done on the farm.  His lack of grace and gratitude when we were married was the final blow that ended our rather epic romance, so you gotta find it a bit funny that he’s so at ease showing appreciation from a safe distance now.  I suspect I may have his new partner to thank for that to some extent.  I wasn’t always a huge fan of hers, but she really has been very good for him, too good perhaps!  

So where was I?  What was I getting at?

Not sure actually, so I guess that’s it. Maybe I’m just expressing a quiet moment of gratitude that at least in my immediate family circle, I’ve found a place where there is far more cheesecake, than heartache.

That’s my blog.  

Have a great day.

Thanks for reading. 

The Power of Positively Not Liking People

Dame Helen Mirren has been recorded saying some solid stuff over the decades. One of my favourite quotes is:

“At 70 years old if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words “fuck off” much more frequenly.” – Dame Helen Mirren

Yup.  Felt that.

Stumbled across the quote in my late 30’s and it pops to mind a lot as I am rolling contentedly down the slope of the final half of my life on this planet.  There’s so much power in each of us, and it is actually a sign of respect for you and others to occasionally, and with conviction and respect say and feel that you simply do not like certain people.

It is three days until Christmas as I write this blog. I’ve had a magical month of martinis (in moderation) and mild mayhem with my magnificent friends and some colleagues I had a chance to chat with and get to know a bit better.  

I have also been forced to come face to face with a few people I simply cannot stand.  One or two of them attempted to speak to me and their efforts were met with a stony gaze, curled upper lip and a clear and concise:  “Yeah, so just don’t try to speak to me.  I don’t like you.”  or similar words to that effect.  I do not wish them ill, I do not hate them, I do not care enough to hate them, I simply lost respect or interest in them because of various basic behaviours that clearly put them in the camp of cowardly, greedy, boring or bullshit.  None of which I will tolerate in my autumn years.  I know too many amazing, complicated, and deeply interesting people to pretend to be able to tolerate those who have fallen out of favour with me.  

As my very calm and diplomatic fiancé often says:  “Nobody will ever die wondering what you think about them or anything else at least!”

I think that’s a pretty great way to live.  Clearly and intentionally.  We don’t need to be bitchy or rude to people on our shit list, and I genuinely still find myself actively celebrating wins and learnings that people I can’t tolerate enjoy.  I may even reach out with a message when something cool happens to them, as an olive branch or, in some cases, just to freak them out a bit because I know they’re s bit scared of me.  Don’t judge.  We all have a cheeky side, mine may just be a bit more overt than most.  You don’t have to do things the same way but I am taking the pains to write this article today to encourage you to consider how much easier it is for everyone if you give yourself permission to not like everyone. 

The people we actively choose to surround ourselves with define us.  I hypothesize that we are equally shaped and defined by the people we distance ourselves from.  Most people are fascinating and I find magic in nearly everyone I have met.  Some people’s paths are just paved with too much obsequiousness, social climbing, selfishness or general stupidity for me to want to step in time with them even for a moment.  

If you get too wrapped up in people you don’t like, or wish anyone harm or hurt because they’ve let you down or damaged you in some way, you’re the one that will suffer.  So I’d like to openly and actively suggest we all avoid stewing or festering, and opt instead to smile (or grimace) and say “sorry you don’t get to be anywhere near my shiny, shiny magic and we both know why that is” you’ve done them and yourself a huge favour.  You’ve let go of bitterness and you can drink the sweet nectar of knowing that you have clear boundaries and will not tolerate BS.  Good people respond to this and slimy sycophants stop swarming around when you employ this strategy.  Let go and wish no person harm, as when we hold a grudge too tight it is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will suffer.  Let it go and let them know. It feels really good and takes most people by surprise.  

That’s it.  Short and sharp.  

And oh my goodness I am looking forward to seeing more of the people I Love and respect in the year ahead.  Had to call time on socializing for a bit as I am peopled out after our 107 days in lockdown, followed by full on socialising, but can’t wait to get back out and about seeing all you shiny, shiny, wonderful humans.

Thanks for reading!

Nice to See You to See You Nice

We’ve just joined the throngs of people who are catching up socially in outdoor situations. Guess we have been allowed to meet up in outdoor settings for a few weeks now, but aside from work and our already existing bubbles we kinda opted out of that scene until this week. Lately, being chill and mostly content with the tiny life I’m building with the spunky monk and our increasingly independent tribe of progeny, keeping mostly to ourselves suits my journey and keeps the PTSD and ADHD more-or-less in check. I still suffer from terrible anxiety and cycles of self-doubt and even self-loathing that can spiral out of control so I keep my circle small and only allow safe and lovely people near me. It is a strategy I strongly recommend! You’ll need to deal with assholes and toxic types from time to time as they still exist, but in your time and in your space, being incredibly selective and demanding respect, honesty, joy, and encouragement is a winning strategy.

Here’s what I think. Mindset and morality are essentially contagious.  If you hang out with angry, mean, judgemental, greedy, scared people that behaviour will be normalized.  You will be susceptible to catching it.  If you hang out with joyful, interesting, quirky, kind, and hopeful people, well their light will brighten the shininess of those things inside you.  Seriously.  We become who we surround ourselves with.  I choose to be surrounded with superstars and will suffer no fools or two-faced self-serving shenanigans.  I tolerated that shit in the past, but my huge heart and shiny, happy, generous soul are far too wonderful a resource to be squandered on shitheads.  Same goes for you.  You will have your own magic and there’s always good bits and bad bits fighting it out in each of us, but trust me, you deserve shiny not shitty people.  Being that energy is how you attract it too.  It’s like an infinite loop of shiny.  Don’t get trapped in an infinite loop of shitty.

Saying all that, we still have to deal with strangers and meet new people.  Sometimes that’s cool, sometimes it is a challenge.  How we react when we are challenged says a lot about us and changes the energy of that situation and countless ripples of situations that are affected by us in that moment.  

Let me try to explain, using an example from last night. 

We have been trying to catch up with our beloved friends for months and months.  Lockdowns and chaos often intercepted our plans countless times, but last night, although we were running late, we finally managed to lock in a BBQ with this beloved family who have over the years become very close to us.  

We were going to make dessert for the dinner, but work on the farm kept us much busier this week than we’d anticipated, so we rushed to New World and bought frozen desserts and then planned on grabbing a nice drop of wine at the bottle shop just around the corner and on the way to our friends home.

We unplugged the car and Damon parked up and I rushed into the store.  I was reminded at the door to scan in (something I am usually epically good at remembering) and I rushed around and grabbed a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and a really decent bottle of Central Otago Pinot.

Got the the checkout, and the very young clerk asked me for ID. At first I laughed. But he was quite serious.

Quick selfie… clearly I’m in my 40’s???

Flustered, I pulled my mask down really quickly and said:  “Oh that’s incredibly nice of you, but I am 43 see” and put it back in place.  He didn’t budge.  I said the ID was in the car, as I only rushed in with my phone.  He politely said I had to get it.  

I mumbled “Oh FFS!” and rushed out to grab my purse.

Damon and the kids laughed their asses off for a minute or two, and for some reason that still escapes me, nobody passed me my purse with my ID.  Instead, Damon huffed in half chuckling half annoyed with his wallet in hand.

In the end, the clerk refused to serve him as well, and we rushed off empty handed and relayed the story to our hosts who thought the whole thing was quite a compliment and probably owing in no small part to the little house on the prairie pigtails I was wearing that evening.  

So here’s the rub of the story I am trying to convey in today’s blog.

Being ID’d at the age of 43 is a huge compliment, but I kinda felt it was quite genuinely absurd too.  How many underage people pull up in a Tesla to buy a $60 bottle of wine on a Wednesday evening I thought.  Truth is, I am used to getting my way and being treated really well in most situations.  I am a spoiled, powerful, wealthy, occasionally whingeing white woman.  And both Damon and I were less than awesome in this situation.  I could have/should have calmly collected my ID as he asked but the whole situation was just so surreal, and we were in a rush so it played out with almost Cohen Brother movie absurdity instead of just being simply resolved.

This kid was following procedure and actually doing a pretty great job in what I am assuming could be a stressful customer service role.  But it all happened so fast and both Damon and I acted without grace but I look at it as a learning exercise.  

I could choose to leave a terrible review or never return to that store.  Or I can think about how the kid trying to serve us might see the situation.  I could have been upset and stomped around and let the whole situation ruin my evening, or I could do what I did and tell the story (with my kids and fiancé as witnesses) and then carry on with a truly magical evening filled with great conversation and huge belly laughs with some of my beloved sparkly people.

I chose the sparkle.

Today as I reflect on the situation, I think I may even put a good google review up stating how professional and polite the clerk was.  

So that’s my blog.  Crazy wonderful evening, punctuated by a strange but interesting learning event and an opportunity for me to reflect on the kind of person I am and want to be.  

Now I will be heading out to run errands and have to deal with many more strangers, and I just hope that I manage to be sparkly not shitty in each and every one of these opportunities today.  

And gosh I am grateful for our gorgeous friends.  The laughter and hospitality last night has left me almost stunned by how blessed I feel to have such special people in our circle.

Hope I soon get to see more of my favourite sparkly people too.

Thanks for reading. 

Languishing or Leading… You’re Doing Great!

Shout Out to YOU… You Brave Beautiful Creature!

Current situation here = surviving way more than thriving. Normally I relish a good lockdown. This time I am among the throngs of “languishers”. It is less than fantastic.

So a while back I walked away from the hurricane pace and futile and incessant race toward external validation to try to calm the neglected and traumatised child in me.  Well, since my massive mega mic drop I have found peace and comfort.  Unmedicated, and unincumbered by the unrelenting and absolute dread and self-loathing that used to guide my crazy ass into battle or into a bottle, I can sit and just be.  Often feeling so incredibly blessed far more than stressed.  It no longer hurts to breathe.  Most of the time I can rationally face many or most challenges.  Lockdowns were for the most part like a wonderful warm hug that allowed me more time with my fiancé, kids and cats.  The bubble was safe not constricting as I had nowhere else I’d rather be…

This round not so blissful. 

I am agitated, touchy, uncertain and feeling helpless in my safe cushy bubble while people I Love and respect or hustling through some pretty spicy struggles.  I feel trapped.  I feel nervous.  It’s probably all very useful to be feeling these feelings as many or most people were wading through them in previous lockdowns and redundancy rounds while they were trying to remain upright on very shaky ground.  This is a bit of an exercise in empathy.

HOWEVER!

(you knew that was coming, seriously, you must have)

However, and this may just be the algorithm change in my social media feeds, however this round I have been absolutely impressed and ignited by the people I know who are bravely setting course on their quest toward boundaries, self-care, and good mental health.

Being on the journey doesn’t mean everything is going to be great all the time just because you make better choices and do the work. There’s still some absolutely harrowing and undeniably shitty stints, shaky feelings and crying in your burrito blanket bits. Life’s meant to hurt. We are supposed to feel really big feelings sometimes those really big feelings are out of our control like grief, anxiety, or the recently identified reaction of so many of us to this jarring lockdown… languishing.

So here’s something I have noticed in the last year or two.  There are some fierce fucking humans taking a super raw and real look at themselves and their mental health, and facing their demons and trauma head on.  I cannot overstate how terrifyingly vulnerable taking these first steps can be for any and all of us.  

The absolute and unadulterated clusterfuckery that has been crescendo-ing and crashing around us has affected everyone differently.

This blog is a blatant bellow, a serious shout out, a veritable and vociferous vocalisation, and an unabashed acknowledgment of the kick-assedness of you being on your journey and getting messy and honest and being exceptionally brave and yelling:

What, the actual fuck.  I DESERVE MORE THAN THIS!!!

And then getting out there and making changes and taking chances and doing the shit they were scared to do.  Some of the changes were forced on my fabulous friends, some of them they took the leap of their own volition.  Some things worked out.  Some things fell flat.  Every single person that springs to mind and was the motivation for today’s sweary chronical from my cranium is still struggling through, the main difference is that they are now doing it on their terms not someone else’s.   They are setting boundaries, letting go, holding on, loving, leaping, learning, and yes… sometimes just languishing.  But wow seeing them bravely stand up and be counted has filled up my cup so it is so fucking full it overflows.

I may need to tone my enthusiasm down in some cases.

Many… many… MANY of my tribe are going through separations or divorces.  This is a testing time for relationships, and some just broke under the weight of lockdowns and so much uncertainty.  Strangely, the first half a dozen or so my response was:

“Oh, I am so sorry.  Are you okay?”

But after navigating my own Dee-lightful (and often difficult and undeniably harrowing and loooooong and drawn out) divorce my response has actually changed to:

“CONGRATULATIONS!”

Weird right?  Or maybe not.  Divorce sucks.  It brings up a level of grief matched only by losing someone or something that is truly cherished and beloved.  Even if things were shit, a marriage or union is a living breathing force that was nurtured by the participants over a long period and through unimaginable obstacles and challenges.  Putting that entity to rest is going to smart.

I got sidetracked.

Listen, I hope you stumble across this blog, and I hope you know that it is you am talking to.

Life is fucking weird.

You are doing really great.

Keep going.

Okay…. That’s my sweary blog.

Much Love to you wherever you are at on your journey or in your relationships, romances, personal or professional life right now.  There’s gonna be shit bits.  But you have got this.  

Thanks for reading.

XXOO

Dee

In Our Turn

I met Damon nearly a decade ago although our paths crossed only briefly and irregularly for most of those years. Usually we’ve met at sustainability events of one sort or another at which we seem to have a bit of a history of publicly debating with one another.

One of our first such “debates” occurred at a conference at AUT. We were listening to a woman from one of NZ’s largest fisheries presenting on her organisation’s efforts to become sustainable and Damon asked about the overall sustainability of the entire fishing industry.

It was a fair question, but my concern went to the speaker, as much as his was with the ocean and sea life. That’s where the issues of social and environmental justice intersect – women have had to fight so hard to be heard and seen so I tend to take their side no matter what!

I have a fierce loyalty to women doing the best they can with what they have and you will see me standing up for friends or even foes many times again before my final breath. I often have to stand up for people and I rarely shy away from doing so and I’d like to think others would do the same for me when it’s their turn to be brave.

I will have friends backs and fronts and I will also tell people plainly if I do not like them and why – even though that’s not the kiwi way though I understand my candour can be considered obnoxious. I prefer that to being passive aggressive. Ask me one day how many fucks I give about the people I offend or scare through authenticity or bravery and I’m sure you can guess the answer. So many more things to concern ourselves with in these crazy times.  Bruising the odd ego doesn’t make that list.

Speaking of other more important issues, say for example bullying and poverty, I remember driving with some associates to a vegan fundraising dinner to kick off a food poverty awareness initiative some years ago now.  

All those in attendance were there to commit to a campaign to live on a three dollar a day budget for an entire month. That challenge forever changed the way I looked at food security and the social and psychological impacts of being hungry.  I remember being so grumpy and hungry toward the end of the challenge having to live on oats, kiwifruit, and very little else. 

That short time was my turn to walk a month in the shoes of the roughly one in five of the people in Aotearoa that live under the poverty line. This was my turn to be hungry and feel the ripples of sadness and insecurity that thrived in the dusty soil of that hunger and hopelessness.  It was my turn to feel that way and fuck it opened my white privileged eyes wide and in short order.  Opinions on health and obesity were turned on their head and I still think about that time a lot. Poverty is a prison without bars and society makes it nearly fucking impossible to break free.  I don’t personally have a strategy or the answers to change this, but I do know how easy my life has been financially and how rare that is and how most people in my position completely take it for granted.

It was a little look into a reality that makes me angry and sad and left me bereft of the ability to judge the diets of those on the bread line or marginalised without food security.  For the first time in the just over thirty years on the planet I finally understood the incredible pull of fat and sugar to fill an ongoing and relentless void.  It wasn’t just the food.  It was the feeling.  That feeling of empty and helpless that comes from being denied access to nutrition and variety and the joy that good food brings to me and most of my peers.

Anyway.  That whole time that it was my turn to be hungry and dig deep into my undeniable and sporadically documented white privileged guilt was kicked off in the same room as a man who would several years later become my fiancé.  How weird is that right?  

On the way to the event one of the people who joined me that evening had a lengthy dialogue about Damon being “beautiful” and I do believe that was the night he was in my reckoning christened “the Kiwi Ken Doll of sustainability” in my mind and vernacular.  I saved his number in my phone under that name as a bit of a joke.  He had no idea.  Our paths crossed soon after that event as he invited me to do a Pecha Kucha presentation on electrification of transport in Aotearoa.  Anyway.  It was a lovely event and evening although  I actually didn’t talk to Damon at all that night.  He was there with a large group of friends and colleagues looking aloof and stylish and adored.  I was also still very married to my Phoulmate Phteven.  It was not my turn to talk to Damon that night.  But my turn would come.

As an aside, I feel it is worth mentioning because I LOVE this bit… Those two associates I attended the event with are both long gone from my life as they in turn proved to be truly horrid and/or spectacularly incompetent as friends, colleagues, and sadly just awful human beings.  Sure they have their stories, we are all shoveling shit but they proved to be at best cowards and at worst petty, malicious, greedy and nasty.  To them I was not a friend but a gravy train or a quick stop at a station as they manipulated and complained their way through life.   They had their turn and plenty of time and countless chances to prove themselves to be decent or at least beautifully broken and fascinating.  They failed on all counts in spectacular fashion.

I can handle just about any character flaws and do not shy away from complication or intensity in people.  It’s an honour to have met and known so many souls for moments or for decades.  I love people, the quirkier and more authentic the better, and so many have and will continue to offer colourful threads as my life’s tapestry continues to be woven.  A smile grows steadily on my face and a sigh of relief escapes as I write this account of letting go of toxic people.  I do not hate them.  That would require effort.  I just cherish the distance I now enjoy without them and many others who have been. I’ve gladly let go of a good many assholes, and sadly let go of some lovely people who simply were not meant to remain in my narrative or me in theirs over the years.  Some I miss dearly, most I do not miss at all, or even think about unless I am recounting or recalling a story that brings one of those many closed chapters to mind. 

Perhaps some of the people who have passed through our life and fallen are doing great things.  I hope so.  Truly, I generally and genuinely hope the absolute best for most everyone I meet.  Awareness, growth, learning, laughter, Love.  I wish these things even for… perhaps especially for those I have moved on from. Not those two though, they’re like wrinkly, officious, sad, insecure, mean versions of fairy tale ugly step-sisters and last I heard neither of them are particularly at ease or happy in Love or in life.  I still hope things turn around for them, but it needs to be at a vast distance from me.

It is now my turn to have only healthy, honest and mutually respectful and encouraging relationships.  Don’t get me wrong, we are all perfectly imperfect and in relationships, even healthy ones, we drop the ball and even argue at times.  Conflict is okay and usually passes pretty quickly between the stoic sisterhood that remains in my world.  But no more ugly step sister constant building them up and being let down and put down and treated like shit.  That’s old me.  It’s my turn to have boundaries, standards and respect.  And I do.  And it is fucking brilliant, even if it takes some effort and solid and earnest communication which can of course be staggered as I don’t really see people much these days…

We have our turns being villain, victor, victim and a vast variety of parts in our time and in our turn.  I’ve moved rather far from the intended theme of this conversation.  It has taken a typically tangential turn into something completely different than what I wanted to say when I started this outpouring of reminiscing and ranting as I so often do when my fingertips find their rhythm and the story takes on a life of its own.

What I wanted to say, was that after a decade of dancing around one another, Damon and I have now just spent two very intense and generally lovely and uplifting years together – it seems to be our turn to be happy. 

Damon has also just changed his professional trajectory.  He has said since the very first night we… erm… “hung out” that he felt a distinct and compelling urge to take a break and make some changes.  Not because he was unhappy or unfulfilled or unwanted in his role.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  He has spent nearly seven years working solidly toward a spectacularly successful vision.  His role as CEO at EcoMatters was an integral part of countless people’s lives in our sector and especially in the West of Auckland.  

Damon led a talented, terrific and magically motley crew of passionate community and environmental champions to a place I can barely describe without tearing up a little.  The culture of safety, inclusion, diversity, kindness, and hope that embraces you when you step over the threshold of the community centre is something so special I was honestly intimidated by it at first.  After fits and starts and feeling like I might not be good enough for the “Kiwi Ken Doll of Sustainability” who was clearly a beloved and charismatic leader, I finally reached a place where I earned the trust and respect of most of his leadership team (I hope) and I relish any excuse to cross paths with them now.  In just two more sleeps we will be at a farewell event for my beloved.  None of the team wanted to see him go, but they love and respect him enough to know he’s due a little rest.  He will keep his toe in the water and continue to contract to them while he takes a sabbatical and considers any number of the exciting options being made available to him as the market gets a whiff of the news he and his charisma and skillset are potentially available for hire.  He can and will do whatever he wants, but first he needs a little rest.

He has juggled so very many balls for so very long.  Not the least of which has been caring for my crazy ass through the second breakdown (that’s Dee’s Behemoth Breakdown V.2.0 for those paying attention to the sequence of events and titles they’ve been given).

He waited patiently for his turn and the right time to ask me out.  He was brave.  He was patient.  He was calm.  He was honest.  He came to a couples therapy session with me two weeks into our relationship.  He has been kind and generous and helpful to my family, and charming as fuck to my friends.  And you know what… It is his turn to do whatever he needs to do right now. 

It is my turn to be his calm and comfort.  He is tired.  He has run a personal and professional marathon as so many of us do and have.  When it was my turn to take a break, the whole universe rose to the occasion and my once chaotic life was suddenly and serenely sized down.  He kept calm and carried on for me and so many through countless personal and professional challenges.  I have had nearly two years of regeneration and recovery and I had no idea how fucking far and firm I would eventually find my financial, physical, mental, emotional, and social shit coming together.  My life is unrecognizable and the next chapter is so authentically and electrifyingly exciting I cannot wait to share our plans with you all.  From high flying to low lying I am preparing for the most wonderful chapter of my incredible story so far.

So.  Like you, I’ve had my turn as the supportive and the supported in many a relationship and many a dynamic.  

After a strange but successful recovery from a long and painful descent into madness… it is now my turn to let my partner pick his pace.  While I am well rested and ready to hit the starting blocks for our next project, he really does need some time before we kick off the next race.

And that’s what I was trying to say.  It’s my turn to turn it up a bit while Damon takes a much needed and unbelievably well-deserved breath.

We have another marathon ahead. 

Thanks for reading.