Wednesday, 15 July 2020

[ daily dilution and the feedback loop ]


A while back1, I got off the daily social media bandwagon. To be fair, it came on slowly and quietly, and I think I really only took note when someone asked me if I'd seen something or other, and the news was more than a week old. I'd spent a fair bit of time worrying about shit that didn't matter, some that did, and mentally going through a bunch of other things, so socials fomo wasn't top of my agenda most days.

However, when it did occur, this seemed quite the change from my usual habits. I like a good dose of anything and everything, then my brain sifts through it all, separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

I don't know whether I felt like I was getting more chaff than wheat, or that it was harder to sift through the mountains of data filtering into my brain, but I do know the change was there and it was sticking, like a good wheat flour does when you make dough.

Sorry, I'm at the bread-making stage of iso. Anyway.

It didn't bother me really, but it did made me think about where I was getting my daily dilution from. Everyone has personal outlets that dilute the thoughts in their head, whether by default or design. Those of us with anxiety and OCD tend to go looking for them, because otherwise we spend waaay too much time in our own heads, and there's only so much intelligence in there before you hit the mischief-worry gremlins2, and these guys are there just to make trouble no matter you do.

Back to daily dilution. I was obviously still getting mine from some of my usual sources; the news, occasional Instagram, texting, family, videocalls. But obviously not others; shooting the breeze with my baristas were off, catch ups with friends were limited, interacting with colleagues now firmly in the cyber zone, and a trip to the shops now a Mission:Impossible rather than Breakfast at Tiffanys. My dilution level had firmly veered off-scale, and it's unclear what the resulting consequence would be.

***

Then I read this. For those of you who can't get through the whole thing, the basic gist is; office workers are getting paranoid because they're not getting the usual feedback they do from working in an office. After going to a meeting or making a presentation, you'd usually be able to read the room, debrief with the team, decompress with a cuppa, and/or check in with the boss. Directly. With eye-contact, social cues, and all the other juicy stuff we love and loathe. 

Now, with everyone remote and everything online, people sit in their own heads with their own thoughts and brood. Incessantly. About how meetings went, what colleagues think of them, whether their work is up to scratch, should they interact more, should they talk less, did they get their point across, and on and on it goes. 

Because we're not just doing this a few times a week, we're doing this all day, every day, constantly. With no change as yet in sight. 

The piece dives deeper into the reasoning and the consequences but let me pause there, as the feedback loop stretches further afield than just the workplace. Or rather, the lack of one does.

***

This time last year, most of us would make decisions based on a variety of factors, then action them dependant on said factors. Let's pick a low- to mid-range importance one and follow it through; I'm thinking of chopping off all my hair3

Beginning the process of above, I'd see something random, perhaps a celebrity with similiar features, think they look good with their luscious new do, and consider how I'd look. I'd scroll back through my socials feeds, checking old hairstyles, checking pals hairstyles, judging, filtering out how I felt about both. I'd then garner the opinion of loved ones, friends, and finally, a professional (hairdresser, smartass, not a therapist). 

In terms of whether I'd actually go through with said decision, my mind would be fairly made up by the time I started getting opinions, but again - dilution. Doing research helps, but hearing what people who know and love you think, then weighing that up against my own thoughts about said thing (i.e. chopping the locks), gave balance and variance. 

Occasionally, things change your mind; given enough contrary feedback, input that varies to your own, and of course opinions will alter, and therefore actions too. That's the whole point of being well-informed and evolving. 

And that's where the problem is, right here, right now; the feedback loop. We haven't got one. 

***

A little while back4, I got into bread-making. 

Let me rephrase that; I spent the better part of two weeks agonising over getting into bread making. Nope, not just what sort of bread, where to get the best flour, whether to use a machine or by hand (you know, the reasonable, important stuff). No, no, I agonised over actually making bread at all. You know, just, should I make bread...

For those of you not following along; It Didn't Fucking Matter. Not then. Not now.

I mean, taking up a hobby that was recommended to me by a loved one as a stress-release sounded great. But, being me - and with a wonky dilution function throwing off my feedback loop - I deep-dived into that decision like someone had asked me to donate a kidney. 

What did making bread mean to me? Would it fulfil me? Would I actually be able to eat the bread? Who would I give it to if I didn't? I questioned whether the loved one was actually serious, or had they meant it as a throwaway comment? Did other people make bread? Which people? Would I need to join a group to understand bread? 

Holy Fucking Spadoolies Magrat. It's just bread. Carby, tasty, satisfying. But not, in fact, donating a kidney. 

I can't blame this all on one thing and I can't say what it was for absolute sure either. But consider this; with a decent feedback loop that comes from looking people in the eye, gauging people's tone, but also not just spending all your time with all your own thoughts, there's a mammoth possibility that I would have just taken the words as the affectionate suggestion they were, considered it briefly, agreed heartily, then got into making my multigrain soy and linseed far sooner than the fuckwittery that followed. 

Hold that thought...

***

In our parents' day, let alone our grandparents', they sat down and talked. They went to dinner and coffee and had long chats about everything under the sun. They added booze if it was an especially sensitive topic, or went somewhere fun if it was a celebration. But they got together and engaged on the matter at hand. I know, novel right? 

They actually sat together and looked each other in the eye. For hours. They didn't just hum one-word answers between text messages over dinners they photographed for people online they didn't actually know. The psychos! 

My point here is that while you're thinking about how frustrating and upsetting this is for you, maybe also spare a thought for people who have even less of a feedback loop than you do. Don't mistake me; they may have social media and computers and cable tv, but they don't use it like younger generations do. 

It pains me to boil down a point to an age thing, but it's more about a group of people who have certain habits that have been rudely, swiftly, and brutally dismissed. 

Ok, moving on from the rant-y section, but keep that in mind for later...

***

What we're all doing at the moment, from angsty teenagers to hipster twenty-somethings, from laid-back late thirties to perky pensioners, is living a lot with our own stuff. And every time we step outside our bubble, or rather, every opportunity we get to step outside it, it's pandemic this and restrictions that. Government mandates, medical testing, pillaged supermarkets. Weird world leaders and community violence. People suffering and people misbehaving. 

It's any wonder we make stupid, knee-jerk decisions, or endlessly torment ourselves over simple stuff (see aforementioned bread situation). No wonder we react badly to something not that bad, and get excited about stuff everyone needs to be a little less excited about

It's a bit crap at the moment, and no one is doing anything remotely normal because there aren't that many normal things to do. That's no ones fault; it's a global pandemic. But we need to keep saying that to ourselves, we need to keep overexplaining that to ourselves, and to everyone else. 

So, yes, we are over-reacting and under-reacting. And no, your reactions are not normal, but this is not a normal time. Yes, we will get back to feeling settled and regular, but it won't be 'normal' like people want it to be, and we need to stop using that as the word du jour. This wasn't and isn't normal, it's life-changing and there's nothing we can do about it.

As a result, maybe we start cutting ourselves some slack, cutting everyone else some slack, and just trying to make decisions again based on logical thinking, reasonable judgement, and the usual good input from your nearest and dearest. Until it really gets through, until we can step back from a moment, just for a beat, and check ourselves, how we are treating things and how we are treating others, and just be cool.

Oh, and totally stop checking what reddit says we should be doing today. That rubbish will rot your brain.

~*LTM*~



1everything comes in this timeframe now; you can say days / weeks / months, but really, it all kind of blurs into one segue

2these are the asshats who wake you up at 2am to consider how much better your life would be if you were richer / thinner / in a better job. Fuck these guys

3don't be absurd, of course this is a hypothetical. It's Lady Lovely Locks until I die now

4see first note - this is slightly less time than that, but still anywhere between five days and a month

Thursday, 30 April 2020

[ magick in isolation ]


In some ways, there's a very surreal feeling to current times; some days I feel like we've been in isolation forever. Like the days and weeks, edging eerily close to months, have been drifting along for ages and ages, and we can't seem to recall the last time we went out for anything that wasn't 'necessary' or 'essential' (a strange thing to define right now).

Other times, days when the sun hits my face just right, or when I can smell winter cooking on the air starting up, those days, it feels like we've only been doing this for a little while. A little shock of delight when I recall the last time I bought a takeaway latte and joked with my barista. Hurrying home from the station to beat the crowds. The faces of all the people I encountered every day, how their expressions changed when they saw me (good, bad, and indifferent!).

I've been thinking about all the things I've read, about how it's completely normal to feel and be less productive in a global pandemic. I've realised there are things I can and can't do, and some things that are just plain different no matter how much I want them to be the same. Even that seems surreal somehow, like I'm standing in the middle of storm I can't control, as well as having no way of even quantifying anything even resembling a plan. Which is super normal it seems but doesn't make it any less weird.

To be honest, I've never felt isolated as a solitary witch before. All my training over the years has been dipping in and out of group work anyway; I got to work with others when I wanted, and practice alone when I didn't. I've always had the option of how I worked my magic. Now, even if I wanted to, I don't have a choice.

Or do I...?


Here's the thing; day by day, week by week, I'm starting to grasp the small blessings that come from a situation as appalling as this. The little things that reconnect me to the earth - you know, the one that's currently trying to annihilate us, one event at a time.

(I mean, how much bigger sign do we need than three natural disasters in a row? I know I say that the universe is vast, and we are miniscule, so sometimes messages get lost in translation, but this is pretty mind-blowingly clear).

But this doesn't negate how hard this all is, how stressful and mentally exhausting every single hour can be, just trying to forge a new way of acting normal. Because this isn't normal, it isn't simple, and sometimes, it really doesn't feel like it will ever be over.

So, while we're here, we need to use this time as best we can and do what we can. As witches, as practitioners, as otherlings. We need to use our not-inconsiderable strength and power, and punch it joyfully out into the world. Or even just whisper quietly to our spirits in the dark, you know?

I'm come up with a list of ways you can do this in isolation (come on, you all knew a list was coming, don't pretend you didn't). This list will give you an idea of how to keep working in these extraordinary times, little rituals I hope will give you comfort and spark your own ideas, ways we can keep making magic, no matter what.


~* Miss sitting in a park or trekking around the bush? Yea, me too. But we're not in prison cells - nature is everywhere if you look hard enough. Whether you live in an apartment or are lucky enough to have a massive garden, spend some time with plants. Walk barefoot on grass if you can, or just stick your fingers in the earth (announce yourself first, it's only polite!), close your eyes, and breathe in that earthy scent. Feel the grainy texture of the soil, smell the smell of organic growing things. Hold it in your mind. Return to it when you're feeling out of sorts. 
We all came from this, and to this we shall return *~

~* Being the whitest white girl in Sydney, I don't really strike people as a 'beachy' person. And I'm not, but that doesn't mean I don't miss my yearly trip to feel the sand on my toes, the smell of the sea, or cold, fresh water on my skin. If you're lucky enough to live close to the ocean, I'll bet you're popping down whenever you can for exercise, but for those of us who don't, all is not lost. Even for those in apartments.

It's important to keep our visualisation skills honed, so this is a great exercise for them. You can take a jug of water outside, or even just stand at the kitchen sink (remember what I said about the universe not caring about the tools, only the intent). Dip your fingers slowly into the water. Visualise where it's coming from; think of a stream or the tide on a beach coming to lap at your hands. Sink into the images you're creating, let them wash over your whole being. If you can hold it long enough, you might even begin to smell something, but don't worry if you don't, that will come with time *~

~* Does everything smell like antiseptic? Is the medicinal smell making you just a little bit crazy, like lady Macbeth trying to wash imaginary blood from her hands? Just because we should all be washing our hands and accessories more thoroughly these days doesn't mean we need to smell like a chemist all the time. You can still be hospital-grade hygienic and smell like an English garden.

Start washing your hair and body with things from the pantry. You heard me; the pantry. Put honey and lemon in your hair, and olive oil on your skin. Brush your teeth with a wee bit of bi-carb soda, and bathe or shower with some sage or rosemary. No need to go overboard, a little goes a long way in this case. And as a bonus - you can eat this stuff too. Win, win, right?*~

~*Everyone is sleeping badly right now, and everyone is having weird dreams. Some of us are having nightmares, and that kinda sucks more than anything.

But there is a teeny silver lining to this depressing turn of events; weird hours mean more opportunities at weird magic! Ever wanted to try that midnight moon spell or that crack of dawn incantation? Well now you can.

Without a morning commute to worry about, or where you'll park your car, there's a good hour or two of your day that can be saved for other things - like cat naps between spells and work. With your lunchbreak now neatly sandwiched up against your work time, you can start using it to prep a little ritual for the afternoon, or even nod off on the lounge for a while.

Time is on your side here, so whether you redress the sleep debt balance or use it for magic, make note of the mysterious times we're living in and make them work for you*~

~*I recently dug all my old textbooks out of the garage and started to go through my favourites. Books of water magic and love spells, crystal tomes and candle texts. I found my very first notes from my training days, pressed like flowers between the pages of a dog-haired natural magic hardcover.

Revisit the past, reconnect with your roots, relearn the skills you take for granted. With so much to watch on tv, it's hard not to stay glued to the screen (I'm not dissing it by the way, just suggesting ways to rest your eyes). And most of us learned our grassroots lessons with a book in our hands.

So, wipe the dust off the jackets and leaf through your favourites. Maybe, like me, you'll get lucky and find a pendulum tucked in a bag of runes tucked away between Divination For Beginners and Hocus Pocus*~

~*Even the most solitary of witches is feeling isolated right now. There's a difference between avoiding others and groups, and avoiding everything. The former is a lifestyle choice, the latter is a survival choice.

It can be hard to understand, but science and magick are not separate things. In fact, they are very similar; magic is just a science that hasn't been proven yet. And maybe it never will, but if they are the same, surely, we can use them alike?

Attend online meditations or host sabbat parties, where everyone brings their treats to the screens and discusses their rites for the day or night. Read about your stars here or get your cards read here. Or if you're feeling especially in the mood, do your own readings for others via videocall; your magic is not diminished by distance, only by lack of belief in yourself.

Think outside the box and inside the star; new ways mixing with old*~


The is by no means an exhaustive list, and in some ways, I look forward to finding out new weird and wonderful ways to work magick at this time. I'd also like to hear from you, so feel free to drop me a line with any others you've thought of, any magical questions you might have, or even just some thoughts on how magick has changed - because it has. But not in the way you think.

Because really, you've got to know, the universe doesn't care if you use a silver bowl or a plastic one, it doesn't judge if you use cheap herbs or the torch on your phone as a candle. The energy comes from you.  The intent comes from you. The magick comes from - that's right - you. 

It always has and always will. Remember that.

~*LTM*~




Wednesday, 25 March 2020

[ lust in the time of corona ]


It's all about COVID-19 coronavirus at the moment. I'd love to tell you I had something else to talk about, but I'm working from home, watching Netflix and 'watching' memes, so my repertoire is a little light these days.

One curious little nugget that's starting to pop up though is how dating will work, especially online dating. And here, my friends, is where I shine.

Because, let's be serious; we all know I was hoarding before it became a thing, avoiding people before the government mandated it, and dating like a hybrid Bridget Jones and Taylor Swift.

Y'all ready for this?

***

For starters, THANK THE EVERLOVING GODS FOR SMALL TALK. I know what you're thinking; wtf? That is literally the last thing you want to be doing during this cluster of a situation. But hear me out. 

When you meet someone new, online or otherwise, you basically want them to grab your attention straight up, give you a little mental thrill of pique. In normal situations, you'd put up with all manner of utter tosh first in order to get to the meaty goodness of a chat. The hopes/wishes/dreams part. The who-I-really-am part. The part you actually care about and start paying attention to. 

With the arrival of corona, all that fuckwittery has to go. No longer is how's your day? going to cut it, the standard is going to be better and the stakes higher. Because boy, trust me; you're not the only one she's talking to, and they sure as hell aren't wasting their time on bullshit pleasantries about the weather or what she's wearing. 


You know what else is going to happen more often? Best behaviour. And I have to be honest, I'm suuuch a big fan of best behaviour, but for very conflicting reasons. You see, best behaviour can mean two things. One, you're being the really good version of yourself, as much as possible, and that version is pretty great. So much so that the rest of you, however much you find it wanting, is actually still pretty attractive to others. 

Two, and on the other hand, can also mean you're hiding your a-bit-rubbish side. You know, the one who says rude things, eats with their mouth open, and doesn't shower enough. And this is where things get interesting.

When you're dating someone in person, best behaviour lasts for approximately however long it takes for someone to fall head-over-teakettle for you, at which point, all dem flaws come tumbling out, as it were. 

You start leaving the toilet seat up, or make-up all over the sink. You start drinking milk from the carton or talking trash about his friends. You admit you didn't take SARS or swine-flu seriously, so you can't understand all the fuss around corona. It's hard to stop once it starts; we're all human, and there's only so long we can hide what we really are.

Well, guess what, lovers? Y'all in for a bumpy ride! Because now you have to be on best behaviour day after day after day. For weeks. You gotta keep your game face on and on and on, while the other person decides if they believe your little stage show, or they overpaid for their tickets. 

And now we're all in iso, that means you have to pull out all the stops in cyberspace. But don't think that means you can be complacent, it actually means the opposite; whereas the online lure used to be enough to reel them in hurriedly for the face-to-face, no one wants to get close enough to find out anytime soon, despite not being allowed to anyway. 

Therefore; best behaviour. A degree in artistry will now need to be employed. And you'll either need stamina or to actually be a good person. Because he's not meeting you at a club at 2am anymore sweetheart - he's snuggled up at home on a videocam with a girl who's teaching him to cook ratatouille while singing charmingly off-key in French. 

Pick. Up. Your. Game. 


If you've made it past the initial play, i.e. the first couple of weeks or so - ok, let's be honest, it's closer to a month - then double thumbs-up to you! You've essentially made second base without having to leave the house, spend a fortune, or go anywhere ridiculous - how is this not awesome, right?! 

Again, remember, dating, like everything else is going to get weird and unusual and we have no choice but to get on with it (except this will be funnier of course). So, should you ever want to see third base again, let alone a home run, you've got to remember that this isn't all going to end tomorrow (or even next week), and act accordingly. 

Now is not the time to get half-cut on cheap plonk, whip out your 300-strong POP! Vinyl collection and introduce your date via videochat to each and every one. By character and actor name. 

Now is not the time to stop wearing nice clothes (upper body only obvi) and start treating video-dates like a gym class, where you get in, work up a sweat, and slip out. Best behaviour, remember? 


Now, in fact, is the time to pull out the big guns. Time to start showcasing all your awesome, sexy things (not that yet, get out of the gutter). Special things, things that make you unique and groovy, not weird, creepy things, that make you, well, weird and creepy. Remember the chick who sings and cooks? Think like that; think hidden talents, not hidden habits. 

Being able to name every Rob Thomas song every written: talent. Being able to name every Australian serial killer from 1900 to now: habit. Please don't make me spell this out for you. And if I have to, get off the interwebs. Right now. 

Got a secret flair for card tricks? Yes, my man, crack them out! Able to braid hair like a Disney princess? Yaaas, queen, turn on the videocam, toot sweet! 

This is the part of the 'relationship' where things get juicy (again, not like that). We still get to spend time doing cool stuff, fun stuff, stuff we usually make an effort to do when we're dating someone in the real world. We're just not going to get to do it in person. Not any time soon anyway.

So, you've got to put in the extra effort here, be creative, think outside the box. Make. Shit. Up. In a good way, obviously.


Look, unless you're an idiot, looking to risk your health, your families, and practically anyone else's, we need to make peace with the fact that no one (no one smart, anyway) is getting laid anytime soon. Which isn't all bad really! The last time I had casual sex I ended up in emergency with a roaring UTI, a headache, 3 days off work, and a massive case of irritation. Good times. 

As far as I'm concerned, coronavirus might be the best thing to happen to the dating world since Bumble added a video chat option. So, strap in, brush your hair, fire up the laptop, and start getting creative.

And maybe brush up on those poetry skills. 

~*LTM*~












Friday, 20 March 2020

[ WFH ]


In the interest of saving you all time, I'll be upfront; my next three articles are coronavirus-related. Given that we'll all two inches and a light sneeze away from solitary isolation as it is, I'm sure this comes as no surprise.

While this is a serious issue - and yes, at least one of the articles is actually serious - I'd like to delve into the lighter side of our situation if I can, or rather the dark humour of it anyway. We've got months of serious ahead of us, and while I know there's also months of material coming my way, as an artist I hope I can contribute in some small way to keeping all our spirits up.

With that in mind, let's have some laughs and try to relax a little if we can. And yes, of course we'll be laughing at my expense. Why else would you be here?

***

Trying to get ahead of the curve as well as flatten it, as it were, my office decided to implement a whole company work-from-home plan, well ahead of when the government will clearly tell us we have to do this anyway. I helped to implement and action it, and I'm so very proud to say that the team I work for pulled it off with nary a stray hitch.

It's kind of after that that things got a little...hinky, shall we say. For me, obviously. Everyone else seems to be pretty au fait with the concept and the actuality of working from home, whilst yours truly can count on one hand the number of times I've actually done it over my career.

We're not counting the writing. That's just me faffing about, with the vague possibility of getting paid for it, so it can't really be counted as work (yet).

To be honest, I still see the acronym WFH and read it as WTF. Which clearly doesn't help my case as I giggle into my coffee like a teenager while my colleagues blithely advise they'll be 'wfh today'. You'll be what today?? *giggle* *snort* *giggle*. Sometimes you wish you were more grown up, and other days you just deal with the traits you're given...

Anyway. With that in mind, here are some of the initial things I'm learning about this whole work-from-home experience. And it's not the productivity or the getting work done part I seem to be coming to terms with, it's, well, everything else...

***

Firstly, I'm still waking up at 6am. Which they say is meant to be good, right? Sticking to your routine? The problem with that is that I stumble from the bedroom to the kitchen, then the loungeroom, then back to the bedroom, slightly confused about why I'm not gaining momentum in speed like I usually do, as I need to the energy to get to the train station. Being that I no longer need to do this, my autopilot function has gone a little soft. Now, I just stumble around like a new-born foal for even longer, trying not to walk into things, letting the first sips of caffeine course through my system, until I finally locate my laptop.

Don't even ask me how long it takes for me to actually set it up on a flat surface for working on. That's another ball game entirely.

Then there's my work Mac. Yes, an actual Mac. Fully functioning, with all the bells and whistles. In my house. Wonders shall never cease, I say. However, have decided I must keep the work Mac and my darling, 15-year-old, alien-green, Sony VAIO, fondly nicknamed Ivy, apart. I can't see this ending well, and I can't risk fights breaking out where I lose connectivity altogether.

That being said, I may have the opposite problem; it'll be 9 months later (or would it be 3 for tech...?), a mini tablet will appear, and suddenly I'll be on the AI version of a Maury Povich paternity test.

Also, about that. With having 'work tech' in the house, I'm having to deal with a whole new set weirdness, stuff that I already dealt with years ago when I set up all my home gear and promptly never changed my routine ever.

Now I've got my Mac with an adaptor on it that lets me plug all sorts of little gadgets in, and has a cute little blue light on the side that lets me know it has a power supply running through it. Being that Mac's are made to be left on (someone told me this, still sounds dubious, but ok), the cute little light lets me know I can power up at any moment. Super cute! Super tech! Instant go, hurrah!

Not so cute? That light in the middle of the night. You don't notice it straight away, but roll over at 2am and it's like being in a sci-fi interrogation floodlight. I feel like I'm about to wake up to someone in a spandex jumpsuit asking me to take them to my leader.

I've learned to either power down or just turning the fucking thing to the wall, but it fared messed with my head for a good few nights before I bothered doing something about it. Moving right along.

Dressing for work has taken an interesting turn. I always like to look nice when I leave the house, it's just the level of casual-to-classy that varies. Now that I'm barely leaving the house, there's certainly a slight skew to my apparel. I'm doing pants all the time (zero stars, do not recommend), pretty blouses, and brushing my hair, but that's about it.

Given that I'm not client-facing, I've let my colleagues see my make-up less face on video chats more than is good for them, but given that the lighting in my room is lovely and dim, I've really started to appreciate it; my skin has never looked so good, albeit the whiter-shade-of-pale most people don't usually see. So, you know, checks and balances and all that.

Also. TMI warning; no bra after 3pm. Utter heaven.

I'd love to tell you there's some discipline around my eating and coffee-drinking habits, but we both know it would be a total waste of time, and given that I can barely control myself in the office unless carefully supplied with a packed lunch and snacks in advance, we can hardly expect anything more given I now have 24/7 access to cheese and caffeine at all times.

At least this way I'm supervised, grazing more even regularly (admittedly 50% of the time on comestibles that are small, easily-scoffed, dairy products), and generally only bouncing off my own walls and not into traffic. Small miracles, eh?

***

Like I said, it's not the actual work I seem to be having issues with. It's the somewhat surreal fact of being in my own home with my 'work persona'; you know, the one I switch on and off as I walk into and out of the office each day. She seems confused by simple things like pants and easy access to cheese (did I mention the cheese? Oh, but the access to cheese). By gliding slowly into the day without spending a portion of it with the cranky masses, playing roulette with public transport. By the delight of watching the 5 o'clock news and eating dinner straight after. 

So to be fair, it's not all doom and gloom, and I'm certainly counting my blessings that I even have the option of working from home - rather than not being able to work at all.

It's just, well, I feel like the chances of further developing a lactose-intolerance and a fading ability to apply mascara may need to be carefully monitored. Creating romance stories based around the love-hate relationship between a Sony and a Mac need to be discouraged, and I'm pretty sure I should keep wearing pants, no matter how reticent I am on the issue.

In the end, all I'll ask is that you all keep me in your thoughts when you stride purposely to your home office, calmly turn on your laptop, and somehow start your day without a banged shin or a Dairylea cheese pod.

I need all the help I can get.

~*LTM*~



























Wednesday, 26 February 2020

[ girl parts ]




Before we begin, let me just say #notallmen.

And #yeswomentoo. Also #mrm.

Actually, you know what, I can't even. That last one made me want to physically gag, so imma stop there. I can't even preface this piece with some tongue-in-cheekness to show I'm open and aware that there's another side to this discussion, whatever you think of it. Because, you know what, I don't actually fucking care today. I probably won't tomorrow either.

#sorrynotsorry

So here it is; men, we need to talk. I'd like to say that I'll be talking to certain men, those toxic specimens that are still living in the dark ages, the ones who need this message drilled into their heads with a power tool. But we already know they need to hear this. So sadly, this is aimed at the other ones. The nice ones. The seemingly lovely, gentlemanly ones. The ones I thought cared, the ones I thought were on our side.

Because you've shown me you're not. You've let me down. You've let women down, and dammit, you've let yourselves down. Again. And again. And again.

Y'all ready for this? That's ok, I don't care if you are either.

***

A few weeks back, I got mansplained to. This in and of itself is not news; I get mansplained to regularly (cue everyone being deeply unsurprised). I get it from bus drivers and baristas (you know that sort of milk isn't really good for you, right?), check-out operators and civil servants (love, if you read the form properly, you'll see it says exactly what to do). Most of the time now, I tune it out. 

To be honest, if I lost my cool every time some idiot thought they needed to tell me how to do pretty much anything, I'd be a constant, red-hot, molten volcano, cascading over all and sundry. Which, if nothing else, requires a level of energy I'm just not capable of, no matter how much caffeine I've got in me.

No, this was unusual because it came from a good friend. He was shortly going to introduce me to bunch of new people, people in his field, and he wanted to give me a little brief on what they were like, as I do tend to get somewhat shy in new groups until I get my bearings. Which would have been fine, except he explained it like this; 

So these guys are really smart, like all top of their class smart, and you just need to be careful, because I don't want you to be intimidated or anything. Like, I think you'll do fine, but just remember they are really pretty nerdy smart, ok? 

Sorry, what? I think I was so taken aback for a second that I was speechless (I know, shocking). When I did regain my vocal powers, I hesitantly asked exactly what he meant, and apparently, he really did mean I should be careful. And that I shouldn't be intimidated. Because they are quite smart. And I'm...not? 

It took a distressingly long time for the penny to drop, but when it did, unfortunately, things went from bad to worse; no, no, it's not that you're not smart too, it's just that they are really smart and that might be intimidating. However hard I pushed, no reason why this might be so was forthcoming. This led me to believe the simplest solution was probably the likeliest; he thinks I'm not as smart as his set, and can't seem to differentiate one skill set from another in terms of intelligence (which I half-heartedly tried to explain, but lost the will to live halfway through and gave up). 

To be honest, I wasn't angry, so much as hurt. This person is clever, reasonably emotionally intelligent, and we've known each other for a while. What gives? Would he have said this to someone else? Maybe, but I don't think so. Hold that thought...

***

A while back, la mama was in the gym doing her thing on the treadmill, when one of the young buck trainers came up to preen and show off a bit. Nice guy, but honestly thinks a bit much of himself. Before some of you cry foul, let me give you some background first; this trainer knew she came to the gym, he interacted with her on and off on a regular-ish basis, knew her strengths and abilities, has actual training in the area, and interacts with many other people of her age who work out in the gym - women and men. So, you'll bloody well forgive me if I call it what it was rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt in advance.

So there she is, happily beetling along, when he starts asking her what speed she's doing, what she's looking to achieve, etc. Fair enough to start, but not so much when she politely lets him know she's just working out and getting herself into the swing of it. For those of you who still can't see the issue here, let me spell it out;

So what speed are you doing *craning into her space to see the readout*

Oh, I'm just working my way up, thanks.

You could be going faster, you know. You could increase the incline. 

Yup, sure, but I'm good thanks. Thanks anyway. 

Yeah but that's doing nothing, you're wasting your time just doing that. 

If you think I'm kidding with that last line folks, I'm afraid not. And if you'd like me to take a breath, suspend my doubt for even a fraction of a second, let me add this; both la mama and I have watched this lad approach other people of similar and varying ages to us, and not once has he spoken that way. Oh wait, hang on, he did. And you know what that person had in common with us? Put a pin in that one for a sec too...

***

One last example, just so we're crystal-cut clear. Years ago, I went on holidays to see a festival and a bit of the city I was staying in. I'd been to the city once before and loved it, but not the festival and was super excited. I had a few friends also coming to town, staying in various places, and we were going to get the coach together to the festival. 

While I was waiting for my flight from Sydney, I was texting one of the group, talking about what I was going to do when I got there, where we were going to meet, where we were going to eat, etc. There was some discussion around about how I was getting from the airport to the hotel, but I didn't think too much about it, and boarded my plane with my phone now in flight mode like a good little traveller. 

Imagine my surprise when upon hitting the tarmac and switching my phone back on, I've got a text saying there'll be a shuttle to pick me up at the front of the airport and they know I'm coming. 

Er. Come again? On this occasion, I saw white-hot red and made myself clear in no uncertain terms. Under what circumstances anyone just does something for someone, including giving out their personal details, without prior consent - and thinks it's appropriate - is utterly beyond me. And we should all think this way. 

But you know what? This doesn't get done to just anyone. It doesn't happen under varying circumstances. And blame can't equitably be shared out among varying people. Because a woman didn't do this; a man did. And if the circumstances were reversed, I would bet anything you can ask that a woman would have done the one thing a man didn't; Fucking Ask. 

***

Here's the conclusion I've come to from forensically examining each of the above and many, many other occasions like these; the lowest common denominator is a simple matter of gender. 

Because it's not that these situations are uncommon. They are not extraordinary circumstances, and we are not unusually difficult people (ok, most of the time I'm not, shut up). And the offender in these scenarios is not generally an asshole. They're really not. Which I know is hard to believe, especially when portrayed by these single examples, but that's the kicker.

These are pretty decent guys. Ok, I say that with varying levels of sincerity, but I mean it. Each man has more merits than faults, or at least I thought so. But that's the problem, isn't it? We're letting genuinely good guys get away with bullshit behaviour because most of the time they are good guys. 

Guess what? That's not enough anymore. It's just not. This is the 21st century, and you've had decades of education. Your genuine inability to see the fact that you revert to some sort of caveman when threatened with an independent woman is rubbish. Your lack of awareness that a woman wants to be asked her opinion, whether you're aware of her knowledge or not, is openly appalling. And your hurt and disappointment that we just don't want to be taken care of shows such a depth of misapprehension, it's breathtaking.

Women spend so much time padding men's egos, it's ludicrous. When you say no, it means no. When we say no, we've hurt your feelings, damaged your sense of self, and generally eaten into the very fabric of your being that feels it still needs to be the hunter/gatherer and take care of everything while we sit at home and keep the fire going.

Let me explain something very carefully; men want to control women. I won't hear otherwise, so don't even bother trying, because you know it's true. Men want us to do what they say, when they say, and agree with everything they think. We've spent years and years and years fighting this, scrabbling our way up from the ground just so we can even have an opinion, and still we soothe your egos when you tell us those opinions and thoughts and feelings are wrong. You know why? Because men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them. And as horrifying as that is, it's the truth. So is it any wonder we are scared, and we sometimes choose the path of least confrontation?

That being the case, you know our reasons for doing what we do, good guys. What's your fucking excuse?  

***

And so, gentleman - my more lovely, informed ones - I, for one, am no longer letting this behaviour fly. 

Because, you're meant to be on our side. You're meant to be helping us fight the good fight. You're meant to be there with us; educating, enlightening; encouraging. But I'm tired of holding your hand when you get it wrong, and I'm sick of hearing how hard it is for you sometimes. 

Don't mistake me; I'm still here for you. I still care about your life, your happiness, your health. Sort of.

It's just, after a few thousand years of ancestral memory finally kicking in, I no longer give a fuck whether the women in your life are doing enough to 'understand and support you'. 

Tell you what; you meet us even halfway as far as we've met you in the last 100 years, and I'll start letting you open doors for me again and stop saying fuck in front of your nerdy friends. 

Deal? 



~*LTM*~





























Monday, 20 January 2020

[ 2020: How To (insert any stupid option here) ]


It's the middle of January. You've been back at work for at least a week or two, you've drunk several cups of coffee, and you're well and truly engaged with the all-consuming existential dread that comes from the never-fucking-ending start that is the new year. You know this feeling; we did it last year. And the year before that. And every year before that, going back to a certain age. The age where you started to get that itch that got you wanting to start things rolling yourself, rather than just letting them pan out on their own. 

Mine started earlier than most I think, around my late twenties, when the creeping feeling that January was the tester month, the try-before-you-by option of the coming year, kicked in. Happily far enough away from the holiday weeks of eating crap and sitting around doing nothing, you were still actually on leave, but you could start planning your goals and ideals for the coming year.

Then my thirties hit, and the constant low-grade, high-functioning anxiety with it, so that was good fun. Except, obviously, it wasn't. I still got stuff done, but I started to worry about what I was getting done, how much I was getting done, and if the things I was doing were worth getting done. 

Before I lose you all in vagaries, think about all your 'new years' resolutions'; eat better, exercise more, spend less, spend more time with people you actually like, doing things you actually enjoy, etc., etc. I don't do new years' resolutions anymore, for lots of reasons, but we'll come to that. I think they're all good and well, helpful even, but problematic. Mainly due to aforementioned anxiety. And I'm not alone in this. We all get it. That's why January, even into the great grey beast February, seems to drag on like something alive and sinister, swallowing us and all our good intentions whole before we can even get into the swing of the new year. 

Soz. Went a bit dark there for a moment. Blame Clive Barker. 

Anyway. Where I'm going with this is this; the first few months of the new year are almost always rather brutal. Even when you're feeling on top of the world, buoyed by great plans and expectations, it's almost always a monumental effort to slog through them; the constant struggle to get back into a routine, the fake cheerfulness, the repetition of said goals to yourself and anyone else who'll listen. And I'm here to tell you something I've realised, something simple, yet mind-blowing when you get into it; it's all bullshit. Grade A, first-class, bullshit.

I know, mental, right? 

So we're all following the same thread, let me lay it out for you, starting from all the way back when. In November, the giddy feeling of completing another year starts to infuse our whole being. The general impression that we did the best we could, we won some, we lost some, but we got out there - it all sinks into our very bones, ready for the kickback atmosphere of the holiday season. This feeling lasts for a good few weeks. 

Around mid-December it all goes sideways obviously, with lunches and catch-ups, parties and get-togethers; basically any excuse to add booze to a meet-up. Which is fine and well, and also where the line of forward planning becomes real fuzzy and hard to grasp. Somewhere between drinks with the team, family lunches, and plans for that weird break between xmas and new year, we lose all sense of time and space, forgetting what day it is, let alone what month we're in. And then suddenly we're back at work, hunched over our desk, having a mild panic attack about deadline and meetings, how much weight we've put on, and craving yet another ill-advised chocolate bar from the leftover xmas stash. 

Ok, maybe that last part is just me. Then again, all things considered, maybe not. 

And then it all goes *seriously* pear-shaped. Real, deep and meaningful panic blooms like a fungus, and then, here we are; back at the existential dread stage. You start to question how much you can achieve this year if you're already so overwhelmed you feel like you can't breathe. You sweat over whether the amount of debt you accrued over xmas will ever go away, or whether you'll get that promotion you've been angling for. You worry about your family, your health, your general sense of wellbeing, and finely dissect every conversation you have with every single person you speak to, like the carefree being you were over the holidays never existed at all. 

There it is. The giant roadblock that fucks you up and halts any forward motion of beneficial merit. Paralysed by indecision and self-doubt, you instead incessantly second-guess yourself about things you've either already planned for or are totally out of your control. Out loud, it sounds like you're just checking yourself, dotting i's and crossing t's, but inside, you know exactly what you're doing. And it's horrible.

This is the part where I call bullshit. This is the point where I took a solid look at myself, all those years ago, and gave it a hard pass. Where I decided it was all too hectic, too stressful, too much, and went yea but nah. And I think you should too. You know why?

Because, exactly like I said, it's rubbish. Society has conditioned us to think like this, marketing has compelled us to believe all sorts of crap, and we do. Needless to say, nothing has changed. Not really. We've just physically moved from one year to another, and society has drilled into us this awful sense of foreboding that if we haven't started achieving anything, openly and matter-of-factly producing results, by the time you notice it's another year gone by, we're less than we were. We're not, obviously. I know this, you know this, everyone actually fucking knows this. But we fall into the trap of believing all the magazines and all the newspapers, touting this 'new year, new me' malarkey, force-feeding us on how to work and live and even breathe better (you wish I was kidding with that last one. I'm not). Why? Because it's designed to tap into making us feel better, making us feel accomplished already, without any of the blood, sweat, and tears that actual work requires. We get the brief moment of euphoria, that opalescent glimmer of our theoretically better selves and strive to reach that, before crashing rudely back to reality and all the shit we haven't done. 

At which point, we read another stupid article on the best way to lose belly fat or save money or, kill me, how to be the best version of you, and suddenly we're catapulted back up to the unrealistic heights of expectation that are never, ever going to happen. 

This is because fear is not a great motivator. It's great for momentum, not so much for getting people to change. Change comes when you genuinely want things to be different. When, despite the fact that staying the same would easier, nicer, and much, much more physically and mentally comfy, you really want the thing at the end of the transformation. More than you want to do nothing.

Plus, everything is more palatable to deal with in bite-sized chunks. That's why real change is also about habit; if you get used to feeling a little bit uncomfortable, knowing that at the end of the incrementally annoying tunnel there's a big fat light, you find it so much easier to put up with it. 

Again, this is why 'new years' resolutions' are bullshit; if you really want to change, change now. Right now. If you really want to lose weight, don't eat crap all the time - let yourself have treats and exercise more. If you really want to save money, balance your spending with your saving, and do the research on how to budget with what you have. If you want to have a better relationship with people, don't wait until January 1 - stop being an asshole now and start talking to people more. 

Using an arbitrary date with which to make life decisions is like staying up until midnight every weeknight and trying to catch up on sleep at the weekend; it creates a debt. One which you can never overcome, you can never beat, you can never recover from. Expecting the results to be different isn't just ridiculous, it's stupid. 

Here's the thing. Let's begin the new year as we mean to go along. Not with 'resolutions', but with affirmations, or reaffirmations. Look at all the things you achieved last year, and keep doing those. Look at all the shit that held you back, and stop doing that. Go easy on yourself in the first few months of year, because habit takes time and no one is holding a gun to your head. Pretend January (and February really) are August and October. Take one step, one week, one month at a time, and try to enjoy the sluggishness of the first quarter, because you've got a whole year to hustle (and by the gods, you will). And trust me, in three months you'll have achieved more than you thought you could, struggled less than you realised, and still got to have a good time. 

So. Breathe through the panic attack. Have another coffee, but maybe not the danish. Think about all the cool things you're going to get done, but don't obsess over them. Give yourself a pat on the back and a quiet little round of applause for getting this far. 

And for the love of all that's sacred, Put The Magazine Down.


~*LTM*~