Why we doof

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“Originating in the Sydney post-punk electronic music scene of the early 1990s, the slang term doof or bush doof refers to a type of outdoor dance party.”  – Wikipedia

My plan was to spend Saturday checking out two of Sydney’s biggest art galleries. But due to a timely collision between the circumstances of my intended companion being unwell and a psychedelic art exhibition being held across the road, I ended up spending the night chatting to a group, which could be suitably described as a new wave of hippies.  I was curious and they were young, energetic, and eager to share with the world, the reasons ‘why they doof.’

To those passing by, the strobe lights, loud psy-trace, and unrestricted dancing only suggested one thing; and the wafting smell of weed from the backroom sealed the thought. Undoubtedly, this deterred most people from coming in; but it was only from the inside that you could hear the discussions about different environmental and human rights issues, as well as the guided meditation session. The artwork on display – the majority completed under the inspirational influence of a ‘trip’ – also told stories that were only revealed by speaking to those who created them.

It’s definitely true that these things don’t actually require being high (with the exception of smoking). But it’s highly likely that what specifically made one individual’s particular experience (a morning spent on the beach doing yoga and watching the sun rise) so extraordinary, was the acid. Likewise, the night before, MDMA gave him the energy to dance the night away and experience the music and the companionship of his friends on a level that he claims to be unattainable while sober. Others mentioned how weed  and psilocybin mushrooms allow them to ‘bypass the ego’ by becoming more self-annalytical, thus serving as a tool of self-improvement.

There is research to support these claims (MDMA is being trailed on post traumatic stress disorder patients). Of course, I can’t say that this group always had these kinds of intentions, but it sounded like they were having a damn good time with it all – something I believe we are all entitled to have as long as it doesn’t impede on the rights of others…

As I typed that, on the ABC2 channel, the father of Anna Wood is telling his story about loosing his 15 year old daughter to an ecstasy overdose. I’m sure her intentions were just as innocent… And now I’m unsure of my intentions with this post.

I’m well aware there are many sides to this discussion, and that this post has only scraped the surface of one of them. It’s the one that I saw on Saturday night, which is that when it comes to taking drugs, there is more to the experience than we may realise.  It’s not just about getting ‘fucked up’ or indulging in immediate gratification – especially for these loving doof-lovers. Whether these experiences are worth it in the long run is another whole blog post all together.

Blue Mountains & Katoomba (New South Wales)

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Starting our drive from Sydney, we arrived at the Katoomba YHA about 2hrs later. By this time the sky was darkening and the temperature dropping low enough to leave us madly rattling with every gust of wind. That said, our exploration would have to wait until the next day.  But dinner (we picked Thai out of the several options) followed by a hot carob (a delicious chocolate replacement) at the cosy Yellow Deli was more than enough to leave me feeling satisfied with a low-key night in.

And for nights in, the YHA definitely catered by supplying books, boardgames, movies, and just plenty of space to lounge around. What got out interest was the vast tour information on hand. For every budget there are several options. We were mostly interested in the ‘free’ category so the high adrenaline stuff was off the cards this time. I had no idea if he worked there, but a kind older gentleman was happy to provide us with a map and circle out his recommendations.

We only had the next day to spend, but knew that you can’t go wrong on the advice of a local.  I had only been in Katoomba for a few hours but felt, compared to Sydney, the warmth in the people was just as noticeable as the coldness in the air.  As I opened my book in front of the fireplace, I couldn’t help but feel right at home.

The next morning kicked of with Breakfast burritos from Thunderbird Mexican then a walk through a pretty cool street are exhibit. Mexican and contemporary street art: two things not expected in a regional country town. I guess Katoomba ain’t your typical town!

From there, there was a lot of steps, panting, and sitting down at Wentworth Falls, Govetts Leap, and the Three Sisters. With so many look outs around, how you spend your time ultimately comes down to your appetite for fresh air and exercise. Luckily, the signs give you good idea of what you’re getting into, rating the difficulty the time required for each hike. Hike is a loose term because the areas are well kept and safe. The only real risk is one’s stupidity. We sacked on mostly 30 minute walks. Even if you’re not the walking type, these breath taking views are still available from the parking lot.

If you’re going to be on foot, keep room in your stomach. If you plan on mostly driving, still keep room. You’ll be passing an endless amount of cafes and restaurants. Most of them offering their own quirky style and personality. We spotted the Blue Mountains Chocolate Factory, and even though we were a few minutes off another walking track, we couldn’t say no to a specially heated glass of milk that melts chocolate pieces as you drop them in, turning into an amazing hot chocolate.

As the day ended, exhausted and full, we drove to Cahills Lookout to catch the sun setting. The stars slowly started to emerge as we exchanged stories with another two tourists who were also enjoying a break from the big city just 2hrs to our east.

There is much more to Katoomba and the Blue Mountains, but it’ll have to wait until next time – which there will definitely be. In our day and a half, we definitely enjoyed the sights, the food, and the people we came across – fellow adventures and staff.

It was a short weekend adventure over for me, but a warm up for Jenny. I dropped her off at the airport so she could begin her next adventure of riding through Europe on her bike! Follow her at Jenny on Wheels

5 Insights from Inside Out

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3D animated movies sure have come a long way. Not just in the effects they use, but in the affect they can have on us.

Inside Out is a movie which features the bright colours, animation, and big eyed characters that kids love, while managing to explore an issue that’s unfortunately surrounded by so much stigma, that even adults feel uncomfortable going near it; it’s mental health.

I remember leaving the cinema after Toy Story feeling touched. After Inside Out, I felt like I  had also been taught; there’s definitely a few things to be learnt from this movie. Mostly  about the role that emotions and memories play in our lives. Here’s 5 of those insights.

1) WE’RE MADE FROM MEMORIES & MOMENTS

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The theory is that one’s personality consists of “islands”. These islands are the different attitudes and interests that make us who we are. For example, hockey island and goofball island are two of Rliey’s (Inside Out’s protagonist). Forming these islands are certain “core” memories – often obtained during our childhood when we’re first discovering the world and what about it most appeals to us. Keeping these islands running is the ongoing experience of similar moments: the creation of new memories, and essentially, reinforcement. Old islands can crumble and new ones can be built.  Definitely simplified, but it’s a great way to understand how we come to be who we are, as well as go on to change.

2) MEMORIES ARE ALWAYS ON THE MOVE 

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Throughout the film, memories are represented by yellow glowing orbs – and they’re everywhere! They’re being sent back and forth between Riliey’s conscious awareness and storage, and even getting thrown to the dump when they’re deemed to be no longer needed. Memories might actually be neurological signals rather than rolling orbs, but we’re able to “call” on them in a similar way. During our worst times, remember better ones can have a drastic effect on our mood – hence the effectiveness of meditations that focus on positive experiences and emotions. When it comes to memories getting dumped, that might happen with age, but activities like journaling, taking photos, and keeping mementos can help us hold onto our favourites.

3) HOW WE FEEL NOW CAN CHANGE HOW WE FELT THEN

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The memories that once made Riley happy eventually start making her sad. This occurs when Sadness (one of the voices in Riley’s head) starts “accidentally” touching Joy’s memories, turning them from yellow to an upsetting blue. We perfectly capable of making the same mistake and that’s important to remember. Most things in our past can be looked back at through more than one perspective. Just take relationships for example. Which is pretty much why Dr Sues said it’s possible to “cry because it’s over, or smile because it happened.”

4) IT’S DARK DOWN THERE

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A fear of clowns might be specific to Riley and an early experience she had at a birthday party. But if anything has troubled you in the past, it might still be lurking in your subconscious. It’s a place that’s not just for things that come creeping out when we’re asleep; they can affect us on daily basis, even without us knowing. If you do find yourself often shaken and stirred without knowing why, it might be worth taking the hand of a good friend or therapist and exploring what’s being repressed down there. Because the subconscious might be dark, but it’s certainly there.

5) SOMETIMES, SADNESS SHOULD TAKE OVER

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The movie ends with Joy giving up her need of always being in control. Sadness takes over, and Riley goes from being an ever-enduring optimist to a young girl that’s expected to be sad. Her honesty serves as the cue for the people in her life to respond and give her the support she needs. As simple as it sounds, people still aren’t as honest about their feelings as they should be. Sadly, many people around the world take their own lives despite their friends and family never seeing them without a smile. Part of that reason is the stigma that surrounds mental health. That’s why it’s so great Inside Out was made. More than a movie, it’s a message that we’re not alone in our heads, and we shouldn’t feel alone outside of them either.

 

 

A Note-Worthy Weekend

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In the past, ‘perks of the job’ have been things such as fuel cards, gift vouchers, and generally edible. This weekend, my new job gave me something new; it was an experience. Unlike the time I rolled around in a zorb-ball having an unnecessary amount of physical contact with people I didn’t even share my lunch-break with – this was an experience I want to remember.

It’s also an experience that I can’t directly put monetary value on, but it was honestly the perkiest thing an employer has ever done for me. But here’s the best thing: it wasn’t specifically anything done for me; I was doing something for my employer. In other words, I was just working.

I was co-faccilitating a workshop for group of youths who were assigned the task of producing multimedia content for my organisation to use. To ensure they were on the right track, several guest presenters were called it. I won’t list names, but they are definitely regarded as experts in the areas of video, audio, photography, and much more. Technical skills aside, they were also understood the complexity of life. A subject for which, there is no specific lesson plan, manual, or fool-proof solution for – but there is advice.

Here are a few of the things that I heard over the weekend that really stood out to me. Sure, they’re repeated in articles, videos, podcasts, and books – but we go to live gigs because there is something that digital platforms can’t give. Likewise, I really feel like I got something by hearing these things said.

“Shit. Before this,  I had 40 – 50 jobs.”

“You might have to work for free but everything comes full-circle. Invest in people and things.”

“The energy that you put into this will come back, it’s a universal thing.”

“Sometimes, you say yes before you know you can do the job. Then you learn as you go.”

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

“Always write down your ideas.”

“Enjoy the struggle.”

“Don’t be attached to the outcome, not everything will work.”

“Do one thing each week to lay the foundation.”

“Find a day job that gets you closer or near to your passion.”

“Free writing. Just write. It’s like taking a big dump of your constipated mind.”

“You have to get a job. Because to financially support yourself is to also artistically support yourself.”

“Surround yourself with people who inspire you, not energy drainers.”

“Have coffee with contacts.”

“Be ok with being shit.”

“Find what you can do better than most.”

“Find avenues for your level of skills. Somebody needs them.”

“Find the top 100 in your field and learn from them.”

“Show yourself. Every project should reflect a part of your identify.”

“Read ‘The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron’.”

“Talk to people about things that inspire them.”

Best Man & Best Things

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I was one of the chosen few that received the private Facebook message.

He was touring Europe with his soon-to-be wife. I was in Tonga, on a break.. from my life.

A conversation before I left revealed that I’d be the best man if the day ever came. Upon finding out that he was going to propose, I didn’t even wait until the next day to start writing my speech.

I  had plenty of puns, a printed sheet, perfectly sized text, and emoticons as a que for my delivery; he still held a pen in the few hours before leaving for the church.  In his own words: “I hate giving speeches.”

You don’t need my words. I salivate over the smallest crumb of attention, just like when I placed my order at the reception.

The role of best man carries certain expectations – I believe I delivered…

But most memorably, I witnessed how sincerity trumps comedy. How ‘well played’ succumbs to ‘well said’.  And when it comes from the heart, ‘just said’ is all that’s needed.

He thanked his parents for being a quintessential couple. Showing him, throughout his life, how ‘marriage’ should look once the limo get its final look, and the gown’s on the hook.

He called it the chance to “marry his best friend.”

I was the best man, but he said the best things.

Artificial & Anxious

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Grass can be fake, but it’s no substitute for the real thing. You definitely notice something’s off.

People can act fake. You can fool others, but certainly not yourself. There’s still going to be that ‘something’.

While I find it easy to present the image of being well-maintained and vibrant, others often find it difficult to get to the truth behind the weeds of my whimsical nature. So here’s something I hope you can grasp:

I don’t feel that great.

Today marks one month since I left. Emphasis on ‘I’. I chose this for myself, so I can’t complain. Even if I didn’t chose everything else: being overwhelmed; the homesickness; the unfamiliarity to everyone, everything; and the emotional toll that not having a place to call home for a month takes.

I don’t feel very organic either.

Not many people know what’s below the surface. I worry that piling it all on others would mean losing them. So I’m under the pile, hoping for a hand to pull me out or pass me a ‘shovel’ in the form of a solution. I’d even be grateful to be swept the remaining shards of support from some sold-out saying.

That’s because I’m willing to dig my way out.  Like a prize-winning patch, getting the grass to be greener where you stand requires work. It requires a routine. That means attending to pervasive emotions so they don’t get out of hand.

I spend my weeks working with wellbeing and mental health content. I know the tools, I know the techniques; I know I wasn’t using them.

 Emphasis on ‘wasn’t’.

Since finding somewhere I feel comfortable in calling home, I’ve taken steps to start laying a proper foundation, sprinkling the right mix of habits and hope. With patience, effort, and self-care, like a flower finding its way through the pavement, I know beauty can blossom from what appears broken.

I feel better  – especially after writing and a much-needed phone call.

Adding Colour

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The grass isn’t always greener. Sometimes there’s no grass at all.

This is my first post since moving to a completely new city.

So far its been a corrosive mixture of feelings. The most unsettling being the urge to turn my car around and head home. That’s the thing about options; as much as they help us when we fall, they can also be a hinderance when it comes to taking flight. Tony Robins said it well:

If you want to take the island, make sure to burn the boat.

I didn’t set my car on fire, but I gave myself some much needed rest after two days of solid driving – accompanied by no one but my own thoughts. For most of the way, I was going between 100 – 120km; they were racing at least twice that fast.

I didn’t exactly know why I was doing this, but I knew what I was doing. I was running.

I guess I didn’t learn from Tonga; you can run from anywhere, anything, and anyone … but yourself.

I opened the door to a standard Sydney-sized shoebox of a room. My bags barely hit the ground before the mirror caught my eye. There I was. Somehow, I expected the mirror, but not the person in it.

But I didn’t run. I stayed because I believe that somewhere out there is the person I want to be. I might find him here. Or as I did in Tonga, I’ll at least find a few more pieces of the puzzle.

I already wrote about a recent realisation regarding my parents. Likewise, so far this experience has also allowed me to see even more value in my friendships. “Thinking of you,” “Call me anytime,” and “I’m on your side,” are more than just words when you’re in a city of four million people and only know four; they’re a way forward. But making my way is still my responsibility.

In his Ted Talk, How the worst moments in our lives make us who we areAndrew Solomon speaks about “forging meaning and creating identity”. Inspired by this, I’ve found strength in my own slogan: adding colour. (Shattering several stereotypes in the process considering that I’m the straight one.)

It’s like that phrase about finding the silver lining in the clouds. I’m faced with a silver wall of concrete to which I’ve taken it upon myself to add some colour to. Our perspective and personality truly are paint brushes. So far – based on my limited experience – this city seems dull and dark, but I know things can get brighter.

However, just like when it comes to working with an actual paint palette, I understand that not every colour will work. Compromises must be made and benefits must be balanced as we walk down this tightrope that’s made of time and a temperament towards snapping at any moment. ( I just watched an episode of Louie which had an unexpected death.)

And on the topic of walking, I’m a short distance from work, but far from comfortable in a house that has parts hardly standing. I’m paying little in rent, but not enjoying spending all my time in my room. I got the things I wanted, but it’s clear that they’re just not working for me overall. So I’m going to change my circumstances like an artist choosing colours. I can’t be certain of how my decision to move will affect my ‘bigger picture’… but hopefully my next post will be looking a lot better.

My Parents

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I wouldn’t be here without them.

I don’t just mean that from a biological standpoint; I’m talking about everything that comes after the first f*** – which sadly, some ‘parents’ don’t give a f** about.

Through it all – as in every f** up I’ve made – they’ve been there. I’ve always known safety and support; never the things they’ve seen in their lifetimes. They originated from lesser-privledged countries and worked hard to reach Australia to give my sister and I access to the best opportunities. Which is why I left home for the second time – seeking a better opportunity as well as more responsibility.

Sounds sweet, but I’ll admit to my bitterness before I left. There was shortness, attitude, inconsideration, and even resentment.

 I used to tell myself they gave too much – forgetting that:

For one to successfully give, the other has to willingly take.

I took too much; I gave back too little. But I’m also lucky it’s not too late to change my relationship with my parents, rather than being chained to regret.

Now living in a house of strangers in an even stranger state, I realise how much it means when someone asks how your day was; and I take responsibility for how little it means in return to respond with a few blunt words. They supported me financially and emotionally in my decision to move state. Hence why, more than myself, I don’t want to let them down.

I’m typing this because I also come from a house where words don’t always make their way out.. but there are plenty of other gestures of love that go above and beyond.

Halfway and Half-hearted

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Yesterday morning I faced a similar sight:  two open suitcases and a bare room. I felt a similar feeling: excitement stirred with far too many dashes of doubt. This is happening; I’m closing one chapter and turning to nothing but blank pages.

All of a sudden at the half-way point in my journey, I have a thought at 1.09 am:

“Turn around, go home.”

It’s amusing how certainty gives the illusion of comfort. I left home in order to seek out more ideal conditions, but nothing can dilute the odour of uncertainty that drifts with any daring decision. That stench surrounded me in the middle of the night. It gets us all at different times and in different scenarios, but it’s always felt as fear –  fear of the unknown. 

It’s also elaborated in sayings such as, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”

Well, here’s what I do know: I held by breath through the night and woke to the fresh air of possibility and this beautiful view. There’s also now something on the first page. Something that I wrote; not my imagination.

What stinks in your life?  

David Lynch, Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland, and.. Me.

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Me.

Yesterday, I finished up my last season with my therapist before my upcoming move. I began seeing her since returning from my year overseas. It was suggested that it would help me to re-adjustment, and clarify with my decision process moving forward. While I intended the sessions to be future orientated,  practical, and professionally focused; it was inevitable that my past and my ‘true’ personality was discussed as well. It was fascinating to learn how we are not only subconsciously shaped by our experiences, but also limited. Hence why therapy isn’t just limited to those who suffer; it’s beneficial to anyone wanting to better… understand themselves and their decisions. Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t… really understand themselves that is.

Today, I had the opportunity to see how other people explore their emotions via two concurrent art exhibitions. The first was David Lynch’s Between Two Words; the second was Hope In The Present, hosted by the Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland, and showcasing the artwork of numerous artists living with mental health illnesses.

Between Two Worlds.

Lynch understood the psyche can be a conflicted place. Just like I dared to delve into mine through therapy, he took a similar path through his artwork. Utilising mix-media, painting, plain sketching, film, and photography, his exhibition is undoubtedly confronting. But personally, I appreciated its insights into the cryptic corners of human consciousness and the conflicting emotions we can feel. There were several instances where I was disgusted, disturbed, but also strangely humoured. It will pull you into the depths of a different perspective of the world around and also within; there’s no staying safe in the shallow end. But even if it’s not your ‘cup of tea’,  its ticket price will only cost you about three cups… of coffee.

Hope In The Present. 

With just a gold coin donation, Hope In The Present on the other hand was a more uplifting experience. It didn’t dilute the darker emotions Lynch explored, but it definitely left you with a sweeter psychological aftertaste – hence the exhibition’s title. The 200+ pieces were all unique, reflecting the uniqueness (and loneliness) of each artists’ experience of living with a mental health illness. To accompany the story that each picture told, there was also a short biography of each artist. While their individual artistic journeys differed in where they started (ranging from university degrees, technical training, to being completely self-taught), they shared a mutual milestone: a healthier and more stable self. This exhibition is truly about art as a means of channeling emotions and turning the bitter into the beautiful.

Us.

I fight with myself, and I found talking to someone helped. Awkwardly avoiding eye contact with others in the doctor’s waiting room also gave me the assurance that I’m far from unique in how I sometimes feel. We’re not all completely crazy, but we’re certainly cracked in our own ways. These two exhibitions were a reminder that, as humans, we can be fragile and frightening, but we can also be confronting, comforting, and of course, creative in how we keep ourselves together.