I've been making a point of reflecting and taking note of the big - okay, massive shifts which have occurred in my life over the past year. Spending today getting stuck into finally unpacking the last of the boxes from when we moved into The Kitteh Palace, clearing out stuff we no longer need, and rearranging some of our furniture, really helped to anchor these reflections.Read More
Whether or not it's because of Mercury Retrograde, a cold and grey summer, or just the "Back to Work" Blues, I have noticed a definite energetic slump across the internet - and within my friendship circles over the last month. Being someone who's particularly sensitive to these things - and someone who has experienced both depression and anxiety at different times through my life - I haven't been immune to this funky little period that many of us seem to be coming out on the other side of.
First of all, let's take a moment for a collective deep breath, a sigh of relief and appreciation for any lessons or gains since the start of the year.
I think it's really important for us to acknowledge and learn to recognise that sometimes we do all need some time out, to step back, reflect, recover, recoup or do whatever it is that you actually need right now.
Obviously, as much as we may love to be able to hit the pause button on life occasionally, and take a break where we just don't need to adult for a while, the world keeps turning and we still have certain responsibilities to take care of, and expectations which need to be met.
Sometimes that might mean that we strip everything back to the absolute bare minimum, and only do the things which are truly essential (like eating) before crawling back into a quilt cocoon and cuddling up with the cats. I have definitely had my share of days like this over the last month. I have been making a point of spending my days off reading and writing in my pyjamas, and trying to allow space.
All of this said, January and early February have still been quite big months for me in terms of social events, with Baby Showers, 30th Birthday Parties, Reunions and Catch Up's out the wazoo - the biggest of which being my Lil Sis's Bridal Shower.
So, how does a sensitive introvert like me not only show up and deal with, but actually enjoy getting put and being social during a time when I'd really love to be tucked up at home?
To start with, I ask myself, "Why am I going to this event (or doing this thing)?" If I'm thinking about going along, purely out of obligation and the world isn't going to stop turning if I'm not there, then I scrap my plans.
Another way of looking at this, is to check in with your gut reaction to how you feel about being at an event? Then in the words of Mark Manson, if your response isn't "Fuck yes!", then it's a, "No."
For me, the event's I've been to over recent weeks - especially my Lil Sis's Bridal Shower, have been ones which I know that I'll enjoy, and that I'll be truly shitty at myself if I miss out on them. I've also gotten to a point now, where people really only invite me to events if they genuinely want me to be there, and that my attendance will be appreciated, which makes showing up way more fun.
Something else that I've been practicing over the past month, has been to take time out DURING events. Back in the day, I used to just punch through and hop from party, to party, back to back, and stay out until the first train home in the morning, or just end up crashing on a couch somewhere I didn't want to be - either because the cab fare home was too high - or because cab drivers wouldn't go as far out into the bush as the parties I went to, or I had just had way too much to drink to be going anywhere.
For my Lil Sis's Bridal Shower, her Bridesmaids had planned a MASSIVE day, starting with a champagne breakfast, followed by barefoot Lawn Bowls then a few hours of shenanigans, before dinner with cocktails, THEN dancing and drinking late into the night.
Considering that my sister lives interstate, and that many of her friends live in the outer suburbs, I definitely got lucky with the venues being within a ten minute drive from the Kitteh Palace. This meant that I was able to come home and take some time out after we'd finished with lawn bowls, and then go back out and meet the party again for dinner.
When he realised that I'd come home, Jordan assumed that it was because I wasn't having fun, however this wasn't the case. I had actually been having a great time, but I know myself well enough now to know where my limits are. By taking a break (and having a snack before going back out), I was able to really enjoy the rest of the night without feeling tired or getting cranky that the food took ages to come out.
Another thing I've learned over the years, is to leave while the party is still fun! While there's a lot to be said for those times when time gets away from you because you've found yourself engrossed in a conversation with someone you can truly relate to, then suddenly realising that you've been talking for four hours, when it comes to nights out I've become a big fan of recognising - and paying attention to when it's time to leave.
These days, I'm all for embracing the latter part of the saying, "GO HARD, OR GO HOME".
Jordan and I have just returned home after spending Christmas together in one of my favourite parts of the world, Merimbula on the 'Sapphire Coast' in New South Wales. We stayed in this stunning apartment which had literally JUST been renovated. It was the perfect location to chill out, unwind and reflect on some of the amazing things that happened over the past twelve months. Of course we also spent plenty of time on the beach, swimming, paddle boarding, and enjoying the sunshine with family and friends.
I know 2014 was difficult and challenging for some of my friends and readers, and I know many people are looking forward to a fresh new year filled with new opportunities.
While I don't believe that anything happens for a reason, I do believe that everything we experience is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person.
With that said, I'd love to share some of my wins for 2014, and invite you all to share yours!
At the start of the year, I sat down with a fresh notebook and a copy of the Kikki.K edition of Shannah Kennedy's book, 'Simplify Structure Succeed' and wrote down pages of goals I hoped to achieve over the next few years.
I listed things like having a loving partner who complimented me as a person and would support me in my crazy, that I'd love to own a vintage bike and a Mini Cooper, to live in a cute functional apartment, to study, spend time at the beach, and to surround myself with positive and inspiring people who encourage me to be the best person I can.
I wanted to feel more relaxed, to be more organised, and to get more consistent sleep.
I wrote that I wanted to be financially secure and not living payday to payday.
I wanted to cook fresh healthy meals for myself each day, and cut down the amount of coffee I was drinking.
I wrote about cuddling up in front of the heater with a blanket, a mug of soup, a good book and The Kittehs during the cooler months, and time at the beach when it's hot.
In no way did I ever imagine that I would achieve even HALF of what I wrote down, let alone within the year.
As crazy as it sounds, I've not only achieved these goals, but I've achieved even MORE!
Jordan and I are about to share our 12 Month Anniversary, we moved into our Dream Apartment: "The Kitteh Palace" in June (after our first Broken Dream Apartment didn't work out as I'd hoped), I began studying Health and Wellness Coaching and have started building my new business, I've attended networking events and conferences AND I even spoke at one!
I started my blog, made new friends, travelled interstate and stayed in five star accommodation, I have a bright pink bike and a black MINI, I've enjoyed plenty of cuddles with Kittehs and cups of soup and so many interesting books!
Most of all, I've met amazing women and forged closer friendships with some very special people.
I'm working on my Money Story, but it's a lot more positive now than it has ever been. I have a budget now, and realistic plans for increasing my income into the new year.
I stick to a healthy sleep routine and I was introduced to Barre Body classes thanks to my friend Emma.
I'm so grateful for everything I've achieved, learned or experienced this year - the challenges which forced me to innovate and grow, the people who have offered me a safe space to learn to open up and to be vulnerable, the kindness of those who share their time, food, knowledge, friendship and support.
I am grateful that I pushed myself, that I have trusted my gut, taken risks and wholeheartedly believed that I am capable and deserving of better, then I set to work creating by reality.
I'm still learning to become a better communicator, and not to overcommit. I'm still striving to take consistent care of myself and eat healthy delicious food everyday.
2015 will bring some more exciting changes and challenges as I shift into the final stages of my course, and the next phases of building my Coaching business.
Thank you for being part of my year, and bringing your awesome into my life. xx
*BONUS BLOG POST TIME! IT'S A LONG ONE, TOO - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED* Tonight I want to share some super personal things with you - things which have challenged me, made me ecstatically happy, left me shaking with rage, some that even made my Mum cry.
Anyone who has known me for any length of time - especially if they knew me as a kid, will tell you that I'm a pretty outgoing person, with a "Screw what anyone else thinks" attitude. For the most part, they'd be right on the money. I love getting up on stage and performing in front of an audience, I rock up to my Nannying job in Black Milk leggings covered in Monsters, and on one occasion in my early 20's I went out to party wearing a tiara created with my own hair. All of that said, I only enjoy being the centre of attention IF I'm doing so on MY TERMS.
What many people don't know, is that I'm actually absolutely TERRIFIED of being LOOKED AT.
You know that feeling when you rock up to a class or a meeting five minute after it started, and EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the room stops what they are doing, and STARES AT YOU? You get so nervous that you kick someones chair on your way passed, accidentally drop your pencil case as you take your seat, and you just KNOW that you're making so much noise while you're getting settled, that everyone is super annoyed with you. Your mind starts playing tricks on you as ridiculous thoughts race around your head.
"Oh crap, they're all still staring! Shit, why are they ALL staring at me? Is my dress tucked into the back of my undies? Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose? There's totally a booger hanging out of my nose, isn't there? I don't even have any tissues with me! Gah! Stop looking at me, dammit!"
This is exactly how my mind worked, pretty much all of the time, right through school, and it still does every now and then.
So from the minute I decided that it would be a good idea to hire a professional photographer and have a series of portraits taken for this blog, my stomach instantly started doing somersaults. One night, I bit the bullet, and sent off an enquiry email at about 1am. I barely slept and spent the next day exhausted, running on adrenaline as I got through my Buddy Coaching calls.
In the following days, I started to feel a little better about my decision and tried to step into a space of genuine excitement, by thinking about how this meant I absolutely HAD to get a hair cut, and that I could totally pick out some new outfits for the occasion! I shared the news of the impending photo shoot with a few friends, and my business coach with an air of nonchalance, as if this was the sort of thing I do every day. Really, I was telling them for an added level of accountability, so I couldn't back out!
As the day crept closer, that little voice inside my head started getting louder, and more specific, until it was practically SCREAMING my deepest insecurities at me.
"Just who do YOU think you are, hiring a professional photographer?"
"Really Kym? YOU'RE doing a photo shoot? In PUBLIC?!?! HAHAHAHA! This is a joke, right? What is the photographer going to think? As if he'll even want to shoot you!"
I did my very best to ignore that ridiculous voice, and replied to every email as we planned and nutted out the details of what I wanted. I told myself I was being ridiculous, I'd met Ben before at a friends wedding, he'd taken a photo of Jordan and me that happens to be my favourite one of us together. I knew he understood my style, and that he'd be able to take photos that would help me stand out from other Life Coaches.
When Ben first arrived, I felt slightly ridiculous posing in my lounge room, but we quickly figured each other out, I calmed heck down - Lucy the Hell Kitty and The Sassy Ms. Honey B even came out to play for the camera!
Well it turned out, that THIS was a particularly sunny Sunday afternoon, so just about every man and his dog was out and about. We wandered slowly by crowded cafes and distracted traffic at busy intersections, before I posed on park benches or leaned on quaint little bridges, thoughtfully watching ducks and geese go about their business.
Of course I was laughing at how silly we must have looked. But inside, I was registering every single person who looked at me, trying to quiet that voice in my which was scolding me for being so ostentatious and flamboyant, and ignoring the thought that everyone was judging me.
We rounded out the shoot with a few more shots back at The Kitteh Palace, and with me feeling super proud of myself for actually DOING the shoot at all, and especially for the fact that I had FUN!
The next day, Ben sent through all of the proofs for me to choose from. This freaked me right the hell out. So much so, that I procrastinated getting back to him for about a week. I ummed-and-ahhed for days, tearing apart and scrutinising my appearance in every photo, before FINALLY deciding on 10 images.
I almost dreaded getting the final high resolution images back from him, knowing that I would have to start sharing them!
I've essentially had the first half of this post drafted in my head and ready to go ever since the photo shoot, although I was still tossing up whether or not to actually share it.
There have been a number of really significant events this week, which have convinced me that I HAVE to share these photos, as well as the following stories.
For those of you who don't know, when I was a little girl, I had a hemangioma or Strawberry Mark, which at its' peak covered about 90% of my face, neck and along my sternum. While Strawberry Marks are not uncommon, mine was at the time, one of the most severe known cases in the country, as it affected so much of my face, as well as my airways, and my throat. Due to the internal swelling, I wasn't able to swallow food, or breathe through my nose, so for the first few years, I lived with a feeding tube into my belly.
Given that my parents were the first of all of their friends to get pregnant, there was a LOT of anticipation and excitement about my birth - so it turned out that we had a massive group of family and the kind of friends you think of as "Family" who considered me "their" baby, too.
There were plenty of ups and downs along the way, but ultimately, I was a really happy little kid. I was proud of my Strawberry Marks and thought they were pretty. I have vivid memories of standing in front of the bathroom mirror when I was tall enough, finding the flowers in the pink lumpy shapes on my cheeks, thinking to myself just how cool they were. Seriously, how lucky was I to have pictures on my cheeks just like My Little Ponies had pictures on their rumps, or Care Bears had on their tummies?
All of that said, I was born smack-bang in the middle of the 80's, and at the height of AIDS hysteria. People were afraid of anything they didn't understand (and still are), and my Mum once told me a story of some guy dragging his kid off a carousel in a shopping centre and telling her off for taking me out in public, as if I posed a danger to his kid.
I can remember a photographic assistant at the Children's Hospital admonishing Mum for letting my sister and I look at the photos in MY medical records, as if photos of my own birth mark were too graphic for us to look at, or something?
I can't even imagine how difficult that must have been for my Mum (Who for the record is extremely humble, unassuming, and nowhere near as outlandish as I am), or for my Dad - but they NEVER hid me away from anyone. Every year, Mum and I would line up with everyone else at K-Mart for our annual Pixie Photo session. Every year, she would order a deluxe package with blown up portraits, laminated calendars with magnets glued on the back for both sets of grandparents, and all of their friends. I'm actually pretty sure she still has a calendar from 1990 on her fridge.
As I started to grow, I turned out to be that kid who'd be out on the dance floor at every party - rocking out to whichever band was playing - on my own half the time, but having a blast. I was out there, doing my thing, dancing to blues guitar and singing along to words I didn't even know yet, and not giving a shit who cared. Not once did Mum or Dad try to stop me, no matter how uncomfortable they might have felt.
Now the reason I'm sharing all of this, is because during the week, I've come across two articles, written by two different mothers whose daughters were also born with Strawberry Marks.
The first article, by Beth Seaver appeared on xoJane, was titled 'My Kid Has a Big Red Dot on Her Face, Here's How Not to Be a Dick'. Naturally, it warmed my heart and it made me so unbelievably happy to read, so I posted it on my personal Facebook, knowing that Mum would read it. As fate may have it, I was catching up with my parents, as well as all of Mums siblings and a few of my cousins that night for family dinner, so the article came up in conversation. We all agreed it was amazing, and I highly recommend reading it. Mum found herself agreeing with many of the points raised in this article, and today she told me that no matter how challenging or unfair things felt at different times when I was in and out of hospital, she always came home feeling lucky knowing that I was relatively healthy, and that I was going to be fine.
On Wednesday, following on from my posting 'How Not to Be a Dick', I was tagged in a Facebook post by Mia Freedman's blog MamaMia, (although the article was originally published on The Huffington Post). To say that the experience of reading the article was a stark reminder of exactly why I NEVER read any thing on MamaMia, would be an understatement. I felt physically ill for having read it, and it brought up some very painful memories.
Before I post the link to this article, I want to make it EXTREMELY CLEAR that I am NOT attacking the author of this article for the choices she made. I'm absolutely certain that she felt that she was making the very best decision she could - with the information available to her at the time. I want to acknowledge how courageous she must be to speak publicly about what was an extremely difficult and painful decision for her to make at the time - especially when she must have known how her decisions would come across to an audience who have never been faced with the situation she was.
Now, as full disclosure, I DID undergo cosmetic surgery as a child. I had a facelift in 1991 at age 6 (when elective cosmetic surgery was still relatively new), and about a year later I had laser treatment under a General Anaesthesia (I woke up screaming afterwards, and was sick for the rest of the afternoon). I want to stress that my Strawberry Marks had mostly disappeared by this time, and that deciding to put me through both of these procedures was very difficult for my parents - especially considering that I was well and truly OVER the whole hospital thing by that point.
I can only speak to my own experiences here, but the article I'm about to link to paints an extremely vivd picture of what I felt when I underwent a "test patch" without anaesthetic. It was by FAR one of the most traumatic and physically painful experiences of my life so far. From being on the receiving end of laser treatment, I felt that the sensation was a metric f*ck-tonne more painful than a flick with an elastic band, and I'm beyond furious that the same comparison that my parents and I were told of, was then fed to these parents across the world, a whole FIVE YEARS LATER.
I'm furious that they were advised that the procedure would be beneficial on an infant from the age of 13 months old.
And I felt physically ill at the thought that the procedure was REPEATED again and again, WITHOUT ANAESTHETIC.
I'm angry that procedures like this are being sold to concerned parents who want to protect their children from potential bullying or cruelty - as if removing a birthmark (one which generally disappears by its own nature) is an appropriate way to go about that.
I don't want to go into the other issues this article raised for me - although there are MANY - including how f*cked up I find it that girls like me were sent messages that something about our physical appearance that we were either proud or unaware of, was inherently wrong and needed to be corrected or removed.
Ultimately what I've learned from reading both of these posts, is just how important it is for me to show up, allow myself to be seen, and LOOKED AT - even on days when I feel like I look kinda crappy - let alone on days when I feel totally amazing, and I'm posing for professional photos.
I'm not conventionally "pretty", but I'm ok with that.
I regularly take and post "No Make Up Selfies" on social media - sometimes with bed hair, often while I'm still in my pyjamas.
I'm still learning to think of myself as beautiful, no matter how many times I hear other people tell me I am, but I'm getting better.
I'm unique, and I love that what makes me stand out these days is not my wrinkles, or the few reddish spots on my face, it's my personality, and the confidence in who I am and what I can do because of the experiences I've had.
It's important for me to be seen, so that parents facing these decisions either now, or in the future can see just how amazing us Strawberry Marked Girls grow up to be.
It's important for me to show up and share my stories, so that girls with Strawberry Marks know that they're not alone, and there are more of us who've been through similar experiences to you. I want for all of you to know that you are beautiful exactly how you are, and please don't you EVER let anyone treat you as if you are less deserving of the wonderful things this world has to offer.
Don't ever settle, compromise, or allow anyone to ignore your voice.
I want to thank Ben Gunzburg of BENSHOOTSPEOPLE for the amazing portraits he took, and for helping me to feel so relaxed during our session. It was a lot of fun, and I totally look forward to working with him again in the future.
But most of all, I want to thank my parents (and I know that my Mum will have been crying through this entire post) because reading these articles has reminded me to be grateful every day for just how f*cking incredible they were, and still are. I want them to know that they were not just doing "what mums and dads do", they were doing what OUTSTANDING Mums and Dads do.
I want my Lil Sis to know how amazing she is, and how much I still appreciate those two years when she would ditch her friends on the playground if they didn't want to include me in their games.
Thank you to everyone who's read this post, sincerely. There is a huge part of my soul that has been poured out and into these words tonight.