Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I need a holiday from the holidays



Is anybody else seriously over Christmas? I know its not a very positive way to start a post, but I seriously think I need a break from the holiday season. Or even better if I could actually ever take a holiday during the holiday season that would be awesome (even though everywhere would be over priced at this time of the year). I blame my job for my current mood.

After 12 years of working in retail Christmas really is a non event for me. Like all the other 'events' in the retail calendar it starts weeks, and in this case months, before the actual day. Christmas decorations have been for sale since September (yes September - don't know why you would need to rush out and buy a tree or box of bon bons that early, but in the event you do you can be rest assured you will be covered). Christmas trees have been on display since November and the Christmas chocolates have been for sale on the counters for about two weeks now (yes Christmas chocolate - there is a way to commercialise every possible thing during the holiday season). Carols have been playing since the end of October and on continuous repeat since November. Can you imagine how annoying they become when you hear them on repeat over and over and over for eight to ten hours a day five days a week  o.0

Argh I just need to escape.

I miss the days when I was younger and I looked forward to Christmas. I could not wait until the 1st December, not only to put up the tree and decorations, but mainly the Christmas lights. I absolutely loved Christmas lights and I still do - although I really cant fathom going out looking at lights after working all day. I used to draw sketches of our house covered in lights so that mum would know where to put them so it looked exactly the way I wanted it to. There was a whole bunch of us in the street who all used to decorate our houses with lights and each year the displays got bigger and better (much to mums disgust Im sure as she had the job of putting them up). We used to walk around the neighbourhood to look at all the lights on display and there was a real sense of excitement and community. I miss the magic and wonder of Christmas.



I'm hoping next year will finally be the year I get the magic back. The plan is I will no longer be working in retail so I wont be bombarded over and over with propaganda all day. I'm sure in shorter more spaced out spurts that Christmas time at the shops would be bearable. I want to get excited about putting up the tree and cover it with as many lights as possible. I want to actually send out christmas cards for the first time in ages. I want to watch the christmas carols on the tv. I want to co-ordinate my presents with ribbon and labels and bows and all the cute and pretty things. I want to have the big family get together with all the yummy food. Most of all I want to be able to sleep it all off the next day instead of working the craziest day of the year. I want to do Christmas my way - full of wonder, excitement, joy and magic.

How are you celebrating Christmas this year? 

Is it exciting or do you just want it to be over?

Toni x

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Friday, December 14, 2012

He is my happy ending

After I separated from my ex-husband I never thought that I would have a happy ending. My first attempt at marriage wasn't happy and was far from perfect. How was I ever going to find the perfect man or perfect relationship? I didn't even know what perfect was. All I knew was what I didn't want to do again.

I was horrified (ok horrified is a strong word, maybe really scared) that I would never find anyone again, let alone find someone who was perfect. Even though I felt this way I was also realistic and wasn't going to settle again just in order to have someone in my life. I would rather be alone than to be with someone who treats me badly (I still firmly believe this today). So, off I went on the journey of the rest of my life alone and happy to be that way. Not looking for anyone. I was on a journey of rediscovery, focusing on me and my loves and needs - for the first time in my life.

You know what they say.... you always find what you're looking for when you're not looking for it. We met totally by chance and there was some tiny niggling little part of my subconscious that made me decide to go there. To open myself up. To be vulnerable again. Still I had no expectations - I wasn't going to get high hopes and be let down, not after all the crap I had already been through. After a few weeks I came to the realisation that yes we were infact dating (I guess you can call it that?) or boyfriend and girlfriend even though that sounds so highschool. I really don't know what the correct term is for two people in their mid twenties who see each other four or five times a week, but don't go on official dates because its too awkward (and nerve-racking). Whatever it is it fit nicely into the "in a relationship" status on facebook which I finally succumbed to after about 6 or 7 weeks.

Sometime after that we moved in together then days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. Then after a while you forget how long its been, you forget everything that came before and you cant imagine life ever being anything other than what it is now. Its amazing how the mind can block out bad memories from the past and allow you to focus solely on the good happening right now. Its also amazing how despite having no clue what my perfect relationship would be, I managed to find it. I somewhat accidentally went from being happily single to happily in a relationship and now to happily engaged.

He is my happy ending, or rather my happy beginning (because I certainly don't want this to end). This is my perfect relationship even though he is not a completely perfect man. He has his drawbacks, like snoring and spending too much time playing play station. But, you know what, I wouldn't have it any other way because then he wouldn't be who he is. He is my T, my love, my everything, my future and my happiness (at least a big part of it).


This is what my happiness looks like


Our relationship is ever evolving and I think for the most part we are just making it up as we go along but that seems to be working fine for now. Being free of expectations and plans and living in the moment is working very well. Everyone has the opportunity to be happy again, no matter what has happened in the past. Happy endings (or beginnings, however you want to see it) really are incredible and so very special.


Toni xx

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Monday, November 26, 2012

The world is my oyster

Do you live life thinking that anything is possible? You can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do? Do you grab opportunities with both hands and believe or even know that you will succeed? Are you the glass half full or glass half empty type?

I am happy to say that I am now definitely a glass half full type. I am not wary of the future, but rather I embrace it. Life can only get better as time goes on. I didn't used to believe this, but time and time again over the past two years it has been proven right. I never thought I would be where I am today. Everything is ok, in fact better than ok. It is probably only a fraction short of perfect. I am where I should be and in five years time I will be where I should be then.

I thought the secret to this new found happiness I have was simply because of T. And it is to an extent. Who wouldn't be happy if they had found their perfect match? But, I think there are also other factors at play. Positive thinking has certainly got a lot to do with it. The opposite of you create what you fear - I think you can also create what you want (if you shut out the fear). It certainly has worked for me. I didn't even really do it on purpose, its more so that I stopped being afraid of what could go wrong and embraced all the things that could go right. I used to think if I worried about the worst possible situation then I wouldn't be surprised when it happened. That I would be more equipt to deal with it. Now I realise why bother spending all that time and energy on something that might never happen. Its surprising how much extra time you have when your not worrying about the future and things that could go wrong.

Another big factor is living in the moment. The plans have gone out the window, I am no longer planing every single thing Im going to do down to the tiniest detail (except maybe what Im eating for dinner). Each day is a new opportunity to laugh, have fun and be happy. Every day is different, you will never get that day back. Each day we grow older a tiny bit at a time and you may not notice, but over time you might look back and wish you slowed down and lived in the present. After-all the past is already gone, the future hasn't happened yet, but the present is now. Now most definitely is a present and one that more people should enjoy.





So, with this in mind I make sure to do a few things every day. I always tell my babies (yes I mean the cats) that I love them everyday - weird I know. I tell T I love him everyday too, often numerous times. I always say good morning and good night (usually followed by the customary I love you). I soak up the sunshine when there is some. I sing along to the songs on the radio on the way to work. I look for small things that make me happy in the midst of the mundane everyday tasks of the day (if its a work day). I make time for friends. I remember to relax a little. Most of all I believe that everything will be fine (and if its not I believe I will have the strength to get through it). Anything is possible.


The world is my oyster (and I do love oysters!)



Do you live in the moment? Is your glass half full? I hope so.



Toni xx



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Monday, November 12, 2012

If only I could be a fairy princess again


There is nothing more magical and innocent than childhood. The time where anything is possible. Everything is good, because you have not yet learnt that there are 'bad' things. The world revolves around sleep, food, playtime, toys and cartoons (sounds very similar to how my cats live - minus the cartoons). You can be a princess, a unicorn, a ballerina or a fairy whenever you fancy (or a fireman or a policeman or whatever else boys want to be - I have no clue?). The world is full of whimsy, magic and imagination.

Imagine if we could carry this with us as we grow older, or better yet stay in this place forever. If we didn't ever have to get jobs and work, but instead could sit and play with playdough and lego all day. Or live in a castle made of cardboard. Do you know how much fun that would be? I do. It would be awesome.

The sad part about growing up is not losing our toys. I think the sad part is we lose our innocence and worse still we somehow along the way lose our imagination. Maybe we don't completely lose it, but we don't use it as often as we used to. Instead of spending many waking hours dreaming up a world where we are travelling across the ocean escaping pirates, our imaginary world is moved to the few hours when we are asleep. I for one only ever remember small parts of my dreams now and they have been replaced with much more practical scenarios rather than fantasy. I miss the fantasy. The world where everything is possible and there are no limitations.

One of the great things about being an Aunty and being at the age where all my friends are having kids is that you get to witness the fantasy land again. You can even be a part of it. I spent hours today hanging out (alright playing) with a 2 year old. This involved fairy wings, princess shoes (on her not me, that would just be weird), a wand, a doll house, a play kitchen, painting, books and a vegie garden. No wonder why kids need naps when they can fit that much into a few short hours. We read stories, had a ballerina show, drew lots of pictures and had a tea party. It was so much fun. Is it sad that I had fun?

I don't think our inner child ever goes away, it just gets suppressed. Mine is definitely still there. I watched Toy Story 3 the other night (by accident because it just came on the channel I was already watching) and I enjoyed it. I didn't make a conscious decision to watch it, but nonetheless I found myself sitting there watching for 2 hours. I was captivated by the fantasy and I think deep down we all believed our toys could actually talk.

Sometimes I think we need to escape to the imaginary world and find the joy in the simple, fun things again to remember what it used to be like when life was uncomplicated and magical.


Toni x

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

I am no longer the victim


I spent many years assuming the victim role in life. I didn't stand out and say poor me poor me feel sorry for me. Instead, I very quietly and internally decided that my place in life was to be the victim. The one who others got to treat badly for no reason. The one who was ignored, excluded, unloved and abused simply because others felt as though they had the right to do it. I did not assume this persona in order to get attention or stand out, but rather to make sense of why things were happening to me. The only reason I could come up with was that I was put on this earth to be treated like dirt, because that's what I felt was happening to me over and over again from numerous people. So, at a very young age I decided that this must be the purpose to my life (because I couldn't see any other one, especially not a positive one) and so I went along with it.

My downward spiral started when dad died. Everything bad happened after that point, or at least it seems that way. It might just be that I don't remember anything bad from before that or that because it was such a huge point in my life that I trace everything back to that. Who knows? Firstly I lost my dad. I never really thought I blamed him for that, I always thought he was brave for finding a way out of his problems and that if it was too hard to deal with them then at least he had peace now. Weird right? But, I think internally I did feel like well maybe I wasn't good enough. Not that he didn't love me enough to stay, but maybe I wasn't good enough to be loved or worthy of a dad or a normal family and that's why he left. Kind of like how children of divorce will somehow always think its their fault, even though it has nothing to do with them. On top of this I then dealt with my mums breakdown and so I pushed my feelings aside to look after her and make sure she was ok. Internally feeling that I was again not good enough to get help or to have my feelings heard and justified. Like my grief was not as valid or appropriate as hers. I covered everything up so I wasn't a burden on everyone else and instead I took on the burden of everyone else's problems.

During my teenage years I felt so unloved. Completely ignored and invisible. I think she subconsciously lashed out at me because on the surface I was the strong one and I didn't appear to be affected? At least that's the only way I can reconcile the way she treated me. Being told your a selfish bitch by your own mother when you've done everything you can to protect her and make sure she is ok cuts very deep. I took this on board on a very deep emotional level. In high school there were times I tried to talk to people about my own problems and feelings and I was always shutdown, told my feelings didn't matter or made to feel selfish for trying to get attention. Once again I was supposedly selfish, so I quashed my feelings and decided they didn't matter. There was also bullying and abuse from other people during these years so I finally shutdown. That's what the universe and everyone I tried to reach out to seemed to want me to do so that's what I did.




I never let any of these things be known to the outside world because I was ashamed. Only a small handful of my friends even knew dad died let alone that he committed suicide and they certainly didn't know about what was happening at home, or that I was depressed. Internally I gave up though. I allowed all the bad things in my life define who I thought I was. I was worthless.

It's probably the reason why I got into my first marriage, but definitely the reason why I stayed. I was there to be treated like crap. I was used to it so when it happened it made sense. The emotional abuse just compounded my already self destructive thoughts. Instead of just telling myself that I deserved to be treated that way, I now had someone else actually telling me out loud that I was worthless, useless and generally a waste of space. I would make excuses for the way he treated me because I thought I deserved it and I genuinely thought that was the way my life was meant to be.

Of course there has always been this tiny little part of me that despite all this always thought that I deserved better. There would one day be a reason for me to be here. That one day I would have my own life that was about me and what I wanted and what made me happy. This little voice was what eventually saved me. One day after being told yet again how useless I was etc etc something clicked inside my brain and instead of thinking this is the way my life is going to be so just deal with it, I finally thought screw this there has got to be something more. A more meaningful way of living. A way to change my way of thinking and feel like I was worthy of a life and more than that, that I was actually worthy of living and experiencing life to the fullest, not just going through the motions.

I got to the point where I realised I can't change other people's behaviour and I don't have to be responsible for it either. I took back control of my own life and realised that I can be responsible for the direction my life takes. I don't need to be defined by all the bad things that have happened to me because they are in the past and the past is gone. I spent years wondering why I was treated that way by so many people and the only solution I could come up with was it was my fault and I deserved it. You know the saying you create what you believe? I think that's what I did for years because I believed I deserved to be treated badly. It just prolonged the pain and ruined my life. I have stopped wondering why I was treated like that now because I realise there is no point worrying about it anymore. It'll never change what has happened and there will never be a reason that makes it ok. I am choosing to move on with my life. I don't entirely forgive the people who have wronged me or forget what has happened, but I wont let it define my future. I allowed it to control me for too long, but now I am in control - and I like it.



....
You cant change your past, but you can change your future.
.... 

My future is going to be full of love and happiness because I deserve it. From time to time bad things will happen, but you know what - sometimes shit happens and then you get over it.

Toni x

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Being a tourist in my own country

I was lucky enough to travel overseas a fair bit when I was younger, however for some reason I have not travelled much around Australia. Kind of odd really considering we are one of the big tourist destinations (or so I'm told) and it is a lot easier to travel your own country rather than go overseas. I guess I have just been lazy. Last week me and T went to Sydney for a week. It wasn't such a huge deal for T as he lived there when he was younger, but for me it was the first time I had ever been there.

It is quite weird being a tourist in your own country. You don't want to look too touristy (I think I just made that word up) and yet you still want to visit all the tourist destinations. How do you achieve this? Don't walk around with a big bulky camera, thankgod for smart phones, and don't go on any organised tours. I think we managed to blend in quite well. It helped that T knew exactly where he was going. I could ramble on for ages about all the places we went, but I thought it would be easier and better if I just showed you.

SYDNEY HARBOUR

Without a doubt the most famous part of Sydney has to be the harbour, including the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It is definitely worth the visit.


Sydney harbour bridge at night
Harbour bridge at night

Sydney harbour bridge with Opera house backdrop
Harbour bridge with Opera House behind

Sun shining through Sydney harbour bridge
Going under the bridge on a ferry

Sydney opera house with city backdrop
Opera House with city behind

Sydney opera house
Opera House up close

CENTREPOINT TOWER

Probably one of the lesser known tourist attractions is Centrepoint tower, and that's probably because its technically called Sydney Tower. It's actually built as part of Sydney Westfield shopping centre in the middle of the city. T and I are both scared of heights so this was slightly scary, but I love getting good pics so I sucked it up. Afterall its only 309m high...


View of tower from below

View of the city from tower

TARONGA ZOO

One of the main attractions that I was excited to see was Taronga Zoo. I haven't been to a zoo in years and I absolutely love animals so I couldn't wait to get there. I have about 50-70 photos from the zoo, but these are some of the coolest animals.

I had a lizard similar size to this one come in my house one day through my cat flap. I was glad this one was in an enclosure.

You can see these in the suburbs in the wild, but never this close.

Koala

Meerkat - these little guys are so dam cute!
I so wanted to take one home with me.

On the way back home from the zoo we took a ferry ride from Taronga to Darling Harbour. While we were on Darling Harbour T proposed to me!! 

Most amazing day ever.

Could not wipe the smile off my face

BONDI BEACH

We did a day trip to Bondi because everybody always goes on and on about it. Personally I don't think it was that great. I am spoilt for choice in Queensland though with many different beaches so I'm probably just being snobby by saying that. I'm still glad we went though.


Panorama view of bondi

Relaxing at Bondi

It was a really relaxing trip even though we were busy doing things every day. I have never walked so much in such a short amount of time, but its a good thing as we needed to work off all the takeaway we were eating each day. Its been an adjustment having to cook food again and I don't even want to imagine how horrible it will be going back to work (thankfully I have another week before I have to do that).


Toni x

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Facing my fear (that I didn't even know I had)

This week I went on a holiday. Only problem was that it required me to fly and I haven't done that in 14 years. I was never scared of flying when I was younger and I did it quite a fair bit and always on long flights too (England, Singapore, Dubai etc) . Fast forward a few years and I have no idea what happened, but it appears I now freak out at the thought of flying. My main fear is what if I die? Obviously. Then, what if T dies and I survive? I personally think that would be worse than dying. Then, what if we crash and I'm lost in the bush by myself? What if we crash in the ocean? What if the plane catches on fire when we crash? And so on and so on. So, basically, I'm scared of crashing and dying. Two things that never really crossed my mind much when I travelled before.

The beauty of travelling as a child is that you are innocent and sheltered so you don't worry about the million and one things that can go wrong because you don't even know that they can go wrong. The problem with getting older and gaining all that wisdom is that you are aware and try as I might I simply can not remove it all from my head. I think 9/11 has had a big impact on my fear of flying. Last time I flew I had no knowledge that terrorists even existed, let alone the fact that they might try to take over a plane to fly it into something just to make a point. Its probably more safer flying now though with all the extra security measures in place to stop that from happening, but again my mind still replays the scenario over and over in my head. Another thing that has probably shaped my fear of crashing is the fact that I always watch air crash investigation shows (I know, stupid right?). I love the analytical side of it and how they piece together what went wrong, of course this does mean that with each episode I watch I learn yet another thing that could go wrong (and it then gets added to the subconscious scenario playing over and over in my head). Despite the fact that there is a 600 000 000:1 chance of dying in an air crash, my mind still assumes that I will be that one.



So with all this floating around in my head, off I went to fly. It was only a one and a half hour flight, but that's not the point. I was so nervous, but still never thought about not getting on the plane. Besides, after checking in my baggage there was no way I was not getting on the plane, my clothes were not going to Sydney without me. I also wasn't letting T go without me, so I had no choice really.

Taking off was scary and exciting. It was like going up on a roller coaster just before the big drop, but without the drop after the climb (at least you hope it happens that way). Its exciting knowing you're going to be going so fast and lift off the ground and yet also petrifying knowing that in order to fly there will no longer be any ground. Once I got over the stress of taking off and T regained feeling in his hand (after I deemed it was safe enough to release my grip) I actually enjoyed it. Climbing through the clouds is so amazing. I have mentioned before I am fascinated by clouds, so to actually be passing through them was so totally awe inspiring. If they were storm clouds it probably would have been a different story, but thankfully they weren't. We couldn't take photos while we were ascending  but once we levelled out I made T take some photos for me (he got the window seat by chance, which in all honesty was probably a good thing).

Its so peaceful looking down at the clouds



They're so fluffy and perfect


After the relatively calm part of the flight came the dreaded words "please fasten your seatbelts and prepare for landing". What goes up must come down. Again, I was wanting to land and petrified of it at the same time. I really really wanted to be back on land (especially after having to circle the airport while being delayed in air), but I figured if anything was going to go wrong this was probably the time it would happen. T lost feeling in his hand again, I nearly threw up (from looking out the window and then in the cabin back and forth about ten times during descent), but in the end everything went fine. In fact landing turned out to be less traumatic than taking off. Best part about landing was that I was now in Sydney and ready to enjoy my holidays (and it was a whole week before I would have to fly back again - yay). I did it. I did not let my fears stop me from living life. I faced them head on, even though I was scared the whole time.



As you have probably guessed by now, the fact that I'm writing this post means we also didn't crash on the way home. We are not dead (kudos to the pilot's for that). We also had an amazing time in Sydney and it was pretty eventful (more on that in a later post).

Sometimes its best to face your fears rather than letting them stop you from doing things. Once you get past them the rewards are very much worth it. I wouldn't say I am entirely over my fear of flying, but I have successfully chipped away part of it (I was much calmer on the way home and didn't strangle T's hand), which can only be a good thing.

Toni xx






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Thursday, October 25, 2012

What it feels like to be broken

I have been a bit quiet on here (or at least it seems to me that I have as I haven't been checking the stats everyday or drafting up new post ideas). There is a reason. I have been dealing with some news in my real life and its been taking over all my emotional energy and draining my desire to write about anything else. It has been all encompassing and yet I have been too scared to share it on here. I am starting to feel ok with it or at least accept it so I guess it is time I release the news into a public forum. More-so for myself so that I don't get buried under the weight my mind is putting on myself by going over and over and over it in my head. It seems appropriate and somewhat ironic that today is all about I heart my body and yet the whole reason for my emotional turmoil is because of my body, and the last thing I feel at the moment is love for it.

I was officially diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) recently. For those of you sitting at home wondering what the hell I'm talking about, you can read more about it here (so that I don't have to go through all the symptoms myself). It has been both a relief as such and a curse. It was not a shock, I have suspected it for years since I had fertility problems in the past. It is reassuring (in a strange, twisted way) to know that there is a reason why a lot of things have been and also haven't been happening for me. It is nice to know that I am not imagining or making up all of the symptoms I was experiencing. Everybody used to tell me to just relax when I was trying to get pregnant (FYI worst advice you can give someone who's ttc) and that it wasn't my fault. I started to think I was crazy. That there wasn't actually anything wrong and that I was just looking for excuses as to why nothing was happening. Then, when my marriage broke up everyone was consoling me with "it was all him it has nothing to do with you", "you will be able to have a baby it was just the stress of the relationship". As naive as it sounds I hoped that they were right, but on a subconscious level I knew it was me. I knew this pain would continue. And I was right, but not in a good way like where you want to go running back at people and throw "I told you so" in their faces.

I am having huge issues with my body right now. I have never really had a healthy positive relationship with my body thanks to years of low self esteem and then being told how crap I was by so many people. Then, when I had infertility issues my self loathing deepened. Now, its at a whole new level. I used to think that my body was against me by not letting me get pregnant. Like everybody else could just decide they wanted to get pregnant and their body would follow suit and do what it needed to do to reach the common goal. I have always felt like my body hated me and wanted to punish me, but deep down I knew that was crazy. Now I feel completely disconnected from my body. I feel like my brain and my soul are trapped inside this vessel that is doing everything in its power to work against me and against my dreams. I know that it could be a lot worse and that there are a lot worse diseases, conditions and injuries out there. I am thankful that I don't have anything worse but to me at this point in my life it is one of the worst things that could happen to me as a woman.

PCOS makes me feel really alone. Its not something people want to talk about and its not something that people can easily relate to. I think that I must have got it genetically (as I don't have the usual lifestyle factors) which makes it even harder as nobody else in my family, that I know of, has it. Nobody understands. It makes it even harder to sit here and wonder why me? Why did I have to be the one to get this? Why, when I always thought I was born to be a mother, was I essentially born with a syndrome that causes the exact opposite? It's not fair. But, it is what it is and I just have to deal with it. I have met some wonderful people online in support groups (and of course T is nothing short of amazingly supportive as usual) and without them I know I would be in a much darker place right now. I am so grateful for the relationships I have made with complete strangers and the fact that together we can help each other through this.


Thanks to Mel for this awesome banner

There is no cure. I will never be "normal" not that I ever feel like I have been. The good news is that I can fight it in order to hopefully have kids in the future. I fully intend on fighting it, and succeeding. That is the small light in a somewhat dark tunnel. I have hope that one day sometime in the future, however far away from now, that I will infact be a mother. I will have children. I will never beat this fully, but I will not let it beat me. It doesn't lessen the emotional pain that I am feeling now, but I know it will make me appreciate it much more when I do have children.

The part that scares me the most is the fact that my cysts could turn into cancer. I feel like there are these little time-bombs ticking away inside me and I never know when I'm going to piss one off and it will turn into cancer to get back at me. Before I just imagined I might have cysts, but now that I have seen them on a screen in front of me (and there are many) its hard to forget that they are there. It bothers me more-so because the same year my father died the lady two doors down (my friends mum) also died from cancer (from similar causes to PCOS). She was only young and she got very sick. I can reconcile the fact that my father died young because it was of his choosing, but the fact that she died so young, from cancer and she didn't have any choice in it never really sat well with me. Now it really scares me.

I am trying not to let myself go there though, because the thought is too scary. I am trying to imagine the future with me and T and everything that we ever wanted. I mean seriously I think by now I deserve a break. If ever there is a reason for me to live in the moment and not worry about the future this is it, so that is what I am going to try really hard to do.



Toni x
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

They made me love writing

Many people have been mentioning to me lately that I write quite well. Firstly, thanks! Trying not to sound up myself here, but it does make me happy to hear people say that. Like all the time I spend writing these posts is most definitely worth it. I also have to give some of the credit to my high school English teachers, without them I probably wouldn't have as much of an interest in writing as I do now. It's funny because at the time I had no idea how much those classes would have an affect on my life.




My first English teacher Mrs Cameron really is the reason why I developed such an over analysing mind, I think. Or at least she gave me an outlet for it. In grade 9 I was introduced to "critical literature", in other words a way to analyse everything that you're viewing, reading, hearing; to work out what the underlying message is. I have never been able to just sit and watch a movie since. I'm always trying to work out why they used certain colours, props, scenes, music and what it's meant to mean. It's quite annoying, maybe this is why I can never just sit and relax, I always have to be trying to work out why everything is happening.

While I'm grateful for being introduced to the crit lit way of thinking, Mrs Cameron and me didn't really get along that well. In grade 10 she accused me of cheating on a short story assessment. She walked me outside the classroom and told me that I obviously had my parents write the story for me because it was too good. Apart from being offensive, I found that mildly hilarious. A: my dad was not even alive (she didn't know that) and B: my mum never finished high school let alone had any interest in writing. I never got good marks in her class. I think the highest I ever got was a B and that was rare, which is odd considering I was supposedly cheating because my work was too good. And yet not good enough to get good marks. Makes total sense right? Anyway, in grade 12 they had to split her class up and she had to pick 3 students to move to another English class. Not surprisingly, she picked me. I didn't care, in fact I was so thankful to get out of her class by then. I moved to Mr Huth's class and that's when I really started to love English and writing even more.

Mr Huth was awesome! He actually cared about his students and helping them. He also made his classes fun. I went from an average student in Mrs Cameron's class to the top of the class with Mr Huth (and I never changed the amount of effort I put into my work). Go figure. In that year we were asked to do another short story, this time about an important time in our life. I wrote about my dad, for the first time ever. I wrote about walking through the funeral parlour when we went to see him after he had died (yes I saw him dead) and included flash backs to my last few memories before he died. I never admitted to most of the people at my school that my dad had died and the teachers didn't really know either. Writing that story was a big step for me, but it was one of the strongest memories I had and one that I thought I could write about in detail. I also never wanted to forget it. I found out after the assessment that Mr Huth took my story home and got his wife to read it as well. Apparently they were both in tears it touched them that much. I got an A+ for that story.

I am so glad that I was moved to that English class. Mr Huth made me believe in myself and my abilities. He gave me the courage to open up and tell my story. He made me feel like it mattered. He cemented my love for writing. Writing has been such a huge constant in my life since then. I want to tell my story. I want others to learn from my story, but most of all I want to make it matter by telling it. To give a reason to why I went through all these hard times and heartache. I guess it was a combination of Mrs Cameron's critical literature and Mr Huth's encouragement that got me to where I am today, and I will be forever grateful to them for that.




Toni xx

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Have you lived with mental illness?

Do you know what it's like to live with a mental illness or someone who has one? There are a lot more people doing it than you realise, it's just that nobody really talks about it. Like I've said before the social norm is that mental illness or mental health issues are not normal, that the people who have them are weird and that they should be hidden away so that society does not judge you.  

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day and much like R.U.OK? Day it's all about raising awareness of mental health issues and encouraging people to openly discuss them in order to remove the stigma and promote prevention and the treatment options available. I have discussed what it was like when my dad committed suicide, now I want to let you know what it was like after that.

I was not really aware of my dad's issues until after he had already committed suicide and I am only discovering more about them now as an adult through my quest to discover who he really was as a person. My mum's issues however became very apparent when I was a child and were a direct result of my dad's suicide. After he died she had a mental breakdown. I don't really blame her I mean I can't imagine what I would be like if my husband died, let alone killed himself and then I was facing the world as a single mother and a widower. I'm pretty sure I would have a breakdown too of some degree. She had a big one. Nearly to the point of hospitalisation and I believe she still to this day has to take pills for it as she can't function properly without them.

She became like a child in a sense. She had immense anxiety and couldn't function properly at first. She couldn't leave the house, she was too scared. I remember so many times she was in tears because she was too scared to do something. She lost a lot of weight - I think it was something like 10kg in a week or so. I remember she spent a lot of time in her room. We didn't go anywhere except school and her friends would drive us there because she was too scared to drive the car. She didn't have a job for a long time because she just couldn't go out and be around people. It probably sounds strange when you're reading this (it even does a little to me), but it just became normal.

It kind of happened overnight, but it just seemed like a natural progression to me. And so for a few years I traded places with her. I took on the role of the parent because in my mind I had to take care of her and my brother because if I didn't, who would? I'm not even sure if she knew that was happening. I started cooking the majority of the food. I remember doing washing, collecting the mail and I'm pretty sure I even knew when all the household bills had to be paid. Every time I would talk to her I would first think is this going to make her have a panic attack? I put aside my own grieving for my dad in order to focus on getting her better and making sure my brother didn't flip out altogether. I had to be the strong one because everything and everyone else around me was falling apart. I had to hold the family together because I knew if anything happened to either of them as well I wouldn't cope. I lost my childhood. I grew up way too fast and had to deal with issues that children of that age should not even know exist let alone have to live through. It's ok though, I wouldn't really change it. Partially because I don't know anything different and because it moulded me into the empathetic and understanding person I am today. People who have not dealt with mental illness can easily put it in the too hard basket, but when it becomes your life you have no choice but to accept it, deal with it and work through it.

Nobody (apart from our family) knew what was going on at home. Nobody knew what was going on in my head either. My mum and brother went to psychologists for their depression, grief, anxiety etc and I didn't. Because I was the strong one. I couldn't show what I was feeling because they wouldn't have been able to handle my issues on top of their own. Besides nobody ever questioned what I was going through because I was so good at hiding it and so nobody ever really asked me. I kind of wish someone had asked me how I was doing or at least encouraged me to have a discussion about it so that I could have worked through my issues earlier.

If you know someone who is dealing with a loss, going through a tough time or is acting out of sorts please at least ask if you can help. Or if you notice someone who is withdrawing, being quiet and not being as social as they normally would please try to get them to talk to you or at least let them know you are there if they need you. Knowing someone is there to listen and to help is a huge support to someone who is suffering. Even if you can't actually help, knowing that you want to help is huge.




Toni x

P.S. My mum got back on her feet thanks to the help of professionals, family, friends and neighbours.


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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Turns out, I'm not all that into 50 Shades of Grey



If you really like a book you should want to read it all the time, get lost in it for hours and never want to put it down. Put off doing household cleaning etc just so you can spend more time reading it. Right? At least that has been my experience in the past (despite the fact I hardly read books).

So, the fact that it has taken me nearly three months and I'm not quite finished the first 50 Shades of Grey book is a really obvious sign that I'm just not that into it.


MY EXPERIENCE READING 50 SHADES OF GREY

I started out reading with the best intentions that I would like it, honestly. All I was told was that it was about this relationship between a guy and a girl and that there was a lot of sex, and there was a contract involved. The book was supposedly saving marriages it was that good. And really, who doesn't want to read a book that contains a lot of sex? Don't look at me with judging eyes I know that's why people secretly read Mills and Boon books. So, off I went to read the book expecting a love story with a twist, peppered with a fair bit of sex.

Contrary to a lot of other people, I did not fall in love with the book at all. In fact it was actually quite hard for me to read some chapters. I literally forced myself to read through a few of the pages whilst my subconscious was screaming at me to put it down and back away because it was stirring up a lot of old emotions. Really bad emotions. This book took me back to where I was a few years ago, with low self esteem and stuck trying to please someone who wanted nothing more than to control me and treat me like a possession. I seriously don't see how someone could be turned on by a person who asks you to sign a contract in order to be with them, and not even in the context of an actual relationship..? I guess my new-found independent subconscious is ruling my thoughts on this one. Yes I did like the constant struggle between Ana's subconscious and inner goddess - it was the only part of the book I did like because it gave a real, deeper insight into Ana's actual personality.

Before all you haters get up on your high horse and start telling me that the book has nothing to do with abuse etc this is simply how it made me feel based on my past circumstances. The main issues I have with it are the fact that Ana clearly has low self esteem and Christian's incessant need to control her. Case in point:

"I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don't  I shall punish you, and you will learn."

"I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don't  I shall punish you and you will learn to behave the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you."

If anyone ever straight forward told me I had to follow their rules in order to get a reward I would respond with 'I'm sorry, I'm not a dog I don't do tricks for a treat'. Actually firstly I would say you can take your rules and shove them up....

As far as learning to behave the way he desires is concerned, this to me is bordering on emotional abuse (in the way that I have experienced it). You should not set out to change a person to suit you. If you don't like the way a person is in the beginning then move on. End of story. Nobody should ever feel like they are superior and have the ability, or the right, to mould someone's behaviour, for their own benefit. This is not 50 shades of grey, this is 50 shades of narcissism, plain and simple.




And the punishment aspect, well! Seriously, would any self respecting woman lay down to be spanked because they broke the rules?! I get the sexual aspect of it, but I for one would not be able to turn off my brain and lay there and allow myself to be treated with such disrespect because he thought I needed to be punished. Certainly not by choice and most definitely not these days. On a few occasions of varying circumstances (none in a sexual way) my ex husband hit me, I guess to punish me (once for saying I loved one of my gay male friends). Being hit by a man, especially one you are supposed to be in a relationship with (no matter what type of relationship) is humiliating and makes you feel violated. At least E L James somewhat acknowledged this in the book.

"this evening, he actually hit me. I've never been hit in my life. What have I gotten myself into? Very slowly, my tears begin to slide down the side of my face and into my ears. I have fallen for someone who's so emotionally shut down, I will only get hurt - deep down I know this - someone who by his own admission is completely fucked up."

At this point I thought good she's coming to her senses. If she isn't going to end the relationship she will at least stand up for her rights and demand to be treated as equal. Obviously, I also knew there was no way this was going to happen, otherwise there would be no need for two more books. So this is pretty much the point where I completely lost interest in the book and decided to let it sit quietly on the shelf and gather dust.


MY OVERALL OPINION ON 50 SHADES OF GREY

Here's the thing, if you're a bored housewife with a lacking sex life then yes you will probably like the book if not for anything other than the 'exciting' sex. By exciting I mean different to the norm. I don't mean to patronise housewives, I am merely generalising for the sake of keeping succinct. I think people are drawn to the whole fantasy of a rich, good looking man coming along and wanting you so much that he wants you all to himself. Most women want someone to want them so much that they make you the centre of their universe. And, if he's rich, good looking and has a high libido then even better. But, if you strip away the money and the good looks then you just have an egocentric narcissist who happens to be into BDSM trying to control everything you do purely for his own benefit. Doesn't sound so appealing now does it? That's where I'm seeing it from.

I fear this book gives women extremely unrealistic expectations. It shows the fantasy side of BDSM in a very glorified way (I mean how many of the guys that do this are actually going to be rich and attractive?). I think the reality would be very different (not that I ever actually want to find out). I also think it exploits Ana's low self esteem which really irritates me. I guess that is a necessary element (its not like Kate would ever agree to this contractual arrangement - for those of you playing at home who have read the book). Although, I think I would have fewer issues with the book if it was someone more experienced with higher self esteem going into it as it would feel a lot less manipulative. And really, how is someone who is so inexperienced going to fall so "in love" with someone after just 3 weeks that they get to the point where they actually contemplate (let alone agree to) doing any of these things?

The book does bring up quite a few interesting aspects though:

1. We as women tend to fundamentally want to fix everything that is broken (including people)
2. Women do tend to like the "bad guys" or at least the guys they know aren't right for them
4. Low self esteem does tend to lead us to make bad decisions

All very good topics for future posts.

But for now, if you have relatively good self esteem, you like to read books for their literary value and you're not the slightest bit interested in BDSM (or you already have a relatively satisfying sex life) then this book is so not for you. I'm quite happy to leave it sitting on the shelf and go ahead living my emotionally fulfilling, equal, non BDSM relationship for now.



If E L James does ever write the rumoured 4th book from Christian's perspective, I would be a lot more interested in reading that one. Purely because I love psycho analysing and it would be interesting to find out exactly why a narcissist came to be that way.

Toni x


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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

September was full of happiness

Well September has been and gone and it was well and truly full of happiness from all the photos shared on the event page. Thanks to everyone who participated. Thanks for being a part of my photo experiment and thanks for sharing with all of us! Hopefully this made everyone stop and think about being happy at least for a little while each day. I know I spent most of each day paying attention to all the things that were making me happy no matter how big or small, just so that I would remember to take a photo!

I noticed from all the pics that were shared that there are five main parts of life that make us happy - people, places, animals, food and stuff!


People


People make us happy for obvious reasons. Its human nature to want to be accepted, to share and to be involved. Interacting with other people (friends, family, co-workers) fulfills all of these things and you cant help but be happy.




Places


There are so many beautiful places all around us if you stop and look. Nature was definitely a big source of happiness during September. The colours, the smells, the beauty of it all. It just makes you want to smile and be grateful for being able to enjoy it.





Animals


Animals are a continuous source of joy and happiness whether they are pets or wild. There are many reasons my animals make me happy - the look on their faces, the funny mannerisms they have and the fact that they love me back. A glimpse of a wild animal is just as exciting.





Food


Who doesn't love food?! Just the thought of it makes me happy, no wonder why it featured so much in the photos. I'm salivating just looking at them again....




Stuff


Finally, stuff. I know were not meant to measure ourselves by possessions and all that, but sometimes stuff just makes you happy - however frivolous it is. A good book, your favourite outfit, some nice jewellery. They are all simple sources of happiness and enjoyment.





These are only a few of the gorgeous, fun, amazing photos that were shared. To see all of them check out the photos tab on my facebook page.

I hope they bring you as many smiles as they brought me.



If anyone has any other ideas for photo projects or would like to do this again another month let me know.

Toni xx

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Monday, September 24, 2012

A journey through the past and into the future


There are times in our lives when we need reassurance. When we turn outside ourselves and want to know that what we are doing is right and that we are headed in the right direction. I didn't know that I needed reassurance, however the last few weeks it seems I have been on a journey. A very internal one dealing with my past issues and what that means for my future. Trying to organise everything in my mind and make sense of it all for the fifty millionth time in my life. As you will have noticed it has played out on here.

The past week I feel as though I have taken the journey out of my mind and been playing it out in real life as well. I have had catch ups with my Aunty and Uncle and also a catch up with one of my closest friends. Both well over due and both happened on the same day... a very long fifteen hour day that involved a lot of travelling. It was totally worth it.

My friend is into Tarot cards and has her own set and I had the opportunity to do a reading with her. I've always been interested in the idea, but also very apprehensive. You see I have always been worried that I would do a reading and pull out all the really bad cards. Not that I know what the really bad cards even are, I just know they are in there somewhere. So, with a bit of apprehension, a lot of intrigue and a desire for guidance and reassurance I sat down and did a reading.

I don't know why I was worried in the first place. After following my intuition and picking the cards I was drawn to I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't pick the bad cards. In fact, the cards I picked were awesome and all related to my journey completely. I did pick one less than favourable card, but as fate would have it I picked it upside down, which is actually good - yay me. The cards that came up were all positive and helped to put my mind at ease. I am on the right path, the one thing I am wishing for will be granted and I have the right tools to travel the journey correctly this time. I have felt better since the reading. A little more content within myself, a little less second guessing and asking myself why. Sometimes it is good to reach out and seek guidance outside your comfort zone. It certainly has helped me this week. It has also reaffirmed my belief that everything happens for a reason.




The catch up with my Aunty and Uncle was about exploring the past. Finding out more about my dad and who he was before I was born. Getting my emotions out about his death has made it obvious to me that it is important to find out who he was as a person, before I existed. Before it all went to crap. I have only now as an adult decided that I am ready to explore this. I have already found out things that I didn't know before. I know it will not make me ok with what happened, there is nothing that will make me ok with it. But, to know who he was and what he was like then will help resolve some of those questions that have been going around in my head for the past few years. So I am ready to go there. It will probably be a long process, but I am ready and it will be ok.

Thanks to my wonderful friend and family I am ready to explore the past with open eyes and ready to face the future with reassurance. A single step at a time.



Toni x
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

R. U. OK?


National R U OK? Day - A conversation could change a life.


If you're in Australia then you've probably already heard about this as its been taking over Facebook all day. Today is national R.U.OK day. Quite simply its about getting people to communicate more and ask their friends, family, colleagues etc are you ok? The theory goes if more people talk about their problems then it will take the stigma away from depression and will lead to more people asking for help and receiving the help they need. Which ultimately reduces the stigma around suicide and hopefully in turn (by people getting the help they need) will lead to suicide prevention.

This is particularly close to my heart. You are all aware by now that my father died when I was 10. What you don't know yet is that he committed suicide.

It was incredibly hard to come to terms with as a child. To have a dad one day and then nothing the next. Its not like when someone is sick and you have time to prepare, knowing that one day they are going to die. In that situation (not that its really any better) you have time to say your goodbyes. Time to do everything and say everything you want to say before the day comes. I never knew it was coming. I didn't get to say goodbye, no last I love you. Nothing.

On top of this, apart from coming to terms with my dad being gone at the age of 10, I had to deal with the fact that he actually chose to die and he did it himself. What on earth could be so bad that he actually wanted to die? Why would he want to leave me and my brother? Were we not good enough to make him stay? Could I have stopped him from doing it if I was there? Was it my fault? Didn't he love me anymore? So many questions went running through my head. For a 10 year old that's a lot of emotional baggage to deal with and make sense of. When I went back to school I was also teased by the other kids - I remember one girl pointed and laughed at me while saying "haha your dad killed himself".

I never really knew he was depressed. I knew him and mum were separated and going through the process of getting divorced. I'm not really sure that I ever thought they would actually get divorced. I could never really imagine life without him or life going between mum and dad's houses and having to split everything between the two. I never really had time to give the idea much thought as three months after they separated he was gone. Those three months were shit though. Going from one house to the other and having both of them asking about the other to find out whats happening. Endless fighting over the house and the bribes to get information. Actually the bribes I liked a bit to be honest, because it was pretty awesome to get ice blocks just for answering a question when we never would have got that before. I feel guilty about it now. But still, overall it was a shit time.

I didn't even know they were fighting until the day we were pulled out of school because we were moving in with grandma and pa. We didn't spend much time around mum and dad together because they were always working and when we were on holidays we would go stay with grandma and pa. So, it was quite a shock to me when we were moving out of the house. The only thing I remember was that there were holes inside the wardrobe doors in their bedroom. I never heard them fight though so I assumed someone must have fallen over and landed into the wardrobe door or something..? I do remember that one day when we were driving down to the gold coast they had a big fight over the radio and how loud it was and dad drove the car off the highway into a ditch because he was pissed with mum. That was kinda scary. Other than that nothing really ever tweaked me to the idea that things were going wrong.

As someone who has been left behind from suicide and dealt with the after affects I can not stress the importance of R U OK day. I wish somebody could have helped my dad. I wish he got the help he needed and I wish he was still here. No matter how shit life might have been growing up as a child of divorce it still would've been much better than growing up as a child of suicide.
Have you ever wondered which hurts the most: saying something and wishing you hadn't or saying nothing and wishing you had?
So I urge you all to ask your loved ones are you ok? 

You never know how much you might help them just by showing that you care.


Toni x


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