365 Days of Carpe Diem Wrap Up

This is the final wrap up of the 365 Days of Carpe Diem project. The journey has been incredibly life transformative, but so much has happened that I can’t seem to tie it up with a neat and tidy bow. My insights are a bit jumbled, but here we go.

Get Well, Get Happy

The core goals of this project was to Get Well, and to Get Happy. I feel satisfied that I achieved these goals to the extent that I now just need to maintain this lifestyle. I made big progress in understanding my body better, and now I just need to continue living well according to what works for my body, and be disciplined in my exercise program to rehabilitate my body to function better. I also worked through a lot of internal stuff through the reflective pieces, and I feel I have grown so much.

Positive/Negative Ratio

The final Positive/Negative Ratio after 274 days is 831/29 = +802.

My ambitious aim was to complete approximately 3 positive actions a day towards my goals. 274 days x 3 actions = 822. So in fact, I did exceed my ambitious aim. 274 days is 39 weeks, so on average I had less than one negative moment per week. Of course this isn’t completely accurate as what I was measuring isn’t always equal (is reading a book for 20 minutes as good as watching a documentary for 1.5 hours?), and I think I have forgotten to capture a number of negative moments (particularly on days where I don’t blog). But overall, the purpose of keeping the Positive/Negative Ratio was to keep myself on track and motivated to keep moving forwards, and I believe it worked. There were many many days where I felt aimless and uninspired, and I would refer to my Goals page. I’ve really instilled in myself that the small actions matter collectively over time. Nothing in this life is really hard, it just takes discipline and patience, and they are things we have control over.

Goals

I changed my goals many many times this year. I learnt that situations change, goals change, and even our own intent or commitment changes. My perfectionist self found this really hard to accept in the beginning. I beat myself up if I did not blog every day. I beat myself up if I strayed from the original goals I set. I beat myself up for not setting appropriate goals to begin with. I was so hard on myself even though very few people were reading, and that none of this project mattered on any sort of life-threatening level whether I followed through or not. This project really made me face my perfectionist as it reared it’s ugly head through many unexpected forms. Blogging (nearly) every day meant that I didn’t get to edit out the less than perfect parts, and to report a tidy and neat conclusion at the end. I had to be honest about what was happening each day, and that even on a good day, we can never achieve as many things as our mind can think up. Our brain is powered by a limitless imagination-fuel, while our physical lives are limited by time and energy and resources.

My Values

I’ve spoken about my interest in personal finance and minimalism, and this project has continued to strengthen my values. I feel that so much was possible because of my existing values about living simply and knowing your money. Having pre-paid my food, rent and bills means that I have not given a thought all year to whether I could afford to survive. The rest of my money I continued to use wisely according to my priorities, and to make do or go without. Even in a modern urban setting there is surprisingly little that is essential aside from food, shelter, health, transport, and phone/internet. This experience has been really liberating, and made me realise that if I had the choice, I would choose to be able to prepay all my expenses even if it means living very simply, rather than having more but needing a certain income to maintain my lifestyle.

My “Real” Self

One of the mantras I have repeated throughout the blog is Action Expresses PrioritiesMy actions this year reveal the real me. It’s been surprising and humbling how much I don’t meet my own expectations of my ideal me. There is something about the attachment to an idea that gives us credit, even if we don’t follow through. For example, if I say that I want to learn an instrument some day, somehow that gives me more of an identity, even if I never ever pick up an instrument. My reflections throughout the year have made me a lot more aware of all my assumptions and expectations and the things that lend me identity, and I feel tired of the falsities. It seems that humans have a tendency of painting a picture of our ideal selves, but we don’t truly know ourselves. It feels a bit like we’re just this puppet, and our brain tells us what our story is, and we act it out. I haven’t been in a workplace for quite some time now, and I’ve had the luxury to just be me in my own space. Whenever I’ve had to engage with “the rest of society”, like going to a function with The Partner or a community event, I have been really confronted by having to develop my story again. I am learning how to share the core essences of me, without delving into the superficial stories. My story is no longer “I am a social worker my trade, but my last workplace was very challenging and I got unwell, so I took time off to get well, and now I’m preparing to do The Europe Dream”. I am working up the courage to simply say “I am just living, and my focus these days is on my health and living well”. People will ask more questions and I will give the facts, but I hope to refrain from responding to assumptions and expectations before people have made them.

Clarity

When you’ve been experiencing something for so long, you start to think it’s normal and cannot fathom anything different. Once that veil has been lifted, the clarity is precious. I got into the rat race, and I believed it to be the norm, even though it was what I always challenged. I had pain and ailments for a long time, and I believed it to be normal, and that I was just weak for not soldiering on. Now that I have clarity, I don’t want to forget how good it feels to be well. I don’t want to spend a third of my life in an unsupportive toxic stressful environment, and the other third of my life drinking my sorrows away. I don’t want to eat junk or rely on medications to manage symptoms, rather than preventing it in the first place. Even though was such an advocate for making active decisions and challenging the norm, I myself lost that clarity and could not fathom anything different. It took a year of being incredibly unwell and unhappy and my parents moving back from overseas and getting life threateningly sick to force me to make a change.

Life Transformation

I started off the year incredibly unwell and unhappy. I am now making progress to being the most well I have ever been, and I am emotionally and mentally at peace.

I started off the year extremely burnt out, and unsure whether I ever wanted to work again, never mind work hard, and what in the world my purpose in this world was. I am now feeling ready to contribute to this world again.

I started off the year losing a big sense of identity (social work career, my work place, friends and acquaintances associated with work, being a productive person of society, being a successful adult). I am now in a more emotionally mature place about what identity means and how we make sense of our place in this world.

I started off the year with quite a rigid expectation of my life and it’s contents. I am now making peace with letting go of those expectations, and letting go of the attachment to expectations, and embracing the unknown.

I actively changed fundamental parts of myself that I didn’t know was possible. I used to be quite a negative cynical person who was always anxious and worried. I’m now a much more joyful person, able to go with the flow and welcome change. The joy journey felt gimmicky at first, but by focusing on joy and retraining my brain, I honestly feel that it has made a difference in my default outlook.

The Butterfly Effect

“The phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere”

If I had not quit my job, I would have stuck it out until things got better, and would probably still be there today. It is still just as chaotic and toxic today as it was a year ago (I continue to hear what is happening at that organisation).

If I had gotten another job rather than choosing to take a year off, I would definitely not have reached the level of physical and mental health and wellness I have today.

If I had gotten another job, it would most likely be in the same field. Given that I was “fortunate” enough to be involved with the reforms from the beginning, I would be somewhat of an expert in that field and probably pigeonhole myself into that field. I would not have allowed all the mad ideas I have had this year to flourish.

If I had gotten a job any sooner, I would not have considered The Europe Dream or made it happen.

If I had not embarked on The Europe Dream, my family dynamics would most likely have continued in unhealthy ways for longer. By being physically away, my parents will truly have to accept the empty nest and make new meaning of their lives.

If I had not decided to blog this journey, I would not have made a connection with Simple Authentic Woman, who is now a close real life friend.

If I had not decided to blog, I would not have made as many important reflections as I have, because my quality of journalling is vastly poorer.

Who knows what else in my life might have vastly changed trajectories because of choosing to quit my job, and take a year off. We can never know what our alternate realities would have been, but I do feel that this reality was the right thing to do.

I’m so glad I did this journey. I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received through the community. I hope I’ve inspired you too. I’m off to the next chapter of my journey now, so…

So long, and thanks for all the fish! 

September Roundup

The very last roundup!

Here’s the P/N update for the past week:

Day 267 – 274:

  • Physiotherapy appointment (+1)
  • Hand therapy appointment (+1)
  • Volunteered at Dharma centre (+1)
  • Exercises (+5)
  • Picked up new glasses (+1)
  • Looked into phone plans in England (+1)
  • Had TCM (+4)
  • Got vaccinations (+1)
  • Gave things away at farewell, packed more things for donation (+1)

The last Positive/Negative Ratio opened at 815/29 = +786

The final Positive/Negative Ratio closed at 831/29 = +802

A check in on how I am progressing with my goals:

Improving my health as much as possible before leaving

  • Consult with sports and exercise medicine doctor, and had bone scan
  • Consult with physio and got a program
  • Consult with hand therapist and got a program
  • Regular appointments with the sports and exercise medicine doctor, physio and hand therapist
  • Continued taking TCM

Planning for The Europe Dream

  • Received visa
  • Had farewell event
  • Booked bank appointment and kickstarter seminar for when I arrive in London
  • Got new glasses made
  • Got vaccinations

Nourish spiritual self

  • Continued volunteering at the Dharma Centre
  • Did some reading and writing
  • Getaway with The Partner
  • Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers trip with family

Positive/Negative Ratio

The Positive/Negative Ratio at the end of September is 831/29 = +802.

This exceeds my minimum aim of one positive action per day which would be +274.
This is just slightly under my ambitious aim of three positive actions per day which would be +822.

Summary

Well that’s it. The very last round up. This whole year was to dedicated to dealing with my health, and I had the breakthrough with the conclusion to my health journey. There was also a big shift in my focus this month, away from goals, and towards just living. I spent big chunks of time with the most important people to me: The Partner, my family, and The Best Friend. I’ve had my farewell, and I have tidied up all of my possessions. I leave in exactly three weeks and it feels surreal.

I am ending the 365 Days of Carpe Diem project today. I had to interrupt spending time with The Partner to write this post. When it’s not something I make time for anymore, but rather something that interrupts my precious time, then it’s time. The end. I’m relieved.

Final reflections on the journey and wrap up to come tomorrow.

My Health Journey, Part 6: Conclusions

This is the sixth and final instalment of My Health Journey. In the first post, My Health Journey, Part 1: The Problems, I detailed the ongoing pain I have had for over 10 years, and the general onslaught of malaises I had over the past few years. In the second post, My Health Journey, Part 2: The Explanation, I detailed the feedback I received from my GP and rheumatologist. In the third post, My Health Journey, Part 3: Get Well Plan, I put together a holistic plan to getting well, to trial for 3 months. In the fourth post, My Health Journey, Part 4: Diagnosis and Get Well Plan Tweaks, I shared my beginnings-of-a-diagnosis and tweaks in switching over to Chinese Herbs (instead of Western) and exercise plan changes. In the fifth post, My Health Journey, Part 5: Get Well Plan Review, I analysed my findings from my health diary over the last three months.

This is a conclusion of what I think about this whole health journey.

What I trialled

These are all the things I have investigated/trialled to manage/uncover the roots of my pain and poor health:
  • GP
    • Ongoing review
    • Blood tests
  • Rheumatologist
    • MRI
    • Ultrasound
  • Holistic GP
    • Comprehensive blood tests
  • Naturopath
    • Saliva test
    • Liquid herbs
    • Supplements
    • Elimination diet
    • Food intolerance test
    • Zinc test
    • Live blood analysis
    • Urine test
    • Stool test
  • Musculoskeletal Doctor/Sports and Exercise Medicine Doctor
    • 3 Phase Bone Scan
    • Prescribed exercises
  • Physiotherapy
    • Massage
    • TENs machine
    • Ultrasound
    • Hydrotherapy
    • Prescribed stretches
    • Exercise program
  • Hand therapist
    • Prescribed exercises
  • Medications
    • Paracetamol
    • Ibuprofen
    • Panadol Osteo
    • Celecoxib (Celebrex)
    • Meloxicam (Mobic)
    • Amyltriptyline (Endep)
    • Pregabalin (Lyrica)
  • Supplements
    • Fish oil
    • Glucosamine
    • Chondroitin
    • Glutagenics
    • Echinacea
    • Magnesium/Calcium/D3
    • B Complex
    • Zinc
    • Centrum
    • Joint Ease
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
    • Herbs
    • Herbal soups and teas
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
    • Acupuncture needles
    • Moxibustion
  • Chiropractic
  • Osteopath
  • Podiatry
    • Orthotics
  • Personal Trainer
  • Aqua class
  • Yoga class
  • Pilates class
  • Self management strategies
    • Limiting activity
    • Regulating rests and activity
    • Hot bath
    • Heat pack
    • Essential oils
    • Back brace/knee brace/wrist brace
    • Compression clothing/gloves
  • Get Well Plan
    • Food as Medicine: Whole foods, plant based, gluten free, alcohol free diet
    • Sleep as Medicine
    • Environment as Medicine
    • Exercise

Wow. Even I’ve forgotten how much I’ve done. The only things that had been recommended but I didn’t follow through on was trying clinical pilates, and the medication Duloxetine (Cymbalta).

Thoughts on the health system

My conclusion about the health system is that there isn’t any single industry or profession that has all the answers. Every profession only has limited expertise within their field, and every field offers just one part of the whole picture. A funny analogy I heard once was that it is like standing up close next to an elephant – you can’t see the whole elephant at once. You can stand near it’s head and see it’s eyes and ears and maybe the trunk and tusks, but not it’s body. You can stand near it’s middle and look down to see it’s giant feet, or look up and see a mass of flesh, but even that’s not the whole body. You can stand near it’s behind and see it’s tail and it’s bum, but you still have yet to see the elephant’s belly. And we don’t even know what the organs look like inside of that elephant!

That’s simply the nature of the health system as a structure, but the people within the health system? They are not as helpful as you may hope. Many many professionals were incredibly dismissive of anything that was not within their scope of practice, straight up denying that it couldn’t be x-y-z and even refuting the results of tests or diagnoses already received! Many professionals weren’t interested in finding out the roots of the issue, and felt their role was just to rule things out or manage it. I feel this is a result of the structure (pumping people through the system and not having the time to deal with it in detail) and the science (not knowing how to find the roots of the issue and not having the science to understand). But even within that context, I felt that many people lacked compassion and empathy. They were abrupt and uncaring and didn’t make my problems feel recognised; rather than being empathetic that it is hard living with pain and challenging not knowing what it is, and patient in explaining the state of science at present and the limited amount of information they can offer. I really had to do my research when finding appropriate health professionals, carefully considering the kind of setting it might be or the type of patients they might have, to give me some clue of the quality of that professional. And sometimes it still didn’t work out, and I just had to give it a go, and make a call that that person wasn’t a good fit for my “health team”.

Where does my health and pain stand?

My general health is getting there. I’m still not very healthy, but I have reduced the number of times I get sick from every 2-3 weeks to every 2-3 months, and that’s progress. It just takes time, and I am confident that I have a decent knowledge of the recipe for good health. In fact, I consider myself lucky that I learnt this lesson so early in my life, in my late teens/early 20s. My body is still in prime condition for healing and growing, and as I continue to get stronger and healthier, I have more life to live. I greatly value and prioritise my health and it will shape my life decisions. I won’t have the heartbreak of losing a revered job later in my career or the emotional challenges of making meaning or identity when my life is more fully established, due to these health issues.

The best conclusion to the joint pain so far is the theory of the sports and exercise medicine doctor, who’s theory can actually explain the cause and effect. The diagnosis is laxity/hypermobility in certain joints, and Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction in particular. My muscles are also too weak/too dominant/working in the wrong order/not functional because of them overcompensating over the years. This combination means that when certain muscles engage, it is using the wrong muscles and becoming extremely tight resulting in pain where the muscle attaches to bone, or that when certain muscles engage it is pulling joints out of the regular range of motion they are supposed to have. And it likely all started with something as innocuous as having a high foot arch. I have a high foot arch, which leads to overpronation, which affected the way my leg muscles worked and how I walk and carry myself, and over time my muscles became used to functioning that way and then started affecting the joints, which affects the way I use my body due to pain, and becomes a vicious cycle. Same type of story with my upper body. I reassure myself that it wasn’t my fault; it’s just how it happened. People walk around wearing unsupportive shoes all the time, cheap flip flops and barefoot at home, it never would have occurred to me that I should have worn supportive shoes and orthotics from puberty onwards. I went to gym and did all the things I was supposed to in strengthening my body. In fact, the physio even comments that it was so hard to diagnose hypermobility in me because I have good muscle tone and don’t present as the typical hypermobile patient. Most people would assume that if I had good muscle tone, they were also functioning correctly. I have a rehabilitative program, which I may need to for 6-12 months for good results, but I am simply relieved that it is a fixable condition without the need for medications or surgery.

What about the fibromyalgia like symptoms? Well, I am still incredibly tired all the time, and certain foods do affect how I feel and do contribute to joint pain, and have symptoms like sensitivity to pressure. Given that there isn’t an explanation or cure for fibromyalgia either, I am not committed to that label, and believe that more exploration into general health and gut healing is the key here. Moving forward, I am interested in exploring my DNA and finding out if I have any genetic mutations that may make my body less efficient at certain functions.

Thoughts on the Journey

Overall, while it took so much time and money and resilience, in the end I don’t feel any regret for the huge breadth of scope I have investigated. I don’t feel like I have wasted time trying all of these things, or frustrated that a particular investigation led nowhere. I am so grateful I have had the time, resources, and accessibility to investigate all of these options because I think every single thing has given me one little piece of the answer. Everything I have come across has added to my knowledge bank, and I take away the bits and pieces that are useful to me and tailor my own approach to my health.

I’m also making peace with the fact that it’s not neat and tidy. Because my pain and ailments are different each day and could be affected by different things, I will have to adjust my strategies each day. After keeping such detailed data, I am armed with good information about the different kinds of ailments, what works and what doesn’t work, what protects me long term and what gives me short term relief. I need to take advantage of my ups, and create environments and circumstances that support good health, because in my downs I’m too tired/unwell to do so and that’s when I struggle. I need to be conscious of how I live my life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I choose to keep counting my blessings.

Final words…

Focusing so hard on health this year has taken 100% of my time and energy and I know it would not have been close to possible if I were working or at other disadvantage. As the last few weeks have proven, all it takes is letting slip a little bit and it all comes tumbling down very quick. So my interest now is in how to make living well as automated, streamlined, easy and simple as possible, in order to maintain it over the long term. Incidentally, this aligns very well with my minimalism values, because it’s about removing clutter (including mental) and making more space for the things that really matter.

When I started out in this journey, I also hoped that I could use my own experience to one day help others in the same boat. But now I realise how incredibly unique each individual’s health is. I had seen businesses by people who overcame their x-y-z health problems, and were coaching others through the same journey, and I had envied that business model. Now I realise I don’t want to be “the expert” with the answers, because I really don’t believe any outsider can be. I’m more interested in giving people the pathways to information, the skills to analyse information and implement it in their own situation, the ability to stand up for themselves and take control of their own health care, and the strategies for managing all this in their life.

And you know what? That’s social work. I’ve come full circle from how I felt about social work, that I couldn’t make a difference. After this journey, I’ve come to realise I still want to use those same skills, just in a different scope. Wow. This realisation deserves its own post, but for the moment, what I’m going to say about this whole journey is this:

When you choose to prioritise what truly matters to you, and live a life aligned with those values, it truly does transform every other aspect of your life.

 

Day 268: +786 and the farewell event

Today is Riverfire, the major fireworks event held every year to herald in the spring. We are fortunate to have the amazing view from our balcony and not have to contend with crowds, traffic and the smoke aftermath, so I wanted to share the experience. I also used the opportunity to make it my farewell event (+1).

2016-05-01 View 1

(Following on from yesterday’s thought, I did not remember to take a single picture of the evening. The Partner took this photo last year.)

Random thoughts about the evening:

  • It turns out everyone knows how organised I am. In fact, it was quite a running joke throughout the night. It’s hard for me to imagine not being this way, just like it might be hard for someone else to imagine being this way. But it continually surprises me how extremely common things (in my eyes) is perceived as “organised” to someone else.
  • I like hosting and bringing people together, but I don’t actually like interacting a lot. It made me happy to prepare for the evening and see my friends in the same room, but once everyone was here and all eyes were on me, I felt really awkward. I feel too young to say this, but I feel like I’ve run out of juice. I know the things I am supposed to say to facilitate conversation, to introduce people, to raise mutually relevant topics… but I just don’t feel like it. When conversation lulled, I just didn’t have the energy to inject into it so I subtly faded into the background and walked away or suddenly busied myself with things in the kitchen. I even literally ran away from one conversation, where I peered over their shoulders to eavesdrop, and just as they were about to make space for me and welcome me to join the conversation I turned around and ran away. I wonder what the deal with this is. Is it still some lingering byproduct of all the things I had done in 2015 and being tired of social networking and using emotional intelligence? Or am I just now allowing myself to be who I am, and not trying too hard to be outgoing and funny and interesting and all the positive social attributes anymore?
  • Not all company is made equal. Several people left fairly early in the evening, and I could understand it was because they 1) were older and not interested in late nights, 2) had a long distance to drive home, 3) had partners that didn’t know anyone else so it was uncomfortable for them. And honestly, some of the best conversations and laughs I had was when most people left. As a once off event, it was nice to have all my favourite people in one room together, and as a farewell event it made sense. But it partly reaffirms for me that I prefer one-on-one interactions. It does take up more time (and money! as one-on-one often happens over meals), but it truly is more fulfilling as you can genuinely engage, gauge their interest, and tune into their social needs. I really noticed that many people played a “part” in a party setting, trying to be funny, trying to be the facilitator, trying to drum up conversation, and those that didn’t have a part just felt left out. I myself have felt left out many many times and I know how uncomfortable it is, and sadly, even I couldn’t seem to create a space that could avoid it.
  • I dislike polite words and false promises. At the end of the night, everybody wanted to leave with positive messages of “Thanks for having us! Take care! Have fun in Europe!”. But several people also said to “Catch up again before you go”. I know the farewell was slightly early, being a month before I leave because I wanted to double it up with Riverfire, but this is the farewell event. There isn’t going to be another catch up. I know that it’s a social thing, that we all want to say feel good stuff and leave on some kind of “helpful” note where we have done our good service by wishing someone well, but honestly, I find it a bit shallow. I didn’t realise how much I disliked it until I was on the receiving end. I would much rather genuine words that don’t allude to any future promises, but just how they felt right then. One lady gave me a hug, and whispered in my ear “You are special. You are going to have a wonderful time. I love you”.
  • I held a Silent Auction, where I gave people fake money to bid on an assortment of things I had decluttered and intended to donate. I made sure there wasn’t anything that was junk-y, and would be useful or treasured things that people might like. Most people walked away with a small pile of things that I feel they would be happy with, and I also feel happy that together we are preventing waste and re-homing perfectly usable things. It was a great idea in my mind, and I think once people understood it the execution was pretty good too, but what I truly did not expect was the element of shame. Until I explained it and people “got” it, I felt as if I had to defend myself. I felt as if people thought I was somehow cheap and making them buy my things (the bidding was for fun only, I gave everything away for free), or that I was treating them as a trash dump to take my things away (everything would have gone to a charity anyway which means it wasn’t trash), or that it was somehow bad karma because it was like shotgunning your grandma’s possessions for when she died (which I also feel zero issue around – hello, we all die, why not get your affairs sorted and make sure the people you care about receive what you intend for them?). It made me realise that the things that feel so normal to me, only do because they fit into my worldview, which happens to be not so mainstream. And that if I wish to continue living authentically and walking the talk, I have to get used to this feeling of doing different things, without allowing the expression of shame. In my worldview, this was an act of giving, of sustainability, of community, and I should not let it cross my mind at all that I should be embarrassed for it.

Today’s Positive/Negative Ratio opened at 814/29 = +785

Today’s Positive/Negative Ratio closed at 815/29 = +786

Day 257 – 267: +785 and back for the moment

8 days until the end of this 365 Days of Carpe Diem journey. I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment, and running out of minutes in the day, and just can’t wait to get this over and done with. It sure feels anti-climatic. But I do really look forward to doing the final wrap up and seeing what I have achieved over this year.

This is the catch up to get back on track with the daily P/N Ratio.

Improving my health as much as possible before leaving:

  • Hand Therapist consult and review (+2)
  • Hand exercises (3x/day)(+5)
  • Physiotherapy review (+1)
  • Physiotherapy program (4x/week)(+3)
  • Started herbs prescribed by naturopath (+1)
  • Had chicken extract (+1) and TCM (+2)

Planning for the Europe Dream:

  • Got a library membership to borrow eBooks while overseas (+1)
  • Got a new set of glasses and sunglasses made (+1)
  • Preparing for farewell event tomorrow (+1)
  • Booking in bank appointments and Kickstarter seminars for when I arrive (+1)
  • Packed up two car trips worth of boxes of stuff to return to my parents (+1)

Nourish Spiritual Self:

  • Reading (+2)
  • Getaway with The Partner to discuss plans, mindsets, and strategies for maintaining a strong long distance relationship (+1)
  • Getaway with my parents to spend time together and show them places they otherwise wouldn’t go (+1)

I often talk about living mindfully in the present, and it’s hard to know how much I walk the talk as there’s no objective method of measurement. But time and time again, I find that after special moments, I don’t have many (if any) photos capturing evidence of these events. In this age of modern technology where 99% of the time we are carrying devices able to capture more than decent photos, and there is a huge pressure to share moments and photos and interact with social media to prove it happened, I do think that I am an anomaly. There isn’t any post or photo or check in or tweet to prove that The Partner and I went to Crystal Castle and heard plants singing, or that we went to a buffet and gorged on oysters, or that we went fishing and caught nothing but a baby fish, or had a really lovely brunch where the portions were huge and delicious. There isn’t anything to prove that my parents and I were at the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, or that we ate flower sundaes, or that we got lost in the mountains in thick fog, or that it rained really heavily and I prayed to the Weather God to please let us have some reprieve to see the Japanese Gardens and I got my wish.

It hardly occurs to me to take a picture in a moment because I’m present in the moment. I do sometimes share what’s happening but it’ll be in a message directly to a friend who can relate or who it’s relevant to; not to the masses. And after resisting Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat and whatever else for as long as I have now, I’ve pretty much come to terms with enjoying experiences for myself, not needing to prove to others that it happened. Our amazing balcony view has provided countless beautiful sunsets that are never captured properly camera, so I’ve had to bask alone in the wonder and enjoy it all to myself. Even on this blog, I haven’t always shared everything I do, like that I went to a show with The Best Friend two weeks ago to see our favourite band from high school on their final tour and we danced right up the front and every single song they preformed was perfect and we met the band afterwards.

Using this as a measurement, I feel pretty satisfied that I do walk the talk in this regard. But this has been a real dilemma for me moving forward in The Europe Dream. My family and friends want to see what I’m up to, and I also want to capture memories for myself. I will have to change my stubborn resistance to social media and find a balance that works for all parties. Having simply “opted out” all these past years made it so much easier since it just didn’t take up any thought or energy in my life. Choosing to “opt in” to only a certain degree means I am probably giving it more considered thought and energy than the average person. I’m proud of myself for walking the talk in being a conscientious person making active choices in my life, but at the same time, I sometimes wonder why I make life so much more difficult for myself.

Well, this turned into a bit of a thought process. I really only wanted to say enough just to share the one special moment I did capture, and highlight the fact that it must have been really special to trigger my brain into remembering to capture it. The fog/cloud was so thick while we were at the Picnic Point lookout, that it looked like we were just on this patch floating on grey abyss. The fog was so visible in front of us that I felt like the sky was crashing down on top of our heads, and I felt physically overwhelmed. We stuck around a little while and the Weather Gods answered my prayers, and let the fog start to dissipate. It didn’t clear completely, but it cleared just enough that it was an even more breathtaking view that we were lucky to witness. On a normal clear day, the view from the lookout would be green land and forests as far as the eye can see and outlines of mountain the distance. Which is lovely yes, but also pretty plain. That’s what any mountain lookout looks like. With the fog clearing just enough, we were able to see some of the land below, but feel like we were standing on Mount Olympus, like a Greek God in the clouds above and seeing the mere Earthlings below. I almost had a sense that this might be what the physical sensation of enlightenment might be. To recognise all of Earth’s sufferings, but to arise above it, and be surrounded by and project love and light and beauty.

2016-09-21 - Picnic Point 2.jpeg

2016-09-21 - Picnic Point 1.jpeg

And as usual, the camera could not truly capture the beauty. Nothing would match the experience of seeing it for oneself, and these conditions may not even happen quite like this again. Which makes me wonder again, why I even bother wasting time trying to take a picture that will do it justice, instead of spending every precious second committing this to memory.

Today’s Positive/Negative Ratio opened at 790/29 = +761

Today’s Positive/Negative Ratio closed at 814/29 = +785

On Slow and Mindful Travelling

My travel plans for The Europe Dream is fairly different to most 25 year olds on a working holiday visa, I daresay. It’s made possible by having adequate financial resources, for which I am deeply grateful for, but it’s also a necessity due to my health issues.

I am travelling slowing by staying in each spot for a period of time, and exploring the surrounding area at my own pace. My travel plans for the first leg of my journey is to arrive in London, and spend one week to sort out affairs and do the tourist thing. I then spend two weeks house sitting in north England, where I can explore the various national parks and castles. This is followed by one month house sitting in central England, where I can explore all the big cities in central England. My final house sit is six weeks in the Cotswolds area, where I can explore the south and west. I have not confirmed anything after this, but my loose plans thus far is to spend a few weeks doing a workaway at a Buddhist Centre, spend time with The Partner and The Gamer Friend when they arrive, do a tour of Europe, and then lining up to meet The Best Friend when she does her study exchange in a European country. These loose plans take me nearly 1 year into my trip, and work isn’t in the picture yet.

By travelling slowly and using wonderful resources available now such as house sitting or workaways, I can save a significant amount of money on accommodations and sometimes even food. Just consider the 14 weeks of house sitting I have lined up so far, that’s about 100 days rent free. At a cheap hostel, sharing a room with up to 12, 16, 20 people, rates are around $25-$30/night. At a more decent hostel, sharing a much more reasonably sized room, it could be around $50/night in a good area. That’s savings of anything from $2500 – $5000. There are also many other factors to consider, such as that some hostels do not allow long term stay for more than 7 or 14 days, so you would need to constantly move, or that it doesn’t really feel like “home” or have certain luxuries of an actual house.

I know I haven’t actually gone on my trip yet and am not speaking from experience, but I would seriously recommend people doing these working holiday visas to slow travel in this way (where the visa allows). I also know I am an exception as I received financial assistance for my travel, but keep in mind I did save up enough to take a year off work and covered my rent, bills, food, and health care costs (you do the math, that’s no small figure), so it’s entirely do-able. Why work your butt off in dispensable low paid jobs to cover your living costs and lose precious time, when the entire point is to travel and see places you haven’t been? Though slow travelling may not suit people who seek city/night life as a core part of the experience, or for others whose plan is to actually settle and work in a stable job. Luckily, slow solo travelling is perfect for an introverted minimalist me who wants a balance between temporarily living in a place, but also travelling a lot.

So why is slow travelling a necessity for my health issues? Slow travelling is the only feasible way I can imagine coping. Even in my year off thus far, I am constantly battling and managing my pain and fatigue. Throw in some inevitable travel stress, throw in some uncertainty from being in a new environment, throw in a different climate that may affect my body, and throw in being active and out and about, those are major factors to buffer against. I know I will need the time and space to be able to rest and recover. I need slow and careful travelling because I cannot afford to be under-prepared. I need suitable clothing because the cold will affect my symptoms. I need to bring various pain management and support aids such as orthopaedic braces and heat packs and TENS machine and orthotic shoes and exercise equipment. I need to streamline things because my body can’t support a giant backpack. Being a minimalist and naturally meticulously organised is an utter blessing for my travels.

This aligns nicely with mindful travelling. Because I have to be careful with what I can bring and what I can do, I envision I would have plenty of time on my hands and not a lot of distractions. Again, I am beyond grateful for living in our current era and being in the globalised industrialised first world where so many resources are accessible. Being a solo traveller living out of a backpack, I am hoping it will be easy to maintain a wholesome lifestyle. For me, it will mean implementing the Get Well Plan as a lifestyle. The wholesome practices that work for me when times are tough are meditation and yoga (social acceptance and encouragement of alcohol is huge, but from personal experience I truly fear the lure and ramifications of it as a coping mechanism). The hobbies that I really enjoy and believe I will get satisfaction from achieving will be completing the Discovering Buddhism course, studying Chinese and achieving at least HSK Level 4, and reading for leisure. Having some structure and plans to lean on will allow me to be mindful in how I spend my time, and focus on the amazing opportunities during challenging and unknown environments.

I also make a point of mindful travelling, as usually when we’re away from home, we allow a lot of exceptions. We indulge. We spend a lot of money. We are entertained, and don’t think critically. This may be okay if it’s a much deserved holiday and the sole purpose is to unwind and indulge. But for me, this trip is more than just indulgence. I still want to keep my heart and mind open, I still want to reflect and learn and grow, I still want to practice living authentically. No matter whether I’m at home or travelling, I want to this to be my baseline, a part of my character that doesn’t change regardless of environment.

On Ending a Chapter

I am finishing the 365 Days of Carpe Diem project on September 30th 2016. I will post an official wrap up on October 1st 2016. The domain will expire in early December.

I thought long and hard about whether to continue this blog, and start a new project. Another 365 Days of Carpe Diem, this time being less “Quam Minimum Credula Postero” (Put very little faith in tomorrow) and chasing goals, and more “Carpe Diem” (Seize the day) and having adventures.

I thought of ways I could incorporate my growth and self exploration in another daily project. Using my travel adventures as an inspiration for writing a short story each day? 365 days of stepping outside my comfort zone? Turn it into a travel blog? Or just become an everyday sporadic posting blog? None of these ideas really inspired me.

What about keeping the blog as archival evidence for my personal growth and health journey? I had a secret desire to use my own health journey as an inspiration story to build a blogging business. I would weave my personal experience with my social work skill set to provide inspiration, information and a service. A health coach, but not an airy-fairy “just do yoga and meditation!” kind. A life coach, but not a “what are your goals in life?” kind. Something in between, that I wish I had when I first looked for help years ago. Someone who could coach me through the health journey, of what to expect from medical professionals and how all the different health professions fit (or don’t fit) together, of understanding what my own expectations were and dealing with the losses, of strategies to make life easier that aren’t health related but have flow on effects that can be deal breakers for quality of life. The seed is there, but the season is not right.

This blog’s existence was really about healing and recovery from 2015. I achieved my goals of Getting Well and Getting Happy, and I feel like the blog has fulfilled it’s purpose. Now I have exciting adventures ahead. Ultimately, I am ready to leave this chapter of my life behind. I am looking forward to being in a place where no-one knows me and I can be who I want to be. I am looking forward to immersing myself in things I have never seen or experienced. I am looking forward to the company of just my mind and learning about myself. I am looking forward to living simply with literally the possessions on my back. I am looking forward to living every moment in the present. I am looking forward to leaving this baggage behind.

I had intended to continue the blog a tad longer, wrapping up on the day I leave. However, I know I will have less and less time and energy for the blog the closer it gets to leaving. I am spending every precious moment soaking in time with my loved ones, and the rest of my time is filled with leaving preparation and now my rehabilitative exercises. I am taking a hiatus from the blog from September 15th to 22nd as I am going away with The Partner and family. I will complete the September Roundup and then I will wrap up the project.

It will be the end of my 365 Days (or rather, 274 days) of Carpe Diem project, but it might not be the end of my blogging. I’ve really enjoyed the reflective pieces and feel like the process of working through those issues and writing them were each individual milestones of my personal growth. I’ve felt limited in the amount of blog space I could give that sort of writing on this project specific blog, and limited in the time and energy I could give that level of reflection during the project. I have something in mind to continue blogging elsewhere in that style further down the track, if I’m not too busy in my travels. If you wish to keep reading on, leave me a comment, and I’ll give you a shout if/when I start blogging again.

Day 254, 255 and 256: +761 and the light at the end of the tunnel

Over the last few days, I have been reading (+3), writing (+1), picked up my passport with approved visa! (+1), gotten my International Driver’s Permit (+1), seen the TCM doctor (+1) and made TCM (+1).

Today I had the follow up appointments with the physiotherapist and the sports and exercise medicine (SEM) doctor (+2).

 

I AM 90% SURE THAT THIS IS THE FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE! HURRAH!!!

Both the physiotherapist and the SEM doctor said that my huge list of symptoms seemed systemic and textbook auto-immune, and it was understandable that the GPs and other professionals went down the rheumatological route, especially with a family diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis and being HLA-B27 positive. But it turns out it may have all been biomechanics all along! ArrgghhHHhhhhh! (groan in frustration and exhale in relief)

The gist is that several of my muscles are either too weak/too dominant, firing at the wrong times, or not functional. That in combination with my laxity/hypermobility in certain joints, means that when these muscles get engaged, it is pulling the joints out of place. One problem area impacted on another, making that a problem area, and so on in a vicious cycle until it seemed like it was systemic. All this joint pain over all these years, has been all separate, but interconnected. It seems unbelievable, but between the physiotherapist and the SEM doctor, they were able to locate and explain the source of every single joint pain. I almost wouldn’t believe it was that simple if they hadn’t demonstrated it to me live. For example, I had knee pain literally 10 minutes prior walking up the stairs, but the SEM doctor held my knee in place so that the laxity allowing my kneecap to move was not being pulled by my dominant vastus lateralis, and got me to do a one legged squat which is usually PAINFUL for me… but… no pain! My knee felt smooth, and it felt like everything was in place where it was supposed to be.

I can almost even pinpoint how it all started. The physiotherapist noted that the pain started right after puberty. That may have been when my joints started developing this laxity/hypermobility. I think the very first catalyst is that my feet have a high arch and overpronation (rolling inwards), which lead to everything else overcompensating or moving in ways it shouldn’t.

The physiotherapist and SEM doctor are both going to prescribe me exercises, and are open to keeping in touch and following up via Skype/email while I’m overseas. This really could be the end of all my joint pain, or at least the end of not knowing what it is and just managing symptoms without addressing the root of the problem.

Yay!

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio opened at 780/29 = +751

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio closed at 790/29 = +761

Day 252 and 253: +751 and finding the exit of the maze

Wednesday, I had my appointment with the sports and exercise medicine doctor. He suggested a different theory on the source of my joint pain, and booked me in to get a bone scan to confirm.

Thursday, I completed the bone scan (+1).

Friday, I went back to the doctor to find out the results of the bone scan (+1). The bone scan showed a higher bone turnover in my sacroiliac area, but not elsewhere where I have joint pain. Don’t ask me what the science means, it was just explained to me that this rules out the possibility of the pain is coming from a medical source, such as inflammation or an autoimmune condition. This affirms the doctor’s theory that it is something mechanical in the joint area itself.

The doctor suggests that I have Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, where I have too much movement in the sacroiliac area. He suggested seeing a physiotherapist that specialises in the pelvic area to strengthen up the muscles around the sacroiliac area to help hold it all together and support the joint better.

Great! But then what about my hands and wrists, I ask.

The doctor suggests that because I show laxity/hypermobility in some joints (remember my pinky?), it’s likely the other problematic joint areas are the same. He suggested seeing a hand therapist to strengthen up my hands/wrist.

Pinky 1

Great! But what about my knees, I ask.

The doctor did a quick examination and discovered that certain muscles are very weak, and also firing in the wrong order, resulting in my knee joint being pulled to one side. He suggested doing an in depth examination where he will then prescribe me rehabilitative exercises to strengthen up my leg muscles properly.

I have booked in all the above starting next week, and I am looking forward to it.

I feel quite conflicted and apathetic about all this to be honest. I have been through a heck of a journey this year, seeing all sorts of people, trying all sorts of things, and now this is perhaps the final piece of the puzzle where someone can finally put a name and reason to what is going on. It feels almost anticlimactic. I have seen physiotherapists a dozen times and no-one has identified the source of the pain. I realise that this sports and medicine doctor is very specialist in his field, hence why he has been able to identify the problem so easily, but it really makes me wonder whether weak muscles/laxity is such a difficult thing to diagnose. Once one label was suggested, everyone across different fields dismissed all other possibilities and went with the label, even though it was a dead end. I feel like I have been sent on a wild goose chase, simply because I chose the wrong entrance to a complicated maze. But at the same time, I do recognise that I had to go through all these processes in order to rule out each possibility. Perhaps I could have picked the right entry and started with the sports and medicine doctor, who may query whether it is rheumatological, and then send me down that road anyway just to make sure.

I do deeply appreciate all the things I have learned about my body during this journey though, even if they don’t seem directly related to the mechanical sources of joint pain. I deeply deeply believe that everything is in our body is much more complex and interconnected than we realise. Knowing what lifestyle triggers can impact how I feel; knowing that I have intolerances to certain foods and starting to heal my gut; knowing how certain foods and drinks affect my pain; knowing the different types of pain and various strategies to manage pain; all this knowledge can only be helpful.

So after all is said and done, what exactly is wrong with me?!

  1. I do not have an autoimmune condition. Yay!!!
  2. The joint pain is likely due to laxity/hypermobility in my joints. After doing the  prescribed exercises, time will tell whether it has helped and whether this is truly the underlying problem.
  3. I do have food intolerances, though that is a separate issue that can be self managed.
  4. I do still have random nerve pain, sensitivity to tactile pressure, and fatigue, which may be fibromyalgia, or it may just be byproducts of the above.

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio opened at 778/29 = +749

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio closed at 780/29 = +751

Day 251: +749 and one step closer

Short one again as I’m having another fatigue day.

I had my appointment today to determine whether my pain is musculoskeletal (+1). The doctor is a sports and exercise medicine physician. He was very friendly and patient and I felt comfortable with him. We discussed my history, he looked at my scans, looked over my body and did some manipulations. And we might finally be close to an answer.

The doctor thinks the pain is a result of hyper mobility. That in a number of joints, there is too much movement and weakness in the surrounding ligaments/muscles resulting in irritability in the joint.

While manoeuvring my leg around, he heard/felt a big “clunk” in my sacroiliac joint, which contributed to his theory. After the appointment, it occurred to me that all the joints I have recurring problems with also have this “clunk” or “click”.

I am having a three phase bone scan to rule out medical sources for the pain, such as inflammatory arthritis, and if it truly is not medical, then we will go ahead with a exercise rehab program. I let the doctor know I was travelling soon, so he helped me out in getting me into the scan tomorrow and back into the clinic the day after.

I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio opened at 777/29 = +748

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio closed at 778/29 = +749

Day 249 and 250: +748 and gratitude

We’ve lived in our home for nearly two years now, and it still amazes me how lucky we are to be so close to everything. I woke up early yesterday in a panic because I had forgotten to mail something. After having breakfast, I just couldn’t relax without getting important things out of the way first. I walked out of our house at 9.50am, walked down to the post office, bought envelopes and mailed my items, and was home by 10.05am.

When The Partner came home, he stood on the balcony and took in the breathtaking view. We reminisced how it felt the first day walking up the stairs, out of breath from the steep hill and not thinking much of the old building, and arriving at the door of our unit. On a steamy summer day, it was light and breezy. Standing at the front door, we could see through the living room and out the balcony door and see the tops of houses and mountains far away into the distance. We thought that was grand already. Then when we walked into the unit with it’s classic arched doorways, clean white walls, soft thick carpet, and stepped onto the balcony… my, my, we were blown away. Gazing at the limitless variants of cloud formations and colour schemes of the sky and wonderment at the moon and the stars is my favourite past time, and I have been absolutely spoilt by our view. I frequently still take a cup of tea out to the balcony, sit and gaze at the sky, and count my blessings.

2016-01-21 - Sky

I was decluttering and putting things aside to donate (+1), and doing some planning for my farewell (+1), and when I had a bright idea to hold a sort of “Silent Auction”. I will lay out all the items that are intended for donation/discarding, assign sticky notes a token sum of money, and make it a fun activity for my friends to take something away if they please. It would make sure that things are given a new home and avoid the landfill, as not all things can be accepted as donations. As I was coming up with this idea, I felt so blessed that I had more than enough, that I was able to give things away. That I was able to declutter, discard a whole bunch of things, and still feel that I have more than enough in my home.

I’ve had a good run the past week with energy levels, but I’m feeling pretty exhausted now. I’m so grateful that I have the luxury of sleeping in tomorrow and no work responsibilities.

Despite my wrist pain and needing to strap it most days this week, I set up an hour session of yoga (+1) and did the best I could. I volunteered at the Dharma centre today (+1) and attended class which includes meditation (+1). I have my musculoskeletal appointment tomorrow and I’m keen to hear their expertise. I met up with an old colleague today and she told me about over and under methylation. I’ve heard about this before but honestly, I dismissed it at the time because I hoped it wasn’t relevant to me. Now that I’ve investigated nearly all other avenues and have trialled so many things, over and under methylation could be one more avenue to pursue. Even though it will be more investigating and if it turns out relevant to my conditions, then inevitably it will be more work with healing/nourishing myself. But I am grateful that at least there is one more avenue. I am grateful that I am alive in this current era where we know more than we did in the past. I am grateful that someone in my life knew about this condition and was in a position to point me in the right direction.

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio opened at 772/29 = +743

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio closed at 777/29 = +748

Day 245 – 248: +743 and miscellany

Ah, it’s late, and I’ve been MIA for a few days, so it’s another miscellaneous stream of thought post…

It’s been a busy week with full days and getting home late. I haven’t found any time to do yoga or meditation yet. And yes yes, I know, when you don’t have the time to do it, that is exactly when you need to do it. It’s also getting late now and my eyes are drooping. But I vow to put on a guided meditation tonight as I drift into sleep (+1). Better than nothing.

 

The other day I mentioned having a spontaneous bath and attempting to read. Well, it was a success! I finished an entire book! The only catch is… it was a comic. But hey, I’ve read on multiple occasions (+3), and it’s about Buddhism! The comic is Buddha and I can certainly see it’s appeal and why it has been successful. There are modern day references and swear words, which were totally unexpected.

I’ve spent more time preparing for The Europe Dream (sorting out paperwork to store or discard, planning get away with the family and The Partner, and packing/storing even more possessions)(+3). All the packing plus some crazy wind has been a terrible combination for my allergies though, and I’ve had a really miserable time with a constant runny nose-itching nose-watery eyes-congestion-sneezing-dry raw skin. I had to demand The Partner help spring clean the home, and resort to wearing a face mask and reluctantly taking antihistamines and steroid-based nasal spray (my crunchy green self said “noo, au naturel”; my miserable congested self said “get these drugs in me!”). The spray has worked wonders.

 

 

Our 20 year old car has had a problem with it’s alarm and immobiliser since it drove off the factory floor. It has always been extra sensitive and easily triggered, and the remote/key didn’t always reset it. We’ve had countless times being stranded where we couldn’t get the car to start, embarrassing alarms shrieking, praying for the car to behave when we are disembarking from a drive on ferry, disconnecting and connecting the battery in hopes of re-setting the alarm, many variations of opening and locking the door, and finally, today we used up all of our luck. The car would not respond to any of our tricks. We called roadside assistance, and discovered there is a secret over-ride button! I think it’s absolutely stupid that a car with an immobiliser would also have an over-ride button, as surely clever thieves would target such a car, but it sure was a blessing this time. It’s only a shame that we’ve discovered this 20 years later, when we will probably replace this car soon. Anyway, the actual point of this story is about joy. Surprise! Who would’ve thought this was a joyful story?! But after The Partner came home super stressed from not being able to start the car and needing to leave it stranded, I was surprisingly chill. I said it would all be fine. We made a game plan and went off on our date as planned. Today, as we waited for roadside assistance where we were told we might have to wait up for 5 hours, I was surprisingly chill. I said matter of factly what the possibilities could have been, and that no matter what, it would all be fine. The best possibility was that the mechanics would arrive, bypass the immobiliser, and off we go. They arrived in less than 15 minutes and we left with knowledge of The Secret Button. When the car started up, I rejoiced at the mechanic “That is the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard!”, and when we arrived at home, I held The Partner tight and said “Life is good“. In the greater scheme of things, this entire episode was a minor inconvenience. We are not financially free/independent, but we have enough to get us out of a pickle. We are better than good, better than most.

Every time I catch myself having a naturally happy disposition, I feel incredibly proud of my hard work. I have not always been naturally happy or positive. The Best Friend once said to me many moons ago, “Why are you always so negative?“, and those words have always stuck with me. This joy journey has produced remarkable outcomes and I’m proud of being someone who shares joy and laughter and kindness (+1).

 

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio opened at 764/29 = +735

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio closed at 772/29 = +743

August Roundup

Oh yeah. I changed my goals this month. This will be the first roundup that is reflecting on my new “countdown and prepare for The Europe Dream” goals.

A check in on how I am progressing with my goals:

Improving my health as much as possible before leaving

  • Food intolerance and naturopath test results
  • Reviewed Get Well Plan
  • GP review of Lyrica
  • Continued having TCM
  • Made lots of herbal teas and soups and chicken extract
  • Did some moxibustion and massage
  • Had acupuncture for wrists

Planning for The Europe Dream

  • Had manual car driving lessons, but also made the decision to no longer pursue this
  • Research for travel gear and travel plans
  • Purchasing bits and pieces of travel gear
  • Completed visa application
  • Started process of opening a UK bank, and ended up purchasing a kickstarter package to help me settle
  • Started tidying up and packing up around the home
  • Packed my luggage
  • Planned my farewell event and started checking in with people to let them know I am leaving

Nourish spiritual self

  • Started volunteering at the Dharma Centre
  • Had a few moments of spontaneous joy bringing activities… a bath, watched sappy videos, spontaneous catch ups
  • Did some reading and writing
  • Did some meditation and yoga
  • Completed many tarot
  • Continued practicing the joy journey, checking in on joy, and reframing the less joyful moments to productive messages I can take away
  • Had supervision with my old team leader for closure on 2015

Plans for September

  • Continue volunteering at Dharma centre
  • Musculoskeletal doctor appointment
  • Weekend trip with The Partner
  • Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers trip with family
  • Farewell event
  • Supervision with old team leader

What I’d like to do more of in September

More meditation and yoga! Despite how much I love meditation and yoga and I always feel good afterwards, I always have a mental blockage to remembering to do it and wanting to do it (I’ve talked about it before). These are the two most important spiritually nourishing activities that I really want to make part of me/my lifestyle, before leaving. Even though I haven’t been reading much or writing much, I know I’ve got those down pat and will be happy to engage in them while I’m travelling. But when things get stressful or I need daily structure or an emotional/spiritual check in, it’s meditation and yoga that will be really grounding. I need to view it as a safe comfortable place to retreat to. So for September, I am going to set up my Productive App again and aim to do either meditation or yoga every day.

Positive/Negative Ratio

The Positive/Negative Ratio at the end of July is 764/29 = +735.

This exceeds my minimum aim of one positive action per day which would be +244.
This also EXCEEDS my ambitious aim of three positive actions per day which would be +732.

Yay!

Summary

Every month I worry that my roundup is going to look dismal, and I pleasantly surprise myself at the end of each month with how much I got up to. These roundups only check in on goal related activities, so I haven’t even mentioned all the other things that fill in my days like parenting a teenager or completing taxes and paperwork or catching up with people or spending the day with my parents. Oh and of course the never ending chores of groceries, laundry, cleaning and preparing dinner.

I finished the Get Well Plan at the end of July, and I stopped tracking what I ate and what I did and how I felt in August. All in all, I have been keeping a health diary for about a year, and I am truly tired of it. But I have found that not keeping track really does make me less accountable and disciplined, by not having to analyse every moment. I have been naughty in eating anything and everything and not doing all the things I should do, and I have suffered the pain and fatigue this month. Luckily I have developed the attitude of “Just keep swimming”. Every day is a new day, and I choose my actions and the life I want.

Day 243 and 244: +735 and short update

Just a quick post to catch up on P/N ratio for the monthly roundup.

Yesterday I volunteered at the Dharma Centre (+1), purchased contact lenses to get me through my travels (+1), and did a little bit of reading (+1). I find that I am still struggling to concentrate on reading though. I used to love reading and consumed books like crazy, but after university, I feel like the part of my brain that does the reading has tossed in the towel. These days when I read, no matter how interested I am, I just can’t absorb and interpret the text and re-read the same line over and over. Even if I set time aside, and have nothing else to do but to just read at a leisurely pace, with absolutely no pressure, I find reading stressful. I’m chalking it up to my brain having too many other things to think about, like RAM, my random access memory is all used up right now with planning my travels and sorting out my life. I’ll just let it be for now.

Today I packed and sorted out more things for storage while I’m away (+1). I don’t have any other plans for today other than dinner with a friend tonight. I’m happy to have a free day with no agenda and with all the busy-ness of ticking things off lately, I’m craving these quiet times. In fact, I might have a spontaneous-joy-bringing-activity right now and go and run a bath and read a book (+1). And if I can’t get into the reading for leisure, then I will just close my eyes, lay my head down, relax and think of nothing.

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio opened at 759/29 = +730

Today’s Positive Negative Ratio closed at 764/29 = +735

On Closure

I caught up with my old team leader last night for supervision about 2015. We caught up on life for the first hour, and didn’t get into the nitty gritty until the second hour, and then it was time to go. I only got into the details of 1 out of 2 major issues, and 1 out of 5 practice issues. We’ll catch up again in a week or two.

A big part of the reason why I chose talking through 2015 with my old team leader, rather than seek out a psychologist to talk about clinical burn out, is that I really feel my team leader is an incredibly diplomatic, insightful and fair person who is genuinely interested in good leadership. And she knows that good leadership is about understanding the staff member, supporting them in the specific way they need, assisting them to see how they could have done something differently/better, and not sugar-coating things or speaking with bias. We are very much alike – we are extremely diplomatic about seeing the world in various shades of grey. And she also is at the heart of the organisation, and understands the players and the culture and the history, so she sees the organisation in many shades of grey.

So I didn’t get a big pat on the back saying “You were the best!” or commiseration saying “Yes, they were wrong!“, at least not entirely in those words. My egoistic self just wants to be praised and told in no uncertain terms how wonderful I was, and how the organisation was completely unjust towards me, and that I was the victim. What I got was many textures of grey, that did hint at the above, but did not allow for victimhood. She made me aware of how the other players work, and that my experience was not a personal attack on me, just an unfortunate situation of puzzle pieces that were never made to fit together.

It’s not me, it’s you

Before I even started sharing the specific details of various things that happened, my team leader said straight up that I was a case of “It’s not me, it’s you“. That I needed to break up with the organisation, and she completely understood why. It was a time of change and it was always going to be messy, but it was unfortunate that big power plays were happening at that time that negatively impacted upon me, and I was unsupported (there was no stable/supportive team leader at the time, as my team leader was on maternity leave). Many experienced people in the industry found the changes extremely challenging; it’s no wonder at all that I cracked it as a relatively new graduate in a difficult environment without the support of a team leader or the upper management of the organisation. The services and team I left are still in a perpetual state of chaos. So it’s not me, it’s you.

Acknowledgement that I was done wrong by the organisation

This is much more hearsay, but my team leader said there have been murmurings that some people in management do feel that I was done wrong by, and they have questioned themselves wondering whether they “broke me”. I have a feeling I know who those people may be, and those are the management figures who I feel are heartbeat of the organisation, but unfortunately are not the ones who can actually effect cultural change. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the upper management who run the show critically reflect at all on what is happening with the organisation and why there is so much dissatisfaction expressed in turnover of staff.

My reputation after walking away

I share the same paranoia as my team leader, that we don’t want to walk away from a place feeling like other’s would criticise our quality of work after we’re gone. My team leader gave me reassurance that no-one criticises my work in that way. Any utterances of “Gee, this case note has the wrong client’s name on it! What case manager did that?!” are generally aimed towards my predecessor, and no-one speaks ill of my quality of work. The general vibe towards me is that I was an asset and “Why do we lose all the good ones?

My process driven methods

I explained several processes that I worked by, and how at the time I was constantly in trouble for this or that. Upper management did not understand why I did what I did and gave me strict instructions on what to do/what not to do, that were not appropriate. My team leader confirmed that my processes were good practices, and in fact, is exactly what all my successors and the new team leader and manager are now doing. Upper management did not understand my processes at the time, and assumed that I was micromanaging or overstepping. Once I and my processes left, things started unravelling and they have had record numbers of crises and complaints.

Professional Integrity or Toe the Line

I often wonder whether I made the right call with my professional integrity. There were several practices that I could have done the “easy” way, or the “right” way. However the “right” way was also the “asking too many questions, too hard basket, we’ve never come across these issues before” way. I felt like maybe I was doing it the “dumb” way for being a stickler and not being able to resolve these issues, rather than to just brush it over and pretend it doesn’t exist (literally what others’ did and management endorsed because it was easier). My team leader said something that I hope sticks with me throughout my career: “Always do it the right way. You can never get in trouble for doing it the right way“. Looking back, I can confidently say that I never tried to hide anything. There were definitely issues that I was unable to resolve and were left hanging when I left, but I did not cover it up. They are loud and clear and if they run into trouble with these outstanding issues in the future, they cannot claim that it was because I did not manage it properly or bring it to their attention, but only fault themselves for not addressing the issue.

 

Well. This is a very good start. I was a little disappointed last night that I didn’t get the time to talk through all my dilemmas, but now I can see that most of them fit into these themes. The rest are practice issues about how a specific client in a specific situation should have been handled, and they were simply issues that had never come up before so no-one knew how to address it. In a extremely muddy transition period of a federal reform, many other services also buried their head in the sand, so management chose to let sleeping dogs lie. Like I said above, I did what I had to do in raising those concerns, so perhaps I really did do my best and that’s that. End of my responsibility.

Have I got closure? I’m starting to. From a professional perspective, if I ever needed a work reference, my team leader knows my work ethic and would vouch for me. Whatever else happened there, does not matter. From a personal perspective, the veiled “You were the best” and “Yes, they were wrong” message make me feel a lot more at ease. Sounds disgusting, but this closure process makes me think of a scab healing. It wouldn’t heal because it hadn’t been cleaned out properly and just had a big bandage over it, hiding it away, but it kept getting re-infected. Now the bandage has been ripped off, it has been cleaned out, but it needs to be given some TLC before it will heal completely. And it may leave a scar, but once it’s healed, it won’t hurt again.