About Me

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I started this blog as I entered my 40th year, and now firmly in my 40s, I continue to learn so much about life. I'm learning that life rarely goes according to plan and that there's something new to learn every single day, be it a subtle nudge or a smack in the face.... This is my blog about muddling through my 40s-working hard, writing a book, being an ammateur photographer, trying to exercise and eat well, endeavouring to be the world's best aunt, as well as having fun and laughing out loud every single day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#82 The Psychology of It

As you might have noticed, I've been away from this blog for quite a while. The truth is, I needed a new challenge and a different way to write.

What I created is The Psychology of It, my new website bringing the human back to the science of psychology.

Why not visit me over there? I'd love to have you.

Monday, October 19, 2015

#81 Cool Running

In 2005, Kylie Minogue was forced to cancel her Showgirl tour when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I could never understand why she seemed to rush back to work and finish her tour when her body and mind had been through something as gruelling as cancer treatment - surely she had enough money, right?

I attended one of her first concerts after her comeback and she struggled. She took longer breaks between songs. She had an intermission. And she continually drank some murky dark green concoction from a drink bottle. I just couldn't understand why she would do that to herself, until someone loaned me a copy of her White Diamond documentary.

In it, she spoke about the psychological importance of "finishing what I started." And then I understood.

In October 2009, I began training for my first marathon. I found the most divine running coach whose name is Alan McCoskey. Al would come and knock on my door early on Saturday mornings and he taught me to run. By January I was running 10km and by March, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Running stopped for a while and even when I was able to run again,  was so deconditioned that it literally took years before I could run 10kms again.

This year marked my 5th year of being cancer free and after years of being anxiety ridden about whether or not my cancer would ever return, I reached a wonderful place of calm. Cancer is in my past. I don't worry about it coming back anymore. I am well. I am strong.

And just like Kylie, I needed to prove that to myself once and for all, by finishing what I started - a marathon (well, a half-marathon - come on, I am 43!). Because I was well and healthy before I got sick, I felt as though I needed to be able to physically do something to prove that I am at least as well as I was back then. I needed to run.

I have been doing shorter runs for a couple of years now, with periods of injury and laziness. I've slowly built up my fitness and endurance (not my speed!) and this October (yesterday in fact), I achieved my goal by running my first half marathon in Melbourne. And it was nothing short of wonderful.

The conditions were perfect - still and calm - we ran up St Kilda Road through tree lined streets with only the sound of the occasional voice and cheers, and the pounding of 11,500 sets of feet. As we made our way around Albert Park Lake, I caught myself thinking twice (once at 4km and the other at 14km) that my mind was clear. I wasn't thinking. I was being. And it was liberating.

I loved every second of the first 19km and I hated the last 2km - I'd hit a bit of a wall because I didn't use my last gel pack because my tummy was a bit upset and I didn't want to risk it. I visualised lollies everywhere and was craving sugar like you wouldn't believe.

When we ran into the MCG, I took the time to look around and drink it in - I was running on the MCG! But as I got to the finish line, I didn't hear my friends cheering sadly, as I was too focussed on looking for the fruit stand beyond the finish line!

Was I in pain? Sure thing, but nothing like I'd anticipated. Am I stiff and sore today? Only a little. Was it worth it and will I do another one? Oh yeah! I cannot wait and am already planning on a little run this week.

Running frees me. And I plan to do it for as long as I can. Another bucket list item ticked off! What's your next goal?

Here are some photos from my run including some supportive notes from some wonderful runners and friends.

From the most mindful man I know - Mark!

From my fabulous friend and singing running buddy - Mel
Preparing the night before the big race

Me at about the 19km mark with fabulous Melbourne in the background

Running in the MCG right before the finish line - I'm the one at the back
The ever supportive Nat who flew down from Sydney to run and cheer me on

Proof - slow and steady finishes the race!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

#80 Spirituality

We are three weeks into our volunteer training for Hospice in the Home and our last lesson was an enlightening, warm and comforting session on spirituality.

I was raised in a non-practicing Catholic family, next door to my Godmother Bernie, who took it upon herself to enlighten me/us (my sister too sometimes) to the traditions of Catholic mass on a Saturday night or Sunday morning, and my favourite, Christmas Eve. Despite her best efforts though, I think I decided very early on that I wasn't religious.

As I've gotten older however, my spirituality has grown and in fact, I find myself quite interested in the different religions with a distant desire to one day learn more about them all. As a part of my post-grad studies I even compared the impact of religion versus existential spirituality on the psychological adjustment to living with cancer. I think it was then that I learnt a definition of spirituality that sat well with me and that opened my mind and my life to the concept that the guilt I felt at not believing in God, could indeed be substituted by my belief in whatever I found meaningful and purposeful in my life.

That's why I enjoyed our lesson so much this week. Our instructor, a clinical pastoral care worker named Anne, helped us tease apart our thoughts about Religion Vs Faith Vs Spirituality. The differences in vocabulary that we chose for each category astounded me - words such as war and hatred were listed under 'Religion', while 'Spirituality' conjured only words like peace and calm.

We talked about the end of life, where people choose to die, who they choose to be with when they die, what brings them peace at the end and so much more.

Anne spoke of the ways she has helped people feel less scared at the end, and less alone. Comforted until after the very last breath.

I knew in part that I wanted to undertake this training in order to address my own fears of dying and I can honestly say, that in that room on Wednesday night, after that conversation, with every person in that room, I didn't feel a trace of fear at all.

I can't wait to see how I feel once the training is complete. I feel like it's already achieved my goal.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

#79 Dear Rocky - The Martian

Dear Rocky,

From the moment I saw the preview of The Martian I was engrossed and counted down the days till it came to our cinema. While the rest of our nation watched the AFL Football Grand Final last Saturday, my Dad and I went to see Matt Damon in The Martian.

How ironic that a film with that title is actually a very human film. Human spirit, human connection, human survival instinct, human humour, human nature. The list goes on.

The first observation I made was during the opening scenes of just how at home the astronauts appeared on Mars. I think this speaks to our adaptability, our adjustability as humans, and of course, our evolutionary processes. Granted, they weren't living up there without oxygen, but we could easily see the steps human beings were taking to ultimately cultivate life on another planet - once we completely destroy this one...

Next, Mark (played by Matt Damian = see photo above = HOT!) regains consciousness after being knocked out during a storm and ABANDONED by his crew mates (aka second family). He is about to run out of oxygen and has to do some very quick thinking to get himself to safety. Here we already see his scientific mind at work. Faced with his mortality - and what a harsh way to go! - Mark comes out fighting.

By this stage, we as an audience, have already asked ourselves 67 times, "what would I do if I was left on Mars all alone?"

Mark begins his video recordings. I guess in part this greatly reduces the sense of isolation - talking to someone who may or may not be listening. And here is where Mark's scientific brain really kicks in as he evaluated his very real (except it's a movie) situation and decides to "science the shit out of it". He truly is brilliant. I mean he grows potatoes after creating water and gives himself all sorts of humorous accolades along the way.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA discover Mark is still alive! Doh! And we see the struggle between the desire to cover up a big fat mistake or to create a rescue plan. So much psychology at play - I was loving it!

Finally, thanks to all the genius brains being able to read each other's intentions from different planets, communication is made and Mark knows there is at least a little hope he'll be getting off this planet. His first question is about his crew - how are they now that they know he is alive - as well as reassuring them that it wasn't their fault.

But, the big bad NASA people haven't actually told them yet.


They are returning to Earth on their 19 month long road trip and no-one as let them know their mate is actually alive?

Luckily we have one emotionally intelligent character back on Earth who slips the information into a secret email! And we are on! The crew are planning their return to save their friend (who they must feel incredibly guilty about abandoning!).

There's a whole heap of cool human connection stuff that goes on in here, but this is already the longest blog post I've ever written so I'm going to cut to the important bits.

I loved that Mark would go out on his expeditions every day and still find time to take a mindful moment and sit on the top of a hill and breathe in the vista Mars afforded him "just because I can". I love that!

I adored how his spirit lifted when he was back in touch with his family (the crew), not to mention the lengths they went to, to come back and rescue him. I personally have a very irrational fear of being left in space, floating endlessly until my death, so there were times in this movie where I almost had to leave because of the suspense of those scenes. It was so well done.

This film makes me love science again and I wonder how many kids it will inspire to choose science as a career path. Maybe I could delve into some more study to be able to write some book about space! Ha! Who'd have ever thought I'd do that.

Anyway Rocky, I really loved this film. I'm still thinking about it a week later.

I can't wait to read your review. I want to know where they filmed it!!


You can read Rocky's review here!

Monday, September 28, 2015

#78 Hospice In The Home

Did you know that on average, in Australia, only 15% are able to die at home? Granted, many people need medical assistance and are required to attend a hospital, but as I've recently learned, dying is not a medical issue - it's a natural process that isn't spoken about nearly enough. Is that why we fear it so much?

Dying in hospital has large financial implications, a burden which can be removed by respecting the wishes of those who choose to die in the comfort of their own home.

I am still haunted by memories of my Nana's last weeks in hospital, fearing that at the age of 92 she would be forced to move from living in her own home and placed in a nursing home. She was dying, but no-one said that. No-one told us she would never go home again and we argued with her about her need to stay in hospital. No-one listened to her. They/we all knew better. She died alone one early morning around 4am in her hospital bed. I know she would have been cold.

Of all my regrets, I wish I'd stayed with her instead of saying goodbye to fly 1800km away. I wish I'd advocated harder for her and took her home one more time. I wish we'd let her go home, where she wouldn't have died alone.

I guess I am just realising as I'm typing this that my latest project is very much about righting that wrong.

Last week I started an 8 week training course to volunteer for Hospice in the Home, a new not-for-profit organisation aiming to assist patients and their families to have the choice to die at home when the time comes.

I'm doing this in a way to give back to my community, but if I'm honest, I'm also doing it to learn more about death and dying.

If you want to read more about this amazing organisation, follow this link.

Friday, September 25, 2015

#77 Reading... and Wuthering Heights

I don't think it's a coincidence that every time I type 'Wuthering' it comes out as 'Withering'.

Let me begin at the beginning...

Children become readers by growing up around readers. Children learn to love reading after they read the first book that introduces them to the magic that is their imagination.

Children who love to read grow into adults who love to read.

I used to love to read in that way where you couldn't wait to finish work/run/dinner-at-friends' just to be able to get back to your book. I loved reading so much that I'd think and even talk about the characters even when the book was nowhere in sight. I could devour 3 books a week and never had a pile waiting - they didn't last that long once I got my hands on them.

But, one day, I stopped reading. And I've missed it. It's been literally years since I've read that way. The last book I read was I am Malala. It took me seven countries and nine months to finish it. I initially blamed my lack of interest in reading on the fact that I was writing. For some reason, I couldn't seem to do both. But I haven't written for most of this year, so that couldn't be it. I think I just got lazy.

It became too easy to be brain dead in front of the television, or to lose literal hours on social media. Brain numbing - brain dead. I don't want to do that anymore. I used to have an expansive vocabulary. I used to read in two languages for goodness sake! Until this week, I was lucky to be able to read two pages in a row and hold my concentration.

So I decided this week that I would fall in love with reading again. I went on an excursion to Collins Books and I bought a handful of books. I promised myself no television and no social media - just reading - and I HAVE LOVED IT.

I began by reading some Young Adult (YA) fiction - Me & Earl & the Dying Girl. I have to tell you, I hope the movie is better! Didn't matter though, because I was still motivated to read it and spent every spare moment I could until I finished it in two days.

Simultaneously, I listened to the audiobook version of Wuthering Heights just in case I really couldn't read anymore....

I also have always wanted to read the Classics. I thought this was one of them. I thought it was a love story.

My very brief summary of Wuthering Heights is this:

A narcissist with antisocial personality disorder torments two generations of the same inbred family. The End.

In my opinion, Emily Bronte grossly overuses the words ejaculate and erect. What an ugly tale about ugly people. I don't think I can bring myself to listen to Pride and Prejudice now for fear of what it might reveal.

Book-wise, I'm settling in to read The Umbrian Supper Club by Marlena De Blasi now. After just visiting Umbria, I'm excited for the memories it might evoke.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

#76 Sometimes, when the planets align...

When I feel content, centred, happy, it's never a coincidence....

Garlic hanging in the sun in Tropea, Calabria
That it happens when I'm feeling connected to my family and friends....
Padlocks and blue, blue sea in Tropea, Calabria
 It happens when I'm taking photos...

Chillis - Tropea, Calabria

It happens when I'm exercising....

Herbs and spices, Civita di Bagnoregio, Umbria
It happens when I feel useful at work....

Umbria, Italia

It happens when I read....

Umbria, Italia
 It happens when I have great things to look forward to....
Umbrian Farmhouse, Italia
 It happens when I feel on top of things like work and the housework....

The Chapel at Mel & Ant's - Acqualoreto, Umbria
It happens when I watch movies....
In the garden at Mel & Ant's, Acqualoreto, Umbria
It happens when I travel....

It happens when I feel part of something bigger than myself.

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