Avalanches, Beyond Blue and Laughter Yoga

Laugh. I love making people laugh.

Yet I have not laughed much myself for near on two years.  The decision to move to Melbourne after living remote for a long time has been hard.

It has taken a monumental mental health crash to realise this. My social anxiety has been debilitating since a workplace injury.  But I am working really hard to recover.  But I need to sleep a lot, and I have had to ask for help and get help like I haven’t had to since my 20’s (when I was recovering from a temporary brain injury).

Part of that is doing the things I love that are light years away from Community Services. In fact, it looks like I can no longer work in community services and I have had to grieve that.  One burn out too many.

I do have two comedy performances coming up (a creativity workshop and a small run of four shows in March) – but I was hoping that this year I would be performing more, not less. This mental health crash means I still need to perform, I just don’t have the spoons to do it much and I have to get lots of support to be able to. Self-care has been a struggle, but friends have rallied around and I am immensely grateful to them.

Yesterday I did the washing six times, the same washing. Because I would forget and go to sleep and…yep…rinse cycle.

Some might think that the definition of irony for someone who loves writing, producing and performing comedy is to experience the mental health challenges as I do.

Or is it? Oh dear, there is that dreaded stereotype about comedians and mental health.  But it isn’t just comedians.  It’s everyone that is at risk.

I repeat. EVERYONE.

I started this blog a long time ago when I was about to trek the Annapurna circuit in the Himalayas and this blog was to raise funds for Beyond Blue. And to talk about happiness, of all things. Since then it morphed into my comedy website.

The fact is that trip to Nepal was life changing, the evolution of this blog reflects that fact.  I was trekking with a partner and during the trek we just missed being caught in the October 2014 avalanche and freak storm that killed 39.  Our next two days of trekking were very scary indeed.

Things unravelled. My partner and I split two days later and when I returned to Australia I moved out two days after we landed.  The stress of these things brings truth to the fore.

For me that truth was, bisexual me was forcing a relationship that was making me miserable.  Playing house.  Those who know me well know that this is plainly ridiculous.  Even more ridiculous is that since then I have realised I am also grey asexual, meaning real attractions for me are rarer than for most. I was bullying myself to conform.

Today I felt like, for the first time since an awful period of suicidality in November/December 2019 – like I could be aware enough to count my blessings.  Whilst I practice gratitude, when you are facing intense mental health challenges you can be practicing but not really practicing.

Some things I have shed from my 45th year (the beginning of this blog) to my 50th year:

  • Gender binary conformity
  • Giving a shit about what other people think about me
  • Denial of my neurodiversity – being okay with both the strengths and impairment of being autistic and having chronic illness
  • The desire to conform to ideas of monetary success (money stress still sucks though)
  •  Throwing in the bin any remaining concerns about the expectations of my family to be CISHET, regular job, non-artistic or any of there discrimination of the basis of neurodivergence.

Some things I am embracing:

  • Family isn’t biological.  My friends are my family.
  • Love is love and everyone deserves it.
  • It’s okay to need help.
  • I like me for the first time ever.
  • The status quo is not for me, so an arts career is probably where I should be!
  • I don’t have to be all things to all people.
  • Don’t read the comments.
  • Fuck shame.  It can piss off.
  • ENBY BI GREY-A intersectionality.
  • Block trolls.
  • Stay political.

So now, at the beginning of my 50th year I think it’s time to laugh more.  Very soon I will be a laughter yoga leader and delivering this will make sure I am laughing with others, regularly.

I am going to laughter yoga, comedy write and rest myself back to better health.  I am very limited in the time I can spend on any task at the moment and I am aware this is long path yet.  But I will persist. To quote Joe Cocker, “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends”.

Picture of me laughing for attention.

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Faster.

Faster.

Quicker.

Swifter.

But not necessarily better.

What? I hear some of you say!

“Haste means Waste” – somebody wise from the past.

Remember that time when you hurried because you thought you were going to be late and ended up later because you fumbled?

Sometimes slowing down and ordering your priorities is a better option. Maybe it’s better to arrive calm and smiling, in your third favourite earrings instead of your first.

Remember that time you decided the discomfort was not worth waiting a bit longer and took the next available opportunity only for it to be terrible over a long period?

Waiting is uncomfortable sometimes. But let’s face it – we are all sitting in life’s waiting room. Good things often take time.

Why rush something you can’t possibly control?

In my current situation, in a life circumstance of trying to establish myself in a new city, I’m consciously taking time out to take care of my “patience”, and feel okay about a period of joblessness. It’s making it a completely more joyful and pleasant circumstance, even though challenging.

Discomfort is part of every experience (whether you class that experience as good or bad). If you avoid it in an endless search for the comfortable or pleasant – sometimes you forget to stop and appreciate the little things. Little joys.

Cultivate little stops if need be, but rush and miss all those little joys, the choice is ours.

Day 6 – Remembrance

I am no good at goodbyes. I also don’t really believe in goodbyes. Today we can find each other again so easily, you never really say goodbye. This blog keeps me connected to people. I haven’t seen a lot of people here to say goodbye as such, because I am not gone completely. I will come back to visit, maybe even return for a period again possibly. Who knows? But a visit is definite.

img_1873So, this afternoon, after the packing and cleaning I went up to Untyeye-artwilye (Anzac Hill). I suppose I was saying goodbye, to the landscape and to the people I have worked with here that have passed on. There are many of them. But I took solace in knowing that they went back into country and that they are all around me here.

img_1875I remember sitting with one old man on his veranda. I won’t name him out of respect for his family. We sat there, on upturned milk crates with cardboard for a seat, and discussed the amount of development in the town the damage to scared places. I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was many years ago.

He taught me a huge amount about this culture, for which I will be ever grateful. This is not something you can get from books and I was very privileged to be able to gain that information. Today I stood on the hill that represents two cultures viewpoints of sacred, but the Indigenous space to me was the legitimate one. The imposition of a war memorial is a glaring testimony to colonial domination. War is hell and war memorials do little to sooth my views on this. As ex-military who saw the end of the Operation Desert Storm from Australia domestically, I don’t believe war is inevitable or any way glorious; I believe it should be avoided at all costs. Whilst I understand Australian’s ANZAC legacy all too well (my father was a WWII veteran), I struggle to understand why we cling to violent histories. I don’t believe we should continue to honour one perspective only and that all histories from all cultures are important.

So, I stood on the hill and remembered the custodians and elders I have worked with who are now gone. I remembered my commitment to a fairer, more just world filled with diversity and culture. I silently apologised to those elders for leaving, but promised that I would continue to work for that fairer and more just Australia through whatever medium that is presented to me.

I looked up at the Aboriginal flag flying proudly. It took 30 years and 14 years of debate to have this here, on top of this Aboriginal sacred site, alongside the other flags.

I am glad it is here finally, even if only for special commemorations and days of the year. When I next visit I hope it is a permanent fixture. img_1888

Tonight, I stay with a dear friend on her property 20km’s or so, south of Alice Springs.

There will be food and fireside chat.

It will be a beautiful departure.

Then up at 5.30 am and on the road the 1200 km to Port Augusta.

Of Spite and Surrender

This afternoon I’m in my temporary living room. Almost everything that is left of my material life is spread out, ready to go back in three large plastic boxes.

Two boxes will be stored in Alice Springs.  One box will go with me, wherever I go next.

I don’t know where that will be and won’t for a while.

There are some strange relics here, much like my strange life. A large vulva and vagina costume I wear on stage. An important shisha, resplendent with purple glass base and floral pink hose, for smoking apple tobacco, a very occasional habit I picked up through several travels through the Middle East.  Three volumes of my book manuscript in very different stages of editing. Chinese language flashcards and note books with my attempts at writing Mandarin.

A burlesque bra. Paints, so many filled note books, so many paintbrushes!

And this note…a note that is the concept behind an abstract painting I want to paint about my old life.

“The familiar meant that happiness was the unfamiliar.”

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Have you ever wondered about the patterns of spite and surrender in your life?
Spite, when you stay in spite of everything and everyone and you don’t know why.
Surrender, when you stay because it is all you know, and you surrender to what seems inevitable.
My life has been combinations of spite and surrender until November 2014.
I went on a trek in the Himalayas – the Annapurna circuit. It was nothing like anyone in my immediate family had ever done. As corny and clichéd as this sounds, I came back changed. I’ve lived in China, Far North Queensland, Darwin and Alice Springs (again) since then.
Creatively changed. I committed to moving away from the cycle of spite and surrender. It’s been tumultuous recently, but so satisfying. My book is at final edits with a publisher and I am exceptionally proud of that. I would never have achieved that in my old self.

I’m not materialistic, I am experiential. Happiness for me is not a mortgage.  Happiness for me is new ideas and engaging thoughts, discussions and debates. It is travel, growth and all that entails – including pain.

When I moved back to Alice Springs it was because it was familiar after being such a wanderer.   I think I was in spite and surrender mode again.

I suppose I thought it would test if I had “settled down”. But no, I haven’t, and I am glad I haven’t.

Whilst I want a stable income and a longer-term employment contract, I am no longer limiting myself career wise. Recently acting in a job where my contract wasn’t guaranteed, and the Northern Territory Government did not provide enough funding to continue was difficult.  It brought me through a stage of morose reflection like I hadn’t experienced for a very long time.

img_1784Losing a job I cared about, made me realise I was falling back into patterns of old, not valuing myself and fighting for something that I didn’t really want. Although the work was satisfying, and social justice based, it was all about other people and their agendas for my skills. Spite and surrender.

So I’ve applied for jobs that fill me with wonder and I’ve had 5 interviews out of 7 applications and it’s too soon to see any outcome yet.

But my gut tells me my next venture could be Melbourne or Darwin.  I am going to write and perform and beg and borrow to survive if I must, until I reach the next destination – whether that be in Alice Springs or elsewhere.

So here’s the new space instead of spite or surrender – spirit.

I’m going wherever I am spirited next.

An Outback “Royal” Wedding

img_1658.jpgThe bridal party stood between an old wind mill named the “Southern Cross” and the ruins of the Old Ambalindum station homestead. The reception was held at Hale River Homestead, 115km NE of Alice Springs, on the famous Binns Track.

It’s not very often I get excited about weddings.  But Laurie and Nico’s wedding was an exception.

The guests drove 55km of the dirt and heavily corrugated Binns Track (4WD only) through beautiful but rugged outback country. On the drive there I was passed by a ute carrying lounge chairs (little pieces of their home brought along). Later I would sit in these with groups of guests late in the evening, under the stars, toasting marshmallows in fire drums.

The caterers also navigated this road, with a trailer loaded with a bain-marie and other catering equipment. That must have been a precarious journey indeed.

This was a true outback wedding with reinvented traditions reflecting the unique and beautiful people that Laurie (Laurel) and Nico are.

Both the bride and groom are part of the very vibrant Alice Springs creative community.

Apart from the obvious remote logistics of the venture, this was far frimg_1659om your average wedding.  Besides being super relaxed, it was progressive and free from the constraints of old ideas about marriage.

The celebrant Dave wasted no time on the usual formalities of wedding etiquette and was funny and thoughtful.

The vows were delightfully heart-warming but also light-hearted.

Probably my favourite line would have been from the groom.

“You’re the chickpea in my hummus”

Myself and other guests joked about the ratio of beards to bare faces. A number of established rockers in group meant one of my favourite things (a good beard) was visible at every turn.

Whilst the preparation for this event was no doubt hectic, the wedding was far from hectic. It was all about the kind of love I aspire to – not judgemental, but authentic.

The reception. Oh my gosh…the reception. 

The venue is a large woolshed with a bar and kitchen area in the back is a feast of fun history and artefacts of outback and remote life.  img_1499
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The rustic and romantic venue lit up with strings of lightbulbs and fairy lights.

 

The food ranged from roast pork to vegan and gluten and dairy free. Everyone was catered for without any major fuss or difficulty in how this was achieved.
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Three awesome rock bands perched on the back of a truck, and rocked us into to the wee hours of the morning.

There was no formal (and usually pretentious) “first dance” song, just the bride and groom dancing with all of us, until all of us couldn’t dance anymore.

Laurie and Nico have what the rest of us in the world could invest in more often – both share a passion for an authentic, inclusive, creative and community minded life.  The wedding was a telling demonstration of that philosophy.

We were a colourful and creative bunch.  Most of us were combinations of performers, musicians, film makers, photographers, artists and writers. The conversations were lively and filled with laughter.

There were four of us gals with fluorescent hair colours, so I wasn’t alone with my vivid magenta and purple locks.

Throughout the night, cartoons were drawn, and tales told. I practiced some comedy material around the fire and made new friends.  The people that Laurie and Nico are was reflected in the similar people that surround them, creative, interesting souls.

I felt very honoured to be asked to this wedding and I can honestly say it was the most enjoyable wedding I have been to in my 47 years of life.

“Fly 990”

To finish, here is a short list of things that made this event truly beautiful to my way of thinking (I could list many more but this just the main points):

  1. Arrernte country was acknowledged in the ceremony. The land on which the wedding took place has always been and always will be Aboriginal land.
  2. The celebrant stressed that under Australian law “marriage is between two people”. The wedding goers whooped delightedly. Australia has just been through legal changes recognising same sex marriage and many people present were part of that fight to have those basic fundamental rights recognised.
  3. Laurie’s aunt and nephews and nieces serenaded us at the reception in Maori.
  4. There was no “Mr and Mrs” assumed. They were just introduced as “Laurie and Nico”. They are married and no old-world names or ideas about ownership (such as ridiculous traditions about surnames and titles) needed to be applied.

This was a wedding for everyone (not just for the bride and groom), there was no pretensions, it was 100% about love

Not only the love between two people, but love of life, music, community and each other. 

Life. Oh. Life. Get off that straight ol’ line.

You know that scale that you measure life on? No, not sure?  Here are some:

The bathroom scale.  labelledpromoofftheleash

The work performance scale.

The pain scale.

The romance scale.

In my comedy show “Labelled” I discuss that straight line we imagine…about where we “should” be…and put it away…

Check out this 19 seconds of my show – Little Glimpse of Labelled – about the continuum of life explained by a neuro-divergent comedian.

What if I said that straight line between where you are and where you think you should be doesn’t exist? What if it all is bit in-between? What do you think it would it feel like to be okay with being in-between?  Liberating is one word I would use.

What if it was all just twists and turns that lead us to where…well where we are now?

If you are having a “should of”, “could of” kind of day – 

Give yourself permission to just take yourself off that old straight line…

You are enough.  

The GREAT FULL Heart

In my post yesterday – I talked about a grateful heart or even more so, a GREAT FULL heart.

I need to expand on this a little bit.  I aim to balance between difficult discussions and beautiful ones. I am a comedian as well as a writer, this blog uses humour in most posts, but overall it is meant to be “my mess in a message inspirational”. At least, I hope so.

If you go through the rest of this blog you see discussions about pain, loss, mental healthbrain injuries and other matters about recovering from trauma.

There are also posts about comedy, women in comedy, writing, hope and overcoming shitty stuff, travel and our senses, and love.

What do I like about gratefulness? I am changing some spelling here for literary effect…beware grammar/spelling police…

There is a direct correlation between gratefulness and people with great full hearts and happier, more fulfilled lives.  Go to any number of texts that I could list if you like…but I thought I would give my take on it.

  • Gratefulness leads to a bigger space for life.  A greatfull heart is much more likely to go and climb a mountain than complain about spending $5000 on a curved TV to get a better look at a mountain they think they cannot reach.  They are less likely to die on a couch in suburbia wishing they had gone travelling instead.  They’ll choose to enhance their life experience over living it through others, because they are inspired by the world around them.
  • Gratefulness leads to a bigger space for working with discomfort and overcoming it. The greatfull heart finds ways to minimise pain and measures ways to engage with the world in a way so that pain does not become an impenetrable barrier.  The grateful heart is pleased to be able to move – even if that movement creates pain.
  • Gratefulness leads to a bigger space for hope.  The greatfull heart is okay with working with issues that cause discomfort and the people that need great full hearts now, more than ever.  They do not care if the person receiving their energy is perceived as broken, lost, frightened, dangerous or considered diseased or dirty.  They do so without need for applause.  The result uplifts spirits and lives.
  • Gratefulness leads to less fear in the world.  The greatfull heart knows not how something might go wrong, but knows that from every wrong we can make something right. They will speak their truth and do not live in denial of the wrong in the world either.  They often refuse to be bystanders and are more likely to act to correct wrong with action.

Gratefulness = great full hearts.  Gratefulness goes beyond creating personal happiness.  Gratefulness creates positive change.