My time with Douglas is winding down and I've already started migrating my stuff to my new place.
A tiny home. A cottage but really just a bedsit.
I'm thrilled and if I could afford two rents, I would have moved in already.
Even though Douglas was small to anyone who was bought up in a house with more than four walls, having loved living in minimal spaces, Douglas felt indulgent. I remember living in the Big House at the top of the cable car in Wellington and suddenly realising we only used 10% of it daily and the other 90 once a year. I would say I've been using 50% of Douglas which left the other half gathering dust bunnies.
I'm not even going to show you the befores because they're just four white walls but when I've done my thang to those walls, I'll show you before and afters.
I don't understand why people don't move more. Recreating yourself via your environment is so stimulating and you get to take out and really appreciate everything that means something to you as you place it in its new resting place.
This is another novella in three parts so you may want to stock up on food supplies before you start
Last week my bestbossever got all excited and said he had something for me. He ran downstairs to his car and came back with this wristband, the third of three he'd been given by his dear friend Mike. With a very rare, serious face, he then 'presented' it to me, telling me that a responsibility came with wearing it and that he would forward The Contract to me. When I read the text, I couldn't put it on fast enough.
It goes like this...
I AM HOPE "I Am Hope" is not a fashion accessory (although they are very fashionable 😂👍) "I Am Hope" is a commitment to Hope.
If you are wearing one you are telling the world that you are a safe person to talk to without fear of shame or reprisal. "I Am Hope" is a responsibility.
Not a responsibility to solve someone's problems nor a responsibility to take on that persons problems. "I Am Hope" is a responsibility to listen without judgement. To listen with empathy and perhaps guide them to find the help they may need - if you can.
The Key to Life is Hope! Be that HOPE
I AM HOPE MANTRA
I will not judge
I will not shame
I will not rant
I will not blame
I will not gossip
I AM HOPE
I've got your back"
Last night, at our factory opening, I got to meet #mikeking, Mr I Am Hope himself. I don't know if it was because Mike saw my wristband or because of the speech it took a lifetime of courage to make, but afterwards, with that same glint in his eye as my boss, said he had something for me and pulled out a bag of 100 I Am Hope wristbands! It took everything I had to contain the tsunami inside me as I clutched that bag to my heart. I immediately understood that this man, who is constantly travelling around our country with the @key2life Trust, giving Hope to thousands and thousands of people around mental health challenges and suicide, could see I-don't-know-what-yet but I've never felt so ready for whatever that ends up being.
Then in the next breath he said "And I'll send you another bag of the woman's size"...
Today I was having brunch with a friend who was at the event last night and who heard my speech. Out of the blue they started sharing the toughest time in their life and I swear I levitated with surrealness. I held back tears as I realised this was my first #iamhope moment and I was there for them more than I've ever been anywhere for anyone before ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤
From the age of 1, the only attention I ever got was negative. First, from the age of 1, the looks of disgust at the sores all over me, then, from the age of 10, of distaste when they found out my father was a 'gang member'. Because of these mirrors, I had such a distorted view of myself that for many years all I could see was the Elephant Woman. It was icky and sticky but I waded through that #dismorphia as well as the inevitable #addictions and #suicidaldepression to transform into who I am today.
The night before the event my mind was able to see what I could look like and hear what I could say but the scars of my childhood begged me not to draw attention to myself.
Then came a revelation. I may be hope to others now but I Am also Hope to myself. With the Mantra in my mind I reminded myself that it's no longer about me. It was about being an example to my children, who would be watching me and who knew the courage it took for me to get on that stage. It was about anyone in the audience who had suffered or knew someone who was suffering. It was about planting seeds.
Ultimately, it wasn't about being me, it was about being Hope. And the response was overwhelming. My tender exposed self literally ran from that stage into the nearest empty room as the audience was clapping, what sounded to me, deafeningly. When attention was moved on and I slunk back out, the first smile I saw was the MCs as she quietly told me I'd done well but the look in her eyes was so purposeful. Like she was checking to see I really got it. It was that moment that I thought, if this is Hope, I want to be more of it.
So, if you think you can take on this responsibility, there's not a moment to lose. No matter where you are in the world, I want you to private message me your name and address and I'll send you a few wristbands and personalised copies of the contract in calligraphy so you and yours can be Hope too... #hopeisonitsway
I feel like a child just learning to speak where I know and can feel what I want to say but just don't have the words.
I've started so many posts over the past 3 months but the words look so one dimensional and flacid that I always delete them. I've never been failed by words before so I'm not sure what this means, especially since I've got more to share than ever before. Have I missed my lifetimes chance to write this book that haunts me? I had hoped it was just that my writing muscles were lax but I can't even write in my journal. I have no feeling for it at all.
I think I've fallen out of love with writing, just like I fell out of love with art.
But every day I have breakthroughs and life's so exciting I can barely deal with it so you'll be the first to know when I find another outlet...
Welcome to my new whare, Douglas.
I move there in a few days.
Just looking at these images gives me such visceral pleasure and even though it was a rainy day when I went to see it, no amount of dismal outside was going to dampen that internal warmth.
I've never really had a life so my living environment is profoundly important to me. Not just because I spend so much time there but because my surroundings are my mirror that ricochet character and comfort.
Every single day I think about this book I was born and raised to write and those shades of colour and light feel like a good place to start...
So I got a job really quickly after that change in mindset.
And boy, what a learning curve!
I don't know if you've noticed this yourself, but whenever I have a breakthrough, whatever transpires directly from it usually contains more lessons as a continuation of that breakthrough.
It just made me think of the that saying "Your pain is the breaking of the shell of understanding"
So this job was never going to be a generic 9-5er. I knew that from the second I met my boss.
I could write a whole post just about my boss but I'll just cut straight to the juicy stuff...
This job has been all about me cleaning up one big nasty-ass mess. I recognised it in the first day and told my boss in the first week. He had no idea. I told him that I'd seen it all before and that although I could clean it up, I warned him that his business was held together with band-aids and that my first job was to rip them all off. I'd then put all the pieces back together where they were meant to be, so that, at first, it was going to get worse before it got better but that he would notice a difference quite quickly. To which he said Do it!
Well! I could have made a bonfire out of those bandaids.
I've worked no less that 10-20 hours extra a week and while the rest of the company has taken 3 weeks off over the holiday season, I told my boss if he truly wanted me to make a difference, I would have to keep working so I could forensic the ship out of everything!
So I bought all that I needed home and I've worked so hard that some days I've just stayed in my dressing gown, turning a nasty shade of feral. I even found a boil on my butt this morning from sitting down for so many hours at a time!
However, I'm so grateful that I've been through all this before so I knew each wave of overwhelm would pass and at some stage, things would start making sense.
That happened a few days ago.
One minute I was wading through smoke and mirrors and the next I'm looking out a window where there's a reasonably clear view of the future.
That process I just novella'd? That's literally exactly how I overcame my mind, body, soul, relationship and money messes.
I gathered up all the pieces, dumped them all in a heap, took each piece out individually, either binned or cleaned them then merged the pieces until they all worked harmoniously together.
So - what I've been asking myself these past few days is could The Damned Book be about cleaning up messes?
Ironically, another insight I had was that I could use this very process for writing said book...
So merely days after that last post IT happened.
Well - an IT.
I was almost at the end of my money and I didn't know if I was going to have to move back to the caravan behind my parents in my hometown this weekend, when I got up to a stunning sunny Sunday morning. As I had a shower, I wished upon wish that my son would ask me to go to brunch because I didn't know when I would have to leave and wanted to have one last quality outing with him and I was just so hungry. I could have texted but his airline stewardess girlfriend was home briefly and I was aware of me costing him money as he tries to save. However, just as I was dressing a text came in.
I couldn't text back quick enough.
When he picked me up he said he was sitting at KFC trying to get hold of his friend then suddenly thought Hold on a minute! then texted me instead.
He drove me south to a small village that was brimming with markets and we went straight to the busy cottagey cafe in the middle. He treated me to the most divine brunch with wine and beer and we just relaxed as we caught up on the past week and our progress. After that he drove back another way, through farmlands, until we came to a coastal road and like everyone we passed, we couldn't help but feel excited at the onset of summer.
As we were getting closer to town I said that all I felt like now was a coffee and my day would be complete. Anything else would be a bonus so he drove me to a small coffee shop. He was distracted on his phone and I couldn't bring myself to ask him to pay for it so, trying to stay calm I pulled out the last $20 note I had. When it was ready and the Barista handed it to me, my throat started constricting and tears threatened. I could tell I wasn't going to enjoy it. It was too big and too hot. As we walked back to the car, I was holding back a bout of hyperventilation as I obsessed over what food that wasted $5.50 could have bought instead.
We stopped in at his flat and sat out on the deck as his flatmates came and went, making the most of the fine weather. I drank my not nice but not revolting enough to throw out coffee and just chilled. There was nothing I could do about any of it so there was no point ruining such a relaxing day. After an hour or so we left to pick up his girlfriend then go to a supermarket. They'd invited me to stay for the flats Sunday dinner and needed to get the ingredients. Because I'd been obsessing over my last $14.50, I knew exactly what I would get to last me the week. Two loaves of bread and a block of butter. When we got to the check out, I had to borrow 30c of my son.
So that was it. I only had the money for my last weeks rent and the storage bill due the week after that which meant if I was to move back to the caravan the next weekend, I wouldn't have a cent to get there or pay rent or buy food etc.
Then IT happened.
For many years, at some stage in every day I've felt a profound sense of bliss. I've written about it before because it took me a while to get used to it. So you can imagine my surprise as I sat in the back seat of the car as we drove back to my sons flat, absolutely broke and verging on homeless, when I felt the familiar wave of excitement course through me. Shouldn't I have been feeling the opposite? As my mind processed what was happening I had a sudden jolt of understanding that took my breath away.
In that instant I understood that the material world no longer had any impact on me or my sense of self worth. That no matter where I was, who I was with, what I had or what I was doing, I would be happy! That I would continue to feel this state of bliss no matter what my circumstances.
Can you imagine how profound the resulting sense of freedom was?
Suddenly I knew that I didn't have to WAIT for the next film contract, that I could apply for any job that interested me, because I would be happy in whatever I was accepted for.
That I didn't have to WAIT for the perfect flat. That I could live in any environment, because I would settle in and make myself comfortable wherever I ended up.
I no longer had to WAIT to meet people and be invited to things because I felt worthy of friendship and love.
Ultimately, I hadn't understood until this moment that the pool of love within us is unlimited and, like with food, when you feel full, the last thing you need to think about is your next meal.
The wait is over.
On Monday I gave myself the day to roll around in the enormity of the repurcussions and fully feel the impact then on Tuesday I went to work. I started applying for jobs all over the place and within hours, after weeks of no responses, I had two interviews set up. Then yesterday friends and family started giving me surprise gifts and now it's Thursday night, I have more interviews next week and $848.60 in my bank account.
So. It turns out that the waiting was necessary afterall because if I hadn't, I would have got work sooner and never got to the low point where I was able to join these life changing dots and now, my life CAN truly begin...
You would think that after overcoming addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, dermatilomania (picking), body dysmorphia and, most of all, depression, that I would be making the most of the freedom. I'm an OK writer and speaker, I'm not shy of crowds or camera's and I really really want to help people but I've discovered I have one more addiction and it's more debilitating than all the others put together. I'm addicted to biding time.
To be more specific - biding time until IT happens.
I have no idea but in my mind, it's when the rest of my life will truly begin.
Some might call it procrastination but the very nature of procrastination is avoiding doing something that needs to be done. I don't do that. I spend all day doing things that need to be done, I'm the Queen of taking care of business.
I'm good at lots of things but not exceptional at anything. I have no education and because I didn't stay at school, I never learned how to learn. I take courses but they're usually only a few days long because my attention span isn't so great and I get bored easily. I'll fully immerse myself in something until the novelty wears off then I move on. And because I have such a problem with retention, I then forget everything that I did learn.
So here's the irony.
If IT did happen - like an editor wanting me to write my story or someone inviting me to speak at an event that lead on to other speaking opportunities, or an agency seeing something contract-worthy in me - I would probably get bored and want to move on anyway. And because I know this, I just carry on taking care of business.
And the worst part about perpetually waiting (which can appear as being aimless and lacking motivation) is that others sense it and avoid me. People love being around engaged, progressive people and because I'm always happy and positive, people initially think I'm 'someone' then when they realise I'm not going anywhere, really fast, they move on. Really fast.
I've been this way all my life but it was easier to function before I based my life around contract work that I absolutely love because if I got bored with a job, I would just get another one. But with contract work, I always feel in limbo waiting for the next call and this feels like it's enabling my waiting addiction.
I've tried everything including coming to terms with just settling in to existing but when I try, I get restless. There's something deep inside me that reminds me that there are millions of people suffering and I haven't been through and overcome all that I have to keep that to myself and just work to live.
I do have a personality and presence and stories that people are attracted to, albeit temporarily, and I'm not scared of giving something a go so, as I keep asking myself, is this really about faith? Do I just have to continue to believe in the breakthrough I've felt coming all my life and remain on high alert, planting seeds everyday from my keyboard, convinced I'll get the chance I've dreamed about to help people or am I deluded?
I don't have an answer but in the meantime I'll carry on doing my housework, keeping my ironing up to date, uploading to Instagram and watching movies until something breaks. And judging by my bank account, that could be very soon...
I wrote this article for Stuff.co.nz a few years ago...
"I battled with depression, dermatillomania and body dysmorphia from a young age. I escaped school, jobs and friendships until it seemed that escaping life was the only option left that would give me peace.
On the night I decided to take my own life, a voice reminded me that my children needed me. Through this epiphany I realised that I needed to leave my family in order to survive. I flushed all the pills I’d prepared and went to bed.
After I left my family, drug, alcohol and gambling addictions were quickly added to the list.
It took 10 years of self-analysis and self-medication to transform my mind from a cold, black, lifeless cell into a warm, rich oasis but it was worth every tear shed.
I’ve been everything-free for more than seven years now but lately my peaceful mind has become restless. It feels irresponsible to have been through the transformation that I have and not share the journey in the hope that even one troubled mind might see its own potential and start the challenging yet rewarding trek to free itself.
Where did I start?
Acceptance: Finding out this thing I had was called depression, and that others had it, helped me take small steps towards accepting it. There were also steps backwards but the steps forward became leaps once I sorted out my family life.
After having a series of almost comical interactions with professionals and the medication they prescribed, I realised I was the only one who could get myself out of it.
Changing my surroundings: After standing back and looking at my reality, I was surprised to find that no-one was forcing me to think the way I did. I had to admit to myself that it was all in my head and that maybe my illness was due to my perceptions of my reality.
I also noticed that others were living in worse conditions than me yet they seemed to be level headed and positive about their situation. Why couldn’t I be this way?
I set about overhauling everything I listened to, looked at, read, wore and did. I purged out anything dark, black or negative and surrounded myself with colour, positivity and hope. Even if my mind was still in the depths of despair, everything around me was supporting my intention to change.
Mantras: I walked everywhere and I started reciting a mantra with every step: “Every day in every way, my life keeps getting better and better”.
This was a classic ‘fake it till you make it’. I was reciting this mantra even as tears of despair were streaming down my face but what I realised was that while these words were going over and over in my mind, other more dangerous ones couldn’t.
Painting: I’d never painted before but someone gave me some paints and I found some scrap boards. I only had one rule and that was not to judge anything I did.
I went from timid scribbles to massive flourishes of colour. None of it was understood by or desirable to others but the paint may as well have been the blackness in my head and with each brush stroke I felt like I was hemorrhaging out years of darkness.
Writing: I wrote voraciously. I was living in a small caravan nestled between two beautiful big native trees on a bank overlooking the sea. While looking out over the beach, I would write endlessly until I got growths on my fingers.
I wrote about torments past and fears for the future. I wrote questions about my sanity.
I will always think of this time as The Great Purge.
I also created a Note To Self book where I would write any breakthroughs or positive comments people made that I could reflect on.
Music: I found that certain tracks triggered hours of sobbing, after which I always felt better, so I put together playlists of themes. I still have them to this day and when I hear them now, they bring back visceral feelings of that time but the tears are now of appreciation and gratitude of how far I’ve come since then.
Reading: I read every self-help book that I was offered or could find. Like the mantras, while my mind was being pre-occupied by external words, especially words of hope, there was no room for internal words of doom.
I set about learning about myself through numerology, eastern and western astrology etc and I found that a lot of the aspects I fought against or saw as negative in my make-up, I was able to reframe.
Sayings: I knew I had to cut the negative thought patterns off at the pass. So every time my mind started wandering down a dark alley of negativity, I would cut it off with an internal, non-negotiable voice saying ‘That’s not helpful!’.
Charts: I created a chart where I could monitor my ups and downs five times a day. I started noticing the correlation between those ups and downs and my monthly cycle, my diet, how much sleep I was getting, what substances I was taking and who I was associated with. I still use this tool when I go through the occasional down day just to check in if it might be because of one of these factors, or something deeper I need to look into.
Diet: When my living circumstances changed and it was my job to prepare healthy meals, the lifting of my mood changed dramatically almost overnight so I became hyper aware of my food and liquid intake.
Moving: In my darkest times I would spend 20 hours a day in bed. I had to force myself into the shower but then I would spend 20 hours alternating between bed and couch. What I noticed was that even though I was still not functioning, just the act of moving from one room to the other would often divert my attention from the constant cycle of doom.
Higher power: I knew I couldn’t afford to reject anything that might be helpful so I allowed myself to delve into spirituality. After an exceptionally moving experience one Easter, I hesitantly and skeptically asked ‘this God thing’ into my life with such profound results that I never doubted again. I went on to investigate (and reject) many different religions and just settled on the concept of God as the perfect aspect of my Self. This was probably the biggest turning point in my recovery. I’m not religious but I found that having a positive, all loving and compassionate external entity to believe in when I had nothing internal to pin my hopes on was transformative to say the least.
For ten years I was essentially in a constant one person, two-minded battle that I fought with words and images every single day. I knew I was extremely narcissistic but I was able to accept it because I needed to spend every second thinking about my Self in order just to survive.
I eventually understood that the manic episodes were just me trying to fit everything I could into the brief moments I felt normal. I would contact friends and family, apply for jobs, submit proposals, spend money I didn’t have, make massive changes to my surroundings and appearance and party with a franticness that knew it had a limited time span before the cave beckoned again.
I learnt that everything was relative to each individual’s frames of reference which helped me accept my appearance, background and skills (or lack of) as unique to me.
After I moved away from my home town for a fresh start, I had to ring my doctor back home to find out my blood type. When they admitted they’d lost my records, I suddenly saw my life as a crisp white piece of blank paper on a clipboard and it was up to me what got recorded on it from here on in.
As the depression faded away, so did every one of the other addictions. And I say ‘other addictions’ because, on hindsight, I realised that depression, for me, was an addiction to negative thinking. Once I broke that cycle, I eventually became free and today I’m a sickeningly happy and content 50 year old who wouldn’t change anything about my past because it gives me empathy and a visceral understanding of what others are going through."
I've moved from the easiness of living in a caravan behind my parents in my hometown of New Plymouth, and coasting on the savings from my last two film jobs, to an exquisite but expensive room in Auckland with a borrowed car and, I've realised, fast running out borrowed time till my savings vanish.
Even though I have a longer term film contract starting here in January, I know I need to find some inbetween work so I've been applying for anything that interests me. 3 temping agencies, a talent agency and a modeling agency.
But here's the thing...
After the initial high of adapting and settling in to a rampantly fascinating new environment, I came down.
Only the talent agency got back to me, I had an interview with them, then I chickened out of going any further.
I could feel my confidence retreating. Not wanting to go out and blaming the weather. Not wanting to chase up the applications and blaming inexperience. The only thing it's wanted to do is cut all my hair off, blaming boredom and restlessness.
I've been watching and listening to all the right people - Gabrielle Bernstein, Brene Brown etc and keeping up with exercise but feeling stuck. Here I am again. Busy every day doing nothing.
Then today I had one of those 'nothing fits or looks right' mornings.
I've been blessed with a filter that can only see the good in my body, no matter how many excess ripples or rolls but even I had to acknowledge that no agency would hire me if I didn't tone up a bit.
I'm going soft.
I am also, however, blessed with the ability to keep plugging on until I do feel right. Until I do get a breakthrough. Even if it's just small and personal.
So after my fifth outfit change, in desperation to break out the confines of my wardrobes stifling box, I went to change my flat practical shoes for the outrageous stiletto boots.
Two things happened.
First I saw that I now had calluses on the balls of my feet from last week when I wore my next highest boots to the interview with the talent agency. I'd developed crippling blisters so that it was either hobble or clench my teeth while walking home. And I could not bring myself to hobble!
Next, I was actually able to walk in the stilettos!
This won't sound like much to you (and probably don't look that high either) but I've been buying cheap stiletto's for years just to wear around home and practise, determined to one day walk effortlessly on the pinpoint heels. And after 20 years, today was the day! It was magic. Like when you learn to drive or type and suddenly your brain switches off and lets muscle memory do its thing.
So what my feet taught me was that, despite seeing myself as soft, I do have the ability to do serious work, to grit my teeth through the inevitable pain and that, in fact, without that pain, I wouldn't get the calluses I needed to toughen me up and carry me to the next level. And, yet again, to have faith. To switch my brain off and let my body take over. It knows what's expected of it. It will perform when it's required but it will never get the chance if my brain keeps micro-managing every potential opportunity.
As always, I'm not sure what new doors these breakthroughs will open but I'm now ready to knock on a few more to find out....
When on the hunt for Jonah from Tonga, I signed up for Netflix and after binge watching Jonah, Okja, Minimalism and Please Like Me, I may even keep the subscription going after the first free month. So far, it's been really worth it.
The first episode of Please Like Me is a struggle. The main character (and writer) is Josh Thomas and his awkwardness is a bit cringey to start with but right from the start you can see the brilliant acting, strong story lines, unexpected twists and gritty conversations.
That the majority of these conversations and twists are around having mental health issues and being gay (not necessarily related in this show btw), is brave enough but they're handled exceptionally well and anyone struggling with either of these issues would find this show both stimulating and refreshing in it's head-on-ness.
There's no meanness. There's no good versus evil. Everyone is just trying to get on with theirs and others dysfunctions with self awareness and humour.
Most of all, however, it's wracked with raw honesty.
If humans could learn to be honest without being mean, and learn how to take this honesty without offense, they would develop more meaningful relationships, be more courageous and not be so afraid to love.
I was shocked to see it was 3:30am when the binge spell was momentarily broken by a full bladder and also thrilled that there are two more seasons to watch and talk of more...
It's sad that people are so racist, all they can see and react to is the brown face/Tongan aspect of Jonah from Tonga.
That is judgement at its most base. Judging something from it's external appearance without giving it a chance.
Yes, Jonah is painful to watch because he's clearly troubled but he isn't troubled because he's Tongan, he's troubled because he's an adolescent.
Chris Lilley's writing is exceptional in the way he sets up relationships, showing how complications and misunderstandings arise, especially with Jonah's naivete.
But he also shows the compassion and empathy of those who Jonah most antagonises.
It's a shame the majority of those reacting can't see that this series, as with Summer Heights High, gives adults and young teens an opportunity to view the complexities of the adolescent transition.
There are strong story lines around the characters who don't give up on them and the resulting trust and respect the young ones develop with them (reference when the boys sing the traditional Tongan song for someone who is leaving, to their favourite teacher)
This is what should be taken away from both series.
To see the children, not their behaviour and the ultimate outcome of resilience.
It's such a shame that the Maori TV Board have taken away this opportunity, projecting their 'adult' views on a series, that could have a positive impact on the adolescent viewers.
These series could be a relevant resource to use in class to draw out children experiencing difficulties. Pointing out Jonah's behaviour, why the adults react the way they do, then how they could do things differently.
Yes, I'm a sickeningly optimistic idealist and I'm hoping, for the kids sake, others are too...
Pimp My Attitude
This is where I think out loud as I transform my appearance, thought processes and most of all, attitude - no matter how unpretty.