Because this period of sharing started with a list...
What was helpful
What surprised me most
What I'm looking forward to most
What I would do next time
And why did I stay in my expensive apartment?
The most practical reasons first...
It took me a year to find this beautiful, earthy 'loft' and when I moved in, I was debt free and earning more than enough to cover the rent. I hadn't had my possessions around me for a few years so I also felt safe and secure with warmth, depth and history being reflected back at me everywhere I turned. I never had one doubt that this was just a phase and knew I would have deeply regretted giving in to a temporary money shortage as a reason for moving out. I'm aware that my actions send a message to my subconscious of what I really believe and even though I've been poor this past year, I never even considered that my situation wouldn't improve.
Also - I picked up pretty quickly that it was to be my work place - that it was to take me to a new experiential level of compassion. I've only told you about the external aspects of what I've been going through but I've been doing a lifetime of essential internal spring cleaning and ultimately, this has been the most valuable outcome of this whole experience. I'll always think of this time as Spiritual Bootcamp and be forever grateful I was given the opportunity to go through it and in such conspiring and supportive surroundings.
I've got a suspicion this past year has had a profound effect on my future...
I never used to get that term, but I do now...
With an unpredictable pantry, every few months when I do get a treat like chippies, the flavour and texture are so intensified that in the name of making them last as long as I can, I only put a few in my mouth, chew slowly, locate which part of the tongue they're stimulating then breath in the flavours as I swallow. And in an ongoing mission to control eating like I might never get a chance again, this has also been a perfect teacher of discipline. Because I don't know when I'm going to get more and because I just so want to appreciate every mouthful, as soon as the flavour becomes less intense, I put them away till next time.
I haven't made bread for at least 20 years so, in an honest attempt at a more predictable pantry, I gave it a go tonight.
I printed out some recipes, wrangled the Close Enough ingredients and got kneading.
I soon realised it was my kind of Sunday night.
I had a funny-enough movie on that I could watch easily from the kitchen and the oven was on behind me so I was warm, entertained and creating.
Because everyone on the website where I got the recipe from seems to share their 'loafies', when mine came out of the oven, I automatically went to get my camera. It was when I was taking these photo's that I suddenly thought "Ohhhh right - food porn - now I get it!" then to distract my mind from the inevitable phrase for said photo's that could stick in all the worst ways, I started looking around for the bread knife.
I first read the term Mindful Cooking in Dan Millman's - Way of the Peaceful Warrior and it was the only miracle I could come up with as to why those loaves looked so perfect to me. In fact (this is where it gets weird), I was so fond of them that, at first, I came over all mothery and found it hard to make the first incision.
They were so fresh and warm and...co-joined.
If you had to tenderly pull apart their little bodies, you would have had trouble slicing them open too.
This first cut was the creepiest but once I lathered butter on the slice and tasted it, with eyes rolling back in my head, I tuned out the noises I was making and went into a zone. I only have maybe one vague memory of hearing myself demand more cake, but only zoned back in reluctantly when I was into the fourth cut and a voice said "OK, E - remember the discipline thing?" and it was right. Not only had the flavour diminshed, my tongue had started focusing on the sugar and we all know that slope never gets any less slippery.
I didn't need to be warned twice. I knew exactly what I had to do...
Thursday is always D Day for the elusive $90 for my rent.
I don't stress about it but I can never relax until I know I have it.
My generous dear friend Shelley has been putting $15 in my account for the past month. She intends it for food of course but this week she gave me $25 so $5 went toward my weekly phone top up and $20 toward my rent, which meant only finding $70.
This week, I just couldn't ask my Father again. In fact, I couldn't ask any of my nearests and dearests because they've all been so giving so, in desperation, I made a sign, saved it as 'Risk#1' pulled out my last few business cards, layered myself with every warm thing I could then set off to go beg.
The decision where to go was easy.
Having a rampant imagination and knowing that I look far from poor, the thought of becoming the next "Look At This Loser" Youtube sensation (even if what I was wearing could be loosely spun as Homeless Couture) made me feel nauseous so anywhere near the swarm of commuters rushing home was not where I wanted to be!
The waterfront has always been my place of peace and grounding so it felt like the only place safe enough to be that vulnerable.
As I walked along I said to myself "Just do it for 8 minutes (steps) this time then next time you might be able to get to 15". I wasn't sure where to stop and I hadn't figured in how quickly it gets dark and there weren't as many people as I expected so I was fast losing the minutiae of confidence I had.
The Hikitea is a small ship slash floating crane that does maritime work around the ports of Wellington. It's always docked on the corner by Te Papa and I'm quite fond of it because my brother used to work on it so I gave myself till the Hikitea to make up my mind. I then remembered that my brother was now home from his rig job in Oman and wondered if he might be able to lend me $70. I remember saying to myself "I wonder if Paul could save me?" (from begging). He's always been outrageously generous to me but I stopped asking for any form of help the minute he met his now wife and became a family man. But I also knew he'd be horrified if he found out I was about to beg so I walked past the Hikitea, sat on one of the many seats and called him.
He answered and straight away I got the sense he was really tired. We chatted for ages (for us) but in the end, I just couldn't do it. After saying I love yous and goodbyes, and it now being too dark for anyone to read my sign from a distance, I rang my Dad and with shaky voice, asked if I could borrow $70 this week. Of course he said yes.
With relief but still feeling vulnerable, I gathered some stones then put them around the edge of the sign which I left on the seat where I'd been sitting and after putting the few business cards on top I walked away.
I've always given what I can and engaged with Street Brokers but now I had a new appreciation for just how hard it was to even be there. Small things like do you stand or sit? Do you look people in the eye as they walk past, possibly making them uncomfortable or is that the only way they'll feel compelled to give? What if one stops to talk to you? How do you explain your situation? What if one was to offer you a job?! And the most awkward scenario - what if someone recognises you? Not to mention being cold and hungry, which I'd now become. Even though I barely scratched the surface, I was suddenly really thankful that I'd been through this experience and somehow felt like a better person for it.
The next day I had just got up when I got a call from my gorgeous colleague and friend Adrianne to see if she could put me forward for an accounts role in a film.
Suddenly I came over all deja vu.
I'd been through this situation before.
I'd gone right up to the cliff edge of desperation then, in a moment of clarity, stepped back from it only to be rewarded soon after. It's almost like forcing the Universes hand.
And you know how I say "When it's right, it just gets righter!"
When I got more information later in the morning, I saw that the accountant was a guy I'd worked with briefly on The Hobbit and we really liked each other and he said as much to Adrianne.
I'm not sure that my future's looking bright enough to take off my sunglasses just yet, but this is a new piece of information that will make asking my Father for $90 next week slightly less painful.
Years ago I was working amongst the shipping area of the waterfront. To get to the building I would have to walk along a long dreary stretch of concrete that felt like a never ending trail of asphalt so I made up a game. I would see how many steps I could take with my eyes closed. Have you ever tried that? It. Is. Freaky!
The most I could ever go was 8 steps but after I'd moved on from that job, I continued the experiment and 15 steps had been the farthest I could go.
This last weekend was sunny and it would have been immoral of me not to go out into it so I headed out for a walk along the waterfront. As I got closer to the train station I decided instead to go up some steps I'd never explored that I knew lead to the Stadium. At the top were wide, empty pastures of concrete concourse and you know where I'm going with this right?
15. Easy peasy.
20. Was getting a bit nervous but still felt like a huge achievement.
Then I got to the widest part of the concourse and started getting a bit clever and working with my brain. With my eyes open, I took 10 steps then looked back how far that was. I went back to the start again then looked ahead of me. I was then able to calculate that the nearest obstacle in any direction was at least 40 steps away - so even if I went wildly off course, I still had 40 paces before I needed to open my eyes but there was room to go 300 or more.
I can only imagine how this process might have looked.
I walked back to the very beginning, did some side steps to get dead centre, hesitated as I took a deep breath then closed my eyes and set off walking.
I only got to 20 steps before screaming to a halt because a shadow crossed my eyes and it gave me a fright.
I went back to the start again, factored in all the shadows and when to expect them and set off again.
Once I got to 25-30, my minds eye got all matrixy and was erecting fences all around me but I kept reassuring myself that I knew there were no obstacles and to keep going.
I ended up walking a whole 50 paces with my eyes closed yet it was the surreal aspect of pushing through the images my mind was creating that overshadowed the achievement and became my new favourite metaphor for the barriers our mind creates for us.
I kept on with my stroll and came down on the waterfront side of the motorway - coincidentally to the first piece of asphalt where this all started. I wandered around the buildings taking images then went back the way I'd come. I needed to go to the bathroom and even though I wasn't far from home, I wasn't ready to end my walk so I looked around for how to get down to the railway station.
I could see ramps going down to the platforms but the gates at the top of these ramps said Access Closed. After looking around me and feeling a bit mischievous and stealth like, I headed toward them anyway.
I had to stop myself from laughing out loud when I saw that the signs were actually on open gates! My mind had stopped at the signs and had already decided it wasn't allowed to go any further and it was only because I was in an adventurous mood to find a necessary bathroom that I kept going.
It felt like I was being taught a valuable lesson about what games the mind plays that it might see as fun but we don't even question. Now that I'm on to it, I'll be interested to see how this new realisation unfolds in the next while.
At the bottom of the ramp, I was taken by the Japanese-like beauty of the entry to the platform. It reminded me of the Torii I was so fond of that were at the entry to every temple. This is the sort of imagery that puts me on high alert for something significant but over the years I've learnt to take note but not make it into anything it isn't.
As I got closer to the quiet station, my mind, knowing it was being watched, decided to show me something that wasn't tricksy. There were no less than 6 trains, all lined up on standby with not a soul around them.
Then quietly it said "They're all waiting for you. You just have to decide what direction you want to go..."
You know how I'm this weirdo who's always hinting that she's an overachiever at Getting Over Addictions And Mental Illness? Well I just realised that over the past year I've been working on and overcome an addiction I didn't even know I had.
I've already bored you enough with wah-wah money stuff but what I spend it on when I get it has taken on whole new priorities.
Some of the changes, however, have been ironically so much better for the environment. I don't know if I'll ever be as efficient as Meliors who's carbon footprint is so small she could accidentally feed it to her beloved chickens if she wasn't careful but through necessity, I've changed some of my own eco awareness processes that have now become habit.
I feel this eerie sense of being in a period of calm before a (life-changing pleasant) storm so I wanted to share a few of them with you for two reasons...One: When money does start flowing again, I want you to know my intentions for it so there are no surprises and Two: I want to have this record to remind myself if I'm tempted by bright shiny sparkly NEW things. The biggest aspect of getting through an addiction is having faith that you're going to be alright and that you'll make the right decision when you're faced with temptation. This list will help me make the right decision when tempted...
I will always try to be as environmentally conscious as I can but my commitment is to either Recycling/Reusing or Converting.
The thought process in the shower when I had this realisation went like this...
I want to never have to worry about money...actually...apart from finding the $90 each week for balance of rent, I'm already not worried about money!
So the last point is that if and when I'm anyone worth anything, all I'll ask is that my expenses are paid for me (ie: I don't have to worry about them). Just between you and me, I've learnt a valuable lesson from this set up...the arrangements other people make for me give me a clue to how they perceive me and/or my value to them - which has nothing to do with money of course.
An example is my dear friend John Washington.
I met him at a Hari Krishna meal. He'd been sleeping outdoors so I offered for him to stay a few nights on my couch while my flatmate was away. He was the most respectful, considerate, humble house guest I'd ever had. He'd been in the reserves and patiently taught me how to roll my clothes up when I pack them to reduce creasing and space. He was so grateful to have a few nights indoors that I was surprised and thrilled when he insisted that he treat me to dinner in town. He stated a time that I thought meant a booking so we walked into town to get there early. As we got closer to the building I could see he was really proud to be with me. His chest was puffed up and he nodded and said hello to everyone as he opened the doors for me, lead me in then pulled out my chair. As we looked around, we saw that the other diners were already eating then John looked back at me and said with such pride "You don't get good meals like this at those other fancy restaurants now do you?!"
We were at the Soup Kitchen and he was right. I couldn't think of anywhere where we would have been able to get such delicious soup then sausages, mashed potatoes, peas and gravy for dinner.
As he gathered our empty plates to take them up to the kitchen, he leaned over and with glee in his eyes, whispered "And there's even dessert!"
The whole meal cost him $2 and I felt like I'd been treated like a princess.
My situation hasn't improved yet but because my need to show gratitude for your support overrides my need for money, here's my gift to you...it's probably only worth $2 but it feels like the most precious thing I have to give right now...
I know you might not get it and even if you do, it's not going to change your life but all I ask is that if you have a reaction to any of it - good, bad or ambivalent - please share it with me...
Over the years I'd struggled with accepting my body so, on top of depression, the OCD and my upbringing, I had multiple body dysmorphic addictions I had to work through too.
Sores. Scars. Small breasts. Puffy knees. No ankles. Crooked nose. Crooked teeth. (Fortunately the latter two lined up perfectly ;-)
They don't sound much to anyone else but they justified the Ugly label I'd been given and were all I could see when I looked at myself in the mirror. In fact, I saw and thought of myself as the Elephant Woman for many years.
I know that seems hard to imagine now but the plus side of not being classically attractive is that it seemed to serve as protection from predators as a child and my loss of innocence was able to happen in a natural way that I had control over.
When I finished at The Hobbit I was 65kgs but most of it was from access to an abundant supply of chocolate. At my thinnest during this most recent period of financial lack as well as appetite inhibiting medication, I was only 53kgs and my bones seemed to catch on doors and benches and furniture and people found it uncomfortable to hug me, often commenting on my boniness. I've always been slim - I put it down to being told to 'go and play outside' as kids and even when I do put on weight, being tall, it's always just blended in rather than protruding out like those with shorter frames experience. But I was surprised to find that 53kgs was too slim. I wasn't comfortable at all and I'd lost my beloved butt. It was like a balloon that had been popped and I wrote "My butt is an inconsolable ice-cream sliding down the back of my legs". When I was growing up dealing with the Ugly stick, I'd always said to myself 'Oh well - at least I have my butt!' and I admit that it's recent deflation did take some of my mojo with it.
With the delicious and sustaining food that Meliors and Julie have been feeding me, I went up to just under 60kgs and guess what?! I liked it. I love having a (relative to me) fuller figure. When I look in the mirror, I don't see the fullness of my facial features, the pouff of my stomach, my thicker thighs or the rounding of my hips. Instead all I see is the femininity of my upper body (just like the differences in the images above), and I got my butt back! Even when I'm walking, I love feeling the substance of my thighs and I suspect the padding is helping my arm feel better too. What's most reassuring is that the food I've been fed is mostly organic and super wholesome so, if this is how my body is reacting, why would I see it as a problem to be managed?
For the first time in my life I feel feminine. Not in a BFFs-painting-each-others-nails way but in a rubinesque-pioneer-woman way. Because of my fortunate metabolism I'll never be overweight and I feel deeply for those who struggle with any form of weight issues (be it over or under) but I'm just so happy to be free of the burden of feeling like I have to be any other way but the way I am on any given day.
Side note: As I hit publish, a thought crossed my mind...how much of this newfound appreciation of my filled out body is due to having no influence from the media? I've been social media, Google and tabloid free for over six months now and I'd be curious to know if that's having a subconscious effect?
One of the many skills that I learnt from watching my Mother is to not speak when you have nothing to say. We were two females in amongst a male dominated community. We were happy to let the menfolk do their thing because we were able to get on with ours. We were quite capable of looking after ourselves and our needs, so the occasional time either of us would say we needed something to be bought, moved or cleaned up, it was done. Because the menfolk knew that if we could do it, we would have, they also knew that if we were asking, it would be because we couldn't.
There was never any nagging, fuss or arguments.
When I first started writing my way out of the mess that I felt taken hostage by, I didn't think anyone but me would actually be reading it. I certainly never imagined that you'd check back every few days. Most of the time I know that I'm worthy and that people care about me and because I care about you, I should have prepared you that I'll only write when I've got something to say.
I'm also a NOW girl.
Whoever's in front of me gets all of my attention.
This week I've been privileged to give all of my attention (and words) to Julie so I didn't want to write because I didn't want to miss one second with her. And because it was such a profound week, it's also impossible to put into words and words I never want to feel I have to force. As I've said before, Brand E is Bullet Point One about integrity and I never want to write words that don't mean anything to me because it would be an insult to your interest and/or caring. It would become like nagging where you would eventually switch off.
So maybe check back once a fortnight, or even each month.
If I've been productive you'll get a pleasant surprise.
If I haven't, you can be sure I'm immersed in my own pleasant surprise and I'll probably share the high/lowlights with you when I can...
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.