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Category Archives: More pep talk than writing

Mental Illness – End the Stigma.

Mental Illness – End the Stigma.

Me being me I am a little slow on joining in the whole mental health awareness week on my blog. But I have been active with it on my personal Facebook page and had such success with a post there, I decided to post it here too.

How was it successful? Well, you will see I openly talk about my level of mental illness and invited others to do the same. I got some amazingly heartfelt and truthful responses (both out in public and in private) and feel blessed to have the friends that I have. I am not about to share their responses here… but would be interested to see if anyone else wants to join us in being so out there and open to help end the stigma on mental illness. Please note that this is a post about ENDING the stigma and so all comments that are deemed negative and inflamatory will be deleted. My blog, my rules. 😉

My post started with the following pic. Unfortunately I can’t reference it correctly as it came from another friend’s timeline. So I will just say this is not my picture, I did not create it and all kudos and credit goes to the actual creator – they are awesome!

depression

And, yes, I totally agree with the words at the bottom and it got my usual oppinionated ranty self going and so I came up with the following. I am not ashamed of it, I will freely post it and be open and honest as I am who I am and in my life right now I just happen to need antidepressants.

***

Be truthful to who you are. Mental illness is an illness not just a state of mind you can snap out of.

Diabetics aren’t told “Just don’t eat cake”. Cancer patients aren’t just told “you shouldn’t have smoked” even when they never did…

So it pisses me off when I am told I don’t need antidepressants as a nice walk in nature and a good sleep will fix all that ails me. I have a chemical imbalance inside me. I fought using antidepressants for over a decade as it was deemed the “lazy” way out. I tried diet, exercise, karmic retribution, hobbies, crystals, aromatherapy, belief, sleep, sex, laughing, gut health and all the rest. I ended up making myself obese with comfort eating – and am still fighting this issue today and trying to stop it damaging all of me permanently.

So… hi, my name is Janis and I take antidepressants. I am currently on 25mg of zoloft a day and may soon need to up that as it’s now only just taking the edge off the dark despondancy that consumes me, rather than lifting me out of it, making me want to get out of bed, get dressed, eat, interact, not drive me car into a tree and all the other “fun” stuff I go through. I have “mild” depression and anxiety. This doesn’t mean I’m a little blue, it means I don’t want to curl into a ball and wait for the darkness to consume me every single waking moment of every day… just half the time.

I am a better person on zoloft, I am a nicer parent and I can actually see my life is important and worth putting on those big girl panties for and getting on with it.

Depression is a bitch – big black dog. Anxiety is a rabid, nasty, vicious black dog. These are my dogs. Your dogs will look, feel and act differently so don’t judge me on how you feel. I don’t judge you.

But I will try and help to remind you how awesome you are, how important you are and how you ARE worth it.

#endthestigma

Until next time,

Janis.

These memes help me get through my days as they help me keep it real.  

 

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So, where DO I get my ideas from?

So, where DO I get my ideas from?

Hi everyone, I’ve decided to share exactly what I mean when I say ‘Life inspires me’ when answering the question in the title of today’s blog post.

I personally feel this is the most common question set to Writer’s by those who don’t have an imagination so fierce it is crawling about in their brain like ants. Or maybe that’s just me and actually a scalp issue I need looking at? 😉

Some people simply appear perplexed I am able to make up stories out of seemingly nothing and I just want to set the record straight and give some examples of where I do get stories from to try and encourage others to have a go at writing them!

So, where do I get my stories from? I’m a watcher. I like to watch life go past, analyse it, pocket snippets and thoughts of it away for later. Yes, I am that introvert in the corner of a busy room simply watching and listening and storing data… And I would like to see a Writer who isn’t!

I remember taking a friend (and well known author I’m not about to name drop) for a wander through the Stirling markets here in the Adelaide Hills. The street we wandered was lined with oak trees and when I pointed out that the name of the street was Druids Avenue – I could see that data spark in her eyes, almost watch it being store away for use later… I could see it as this is how I see the world too. Everything has potential as a story idea.

Sometimes it’s a simple one liner – see my creations of ‘Dodo Radio’ in Bonnie’s Story (well, in the blog posts and possibly in any sequel I may write). I was just having a 140 character chat with another Author friend via a certain piece of social media and we were discussing the differences between radio in Australia versus the UK. I would kill to have radio like BBC4 here! Well, not literally kill, but strongly hug at the very least – and I am a big lady after all so kill… meh, I digress. 😉

Yes, Australian radio and it’s lack of a spectrum as vibrant as radio in the UK had it described as ‘Dodo Radio’… which then led me off on train of thought that had me create the Dodo radio explained in one of Bonnie’s blog posts. That’s the sort of thing I mean when I say life inspires me.

I also find news headlines inspire me. I can’t say the entire article does, and sometimes I don’t even bother reading that part… but a simple one line can spark that creative fire in my brain. Though in the case of the two examples I’m about to give, I did read the articles… and then turned them into things they weren’t meant to be.

Now, with these examples, I would dearly love to see some new and eager Writers take the story and run with it. I can’t publish it, I can’t pay you for it, but I can (hopefully) inspire you to use it… or at least see how easy it is to pluck a story idea from the normal every day.

And so, here we go. Where do I get my story ideas from? Well, this is where…

Recently, while browsing the ABC news on my phone (as I do first thing in the morning before getting up) I read through an interesting article about how they are thinking of introducing a fish herpes to the Murray River as a way to combat the horrible pest species of carp that has been destroying it for decades.

What really got my imagination cogs going was where they talked about all the testing they would need to do first. I thought, fair enough; don’t want to wipe out all fish in the Murray with this disease. But my little grey cells sparked into life when it was mentioned they were also testing what this disease might do to humans… not only those exposed to the water, but those who ate foods grown in the area and watered with this diseased water!

Yes, the italics symbolise how exciting this whole concept was to me. Why? Oh, come on, who else doesn’t think pandemic explosion from food contaminated by something in its water supply? Just think of the speculative fiction ‘what if’ you could make from this! It could be your common garden virus or Ebola like thing wiping out the country and causing a dystopian lifestyle for some Young Adult to explore… or it could cause mutations or, dare I say it, be the catalyst for that zombie invasion so many people are jokingly prepping for. The possibilities are endless!

Now, please note I am not saying that the actual fish herpes virus would cause this at all. Hell no, I’m pretty sure the scientists are going to thoroughly test it first… and half of it is just fiction in anyone’s book. But I hope you can see what I mean about how something harmless I read in the news can be turned into some pretty interesting reading for someone else. 😉

Another recent example is (again with the ABC news first thing in the morning) a giant supernova, brighter than anything they’ve ever seen has just caught the attention of scientists and has them re-writing some of the info they thought they knew on supernovas. Nothing too exciting for we non-scientists, right? But there is a line in the article where they say “perhaps it’s not a supernova at all” and, well, they may as well have waved a red cloak at a charging bull with that line.

Yes, they did go on to say it might be a lot of other actual, real life sciencey stuff… but half my brain wasn’t listening any more. It was already off on another speculative fiction ‘what if’ journey with opening lines such as:

“At first they thought it was a new type of Supernova appearing in the night’s sky. But by the time they realised it was an invasion, it was too late…”

Yes, that is indeed how my mind works. I seriously can’t take it anywhere without that sort of thing happening.

And that boys and girls, is how I take life and get inspired to write what I write. Yes it’s not ‘True Crime’ or ‘Literary Fiction’, which most people say is what life inspires… no, life  – in the right set of hands or mind – can inspire any Writer of any genre to do what they do best: Write.

I guess it means Writer’s don’t see the world in the same way as others? Maybe another reason we need to wear badges so people realise we’re creating new worlds around us while walking down the street and watching a leaf casually blow across our path. We take in everything, we store everything, we feed everything into our imaginations and turn it into the most interesting compost in which we grow some pretty amazing things.

Heck, that paragraph alone could even be the start of a story too. What do you think? Have a go; I’d love to hear how it turns out. But you owe me a hot chocolate and brownie if you make it into a block buster novel. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2016 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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Yes, I DO blog for free… but only for me!

Yes, I DO blog for free… but only for me!

Okay, so there was a little artistic license used on the grammar in the title of this post, but I’m hoping you get the gist?

I’ve decided to dedicate a blog post today to try and raise awareness for those clever writers new to the whole ‘contributing online’ thing.

Why? Well, because I used to be green and eager and willing to agree to some pretty stupid terms and conditions – as long as my work appeared online. It had meant I’d made it in some small way… right?

Well, in most cases – wrong!

If you find a site willing to allow you to ‘blog for them’ – beware! I get invites to such things a lot. More so in recent months since my reviewing site has started to get some hits. Blogging for other people can sometimes mean more negatives than positives.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes blogging for someone else can be a good thing. I’ve done ‘Guest Blogger’ segments for places, and my reviews are often popping up on the social media sites of authors and publishers alike. But the big difference to that sort of blogging for others is the work is recognised as mine. Can you see how serious I am about possession? All that formatting for a four letter word – yes it does mean I have my serious face on!

When I am a guest blogger, a guest reviewer, a reviewer, etc. – the post and all rights to it still belongs to ME, the author. Most of the time I’m not paid when work is shared on someone else’s blog. Well, not in money. I get paid in other ways. If I’m being a guest blogger, it’s usually as a way to expose my work to a wider audience and encourage them to come visit my own blog or buy one of my books. If my reviews are shared, I’ve been paid by being given the item to review. Whether it be a book, block of chocolate, candle or a slow cooker. I get it, I read, eat, light or cook with it – I keep it. Sadly not all books I review are like this… but I’m working on that. 😉

What I’m trying to say is – in these cases – what I have written is acknowledged as being mine (whether it’s good or bad writing) and I have been rewarded for my efforts.

That is good blogging for free.

The bad blogging for free I’m trying to warn new Writers about is sites that invite you to come and post for them, but anything you post will belong to them and they can do with it, share it and use it for whatever they like and not have to share any of the money it may gain them with you. You’ve gotten nothing out of the deal. In most cases your name is even removed as they now legally own the work and so don’t have to even advertise who wrote it. It’s theirs, not yours. You might know it’s yours and show it off proudly to your friends and family… but if someone was to do an internet search on your name to see where you’d been published online – it wouldn’t show up. You would gain: no exposure as an author, no credit for work contributed, no financial gain – NOTHING!

Heck, if you’re okay with this as long as you know it’s your work – go do it, knock yourself out. Have fun with it.

Me, on the other hand, I’m past that part of my career. I’ve been writing for other people where my work has become their Intellectual Property as part of my contract to them. I did that for almost twenty years as an ITC Guru. Then again, I was paid for my work and even if it wasn’t mine to take with me when my contract ended… I’d still earnt cash in hand for the effort. I now work for myself and the only person I don’t expect to pay me for my writing is Myself.

 Now, I’m not trying to sound cocky or arrogant here, I’m trying to spell it out for Writers out there that their work is worth more than they realise. If you spend time out of your day writing something rather than going off and having a ‘real job’, you need to gain from that writing. Whether it be exposure, some kind of positive reward or even – shock horror – actual money, you still deserve it and people shouldn’t ask you do write for them for free.

Even the sites that ‘allow’ you to keep your name on work you post for them… take a long hard look at what they’re getting out of the deal. Is getting an article online that has your name on it but gains you nothing else really worth it? What is that post now being used for? Are the people you posted it to now using it to gain site traffic and therefore ‘pays per click’ to their site? In most cases they are you know, and therefore they should be paying you a percentage.

Just because it’s a ‘mere thousand words’ on a website – you still deserve payment. Whether it is a one off payment, or an ongoing percentage fee as royalties, you should be getting it. And by a one off payment, I do expect to get a decent amount. You’d be surprised what the actual, legal, going rate for a Writer’s work is… Maybe go check it out over at the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and see. You might be shocked at how much your work is really worth. As, according to ASA, you should get about $350!

And why is a writer’s work worth more than what people are willing to pay? Because the people offering to pay think writing is just putting words together. If they are even bothering to offer you money at all! But if you look at the time that goes into being a writer and put a per hour salary on it… it makes sense. I mean, it’s not as if most of us can write and be getting on with the rest of our allotted tasks. Me, I fit writing in around my Haus Frau duties… it’s why I’ve automated as much of my domestic duties as possible. I have a machine to wash the clothes, another to clean my dishes, yet others to bake and cook foods without my presence. Heck, I even have a robot to vacuum my floors. Basically, I do this to spend more time at my job. I used them when I was a contractor heading off to an office to earn a salary. And I use them now to give me the time to be sitting here and writing this before I have to go get my kids from school and continue on with my tasks as unpaid and underappreciated house drudge… erm, I mean Haus Frau. Sounds more posh when I say it in German and don’t spell it out for you, right? 😉

Basically, what I’m trying to say, is writing takes time. It takes time away from other things we could or even need to be doing… and so we deserve to be paid for that time.

As an author I get paid for the time I’ve spent writing a book by my Publisher doing their damnedest to then sell it. I get royalties. As my Publisher has put time and effort into my book, and also need to be paid, they get part of my royalties too. If I was to have an agent, they too would get part of the royalties as their payment. See, they expect to be paid for services rendered… why is it people don’t expect the same from a Writer?

I could go off on my usual rant about you don’t expect a hairdresser to cut your hair for free, or a café to hand over that hot chocolate and brownie for nothing… Why is a writer any different? We’ve put in time and effort to provide the service of ‘putting words together’, so pay us damn it!

Okay, if I go on I feel I would start repeating myself… plus it smells like the cake I’m baking for my Hordes as I’ve been writing this is about ready to come out of the oven. And as I’m yet to get a machine that will take the damned thing out of the oven and put it on a rack to cool, I’m going to have to go and do that. So it means I have run out of time to write. Still, I will be paid in cake for the services rendered so I’m not complaining. I make a pretty tasty cake.

But I do hope you, the new and still a little green around the ears Writer get what I’m trying to say? You are worth it. Your writing is yours to own and a service you are providing. Think about this before giving it away for free.

If you’re okay with giving it away for free, or for the exposure it brings, go for it. If you’re happy taking twenty dollars for a piece of your work to be published in a magazine, that’s your call too. But I would seriously look at that magazine first, see how much they sell for, how many people buy it and then decide whether they truly can’t afford more than the peanuts… or if they’re taking you for a ride. I’ve dealt with both. I’m more than happy to submit my work to a small time indie magazine for that amount… I’m really being paid in exposure and a few dollars. If it’s a large scale magazine, which take ownership of your work and pay a paltry sum (I’m looking at you Reader’s Digest) – I’d walk away now.

What I’m really trying to say is look into it all first. You’re clever (of course you are, you’re a Writer) so just take a look at the positives and negatives that may arise from giving away your work. Sometimes giving it away for free is a good stepping stone, but please PLEASE don’t turn it into your career.

Finally – yes cynical me is perfectly aware there are some places that will just take my blog posts off of my blogs and flog them as their own. It is copyright infringement; they do not have my permission and are often caught and dealt with. Those who aren’t… well I’m a strong believer in Karma and I know she’s an even bigger bitch than me and know one day she will ensure I get payment. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

cake and DOR

My PA sprung trying to cut the cake I was baking. My cake, he didn’t write the blog post. 😉

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 23, 2015 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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Remembering my childhood and how Cyclone Tracy shaped it.

I will state here and now I was not in cyclone Tracy. I wasn’t even born when it hit. I was born in Darwin two years later and have strong memories of growing up in a town, in an environment, that was slowly recovering from that horrific event.

This blog post is more about how cyclone Tracy shaped my early life and therefore shaped who I am. Even two years after it happened it was changing people, shaping our lives. Actually, it was doing that for many years after it happened. For the first five or so years of my life, people lived in real fear of each and every cyclone that hit. For those who had been in Darwin for Tracy, the memories were still raw and the fear still so real and fresh. For those who had moved into the wreckage, the desolation, the landscape stripped bare by the giant storm, they too were afraid of each new cyclone in case it showed them what it had been like to be in that nightmare.

For those of you reading this and having no idea what I’m talking about, cyclone Tracy was a category four cyclone that hit Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australian on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1974. It was a huge storm, like a hurricane but spinning in the opposite direction, and it destroyed the town. Wiped basically everything out, houses, trees, planes, boats and people. Sixty six people in all died. Fifty three on the land and thirteen at sea. Horribly, most of the fatalities were children… in some cases smothered to death by parents protecting them from the fierce winds and flying debris.

For more factual information on this massive storm, please visit the National Archives of Australia’s official page on the event. As my post isn’t about retelling the horror of an event I wasn’t even there for. It’s about how the recovering Darwin shaped me. Actually, writing this I’ve found some very fascinating blogs and sites that recount Darwin, the cyclone and the rebuild. I highly recommend anyone interested in learning more to google the topic and start reading. There’s some great stuff out there!

So, I was born in Darwin two years after the cyclone that destroyed over seventy percent of the buildings. A lot had changed by then, new buildings had been built, some of the older buildings had been restored and most of the storm debris was removed. I mean, there was still the twisted “three girders” from a house that later became a monument. There were still the trees with parts of people’s roofs embedded in them. Actually, those trees and their shrapnel were still around well into my adult life. They might even still be there, I don’t know, I moved away from Darwin nearly twenty years ago as it had changed from the one I had loved growing up.

And I don’t mean that in a completely negative way… not really. It was inevitable that Darwin would change because the one I grew up in was more a stop gap measure to most, than an actual city. With the threat of another cyclone still red raw in their memories, the houses were built like concrete bunkers ensuring they would survive another onslaught. The landscape was new and barren. Stripped bare by the winds and destruction, I remember Darwin growing up as being a near treeless place. Lots of bare earth and the ability to watch my father drive home from the university (then Community College) from about the half way point as there was no real foliage in between. Being in the tropics that barren earth soon turned green and was swallowed up by fast growing trees like African mahogany and black wattles. But I still remember it.

Cyclone Tracy shaped where I went to school. As the school chosen for my older siblings and therefore me was one of the first schools restored and accepting students when it was time for my sister to go. It shaped how I played at school as I still have memories of the playground the army had built for the children. It was a lot of wooden structures and netting (think army obstacle course) and I still remember burning my bottom on the searing hot slippery dip (slide) as I studied its construction… being made out of forty four gallon drums beaten flat and then welded together. I can’t see my children being allowed to play on such equipment these days, but this was the late 70’s and early 80’s and kids were different back then. 😉

In a lot of ways Cyclone Tracy even shaped my after school care and activities. As some of this time I spent in good old Building eighteen and the then Darwin Community College. My father worked there and was part of the department that tested blends of concrete and other building materials to ensure they were strong enough to meet the new building codes. The building codes introduced after Tracy. Building eighteen was the science building and so my early childhood was one of science and learning the different things like biology, botany, engineering, geology, entomology and all the other “the study of” sciences there. These were people brought to the north to study Darwin after the cyclone. To see how the plants, animals and insects were doing after such a massive shock to the natural world too.

An example of this people may not believe is when green ants came back to Darwin. Yes, green ants! This happened in my life time! This shaped my upbringing too. See, we used to have a Poinciana tree in our front yard and every year it would be decimated by a type of caterpillar we called a looper. I really don’t remember it’s actual name, they were just loopers as they looped along… a bit like the images I’ve seen of an inchworm. So, these loopers would appear in plague proportions every year and wipe out all the Poinciana trees in the neighbourhood. They would get everywhere and were a real pest. Then one year we noticed this strange orange ant with a green bum. We’d never seen one before and they were new to Darwin in the eyes of we new residents in this ever recovering city. They were the green ants. A native ant that had been in that part of Australia for longer than any of us. But I had never seen one because cyclone Tracy had decimated their population so much they had disappeared. This ‘new’ ant had travelled a long way to this lush new world to replace its dead relatives. They had marched north to discover no other tree dwelling ant in their road and they took over. They weren’t a pest, despite our hatred of their giant leafy nests in our road, they were back where they belonged. It had taken them almost ten years, but the green ants returned to Darwin. We didn’t have much of a problem with the loopers after that and our Poinciana even flowered and had a seed pod it recovered so well! Another momentous moment, seeing a Poinciana flower… as it wasn’t something I’d seen before thanks to the hungry loopers.

Having entomologists setting insect traps in your yard and getting excited over discovering a new bug or moth is another memory. Their fascination on life returning rubbed off on me. I think that’s why the little things in life still fascinate me so much. The miracles of nature most people walk blindly past that bring a smile to my face for witnessing.

For people bored of this blog and not getting the point, let me try and explain it better. I grew up in this new, growing and recovering environment. It was the only life I ever knew. As far as I was concerned this was how life was. Buildings the same age, or younger, than yourself. Panic at the first sign of a cyclone. That siren warning to let you know it’s time to go home and buckle down as another cyclone was about to hit. To me, this was normal. Didn’t everyone grow up in science labs, play on old army equipment and watch trees and buildings grow with them? Discover new animals in their yards and watch life explode into existence from a desolate and dirty barren waste land?

The first time I saw a building that was fifty years old – while visiting family interstate – I was in awe. Real, everyday people got to live in such old buildings? Weren’t old building just special places the rich lived in? Or the Government? Yes, fifty years old was old to me! Buildings in my life were the same age as me. You should have seen my reaction the first time I came face to face with stone statues that were over seven hundred years old! Awe was an understatement. Old things were alien to me, as old meant the same age you were… didn’t it?

And so cyclone Tracy shaped my fascination in old manmade creations. From art and architecture through to books and literature… life existed before cyclone Tracy and not everyone lived in a place as old as them with belongings of the same age. Some were lucky enough to live in places decades older than themselves. Centuries even! How lucky were they? And yet they didn’t even seem to realise this.Yes, I was a child and so my views on the world were limited to what I understood, but I hope you can understand it all the same.

Growing up in Darwin itself also shaped me. What I deemed ‘normal’ others see as rather over the top and in some cases insane. A place that had no rain and bushfires for eight months of the year and then four months of cyclones, mild flooding and near constant rain… that’s normal. What do you mean we’re meant to have four seasons? Two is all we needed. Cold, what was cold? Wasn’t that a stuffed up nose that got you off school for a few days? Of course all the food is in the fridge or freezer or tinned and dehydrated. It would go off otherwise! Nah mate, that was just a python, not anything to be afraid of. Yes it was a snake… but there’s a difference between a venomous one and just a python. Yes, termites fly and the air is filled with them at the first rains of the season. Try and not inhale them. That thing on the wall? It’s just a gecko… no, don’t pick it up by its tail! There’s mould on your leather shoes? I hate to break it to you, but it’s March and there’s mould on everything right now, including you! Hell yes the soil can even kill you, there’s a bacteria in it that comes up with the water table in the wet and I really don’t think you should go walking in it in bare feet with that cut you’ve got there.

No, I’m not making any of that up… I really have said it to strangers to the north over my life time. 🙂

And so, realising cyclone Tracy was forty years ago this Christmas… I started to wonder exactly how many people still in Darwin remember it the same way I do. I know of a few, as I still have friends and family there. But when Darwin lost its fear of cyclones and people from the south moved up there, turned their noses up at what the tropics were like and pulled it all down and put up their view of what the tropics should be like… I had to leave. I’d lost my Darwin and an even newer one had been put in its place.

So as much as I love my Darwin… it doesn’t exist anymore. I still call it my hometown, even if the one I remember is no longer there. You can never go home, but it continues you shape you throughout your life and you need to acknowledge your past, embrace the present and enjoy the prospect of the future. My Darwin has changed and gone, but the one that is there now is just as important and I hope they’re never put through another cyclone like Tracy.

Not exactly the sort of Christmas post people usually send out… but cyclone Tracy shaped Christmas for me too… doesn’t everyone have tape on their windows at that time of year? You mean it’s not part of the decorations? 😉

Be safe, remind your friends and family how awesome they are and how loved they are and realise we don’t all see the world the same way as we didn’t all have the same childhood as you. Or even look on the same environment we were growing up in in the same way you did.

Until next time,

Janis XXOO.

Three Twistered House Girders

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 22, 2014 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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De-stress at Christmas rather than distress at Christmas.

Hello everyone, this blog post is one of those annoying “it’s Christmas so we must have a seasonal style post”. Well, sort of. And I really do hope it’s not that annoying too.

Actually, this post came into creation as one of those brain dumps I tend to have on Facebook in my “private” profile. I say private with “” simply because if it’s on the internet or in one of those clouds somewhere it’s about as private as walking down the street. It might not seem like anyone can see you – as you can’t see them – but that doesn’t mean what you’re doing isn’t being monitored. No, not meaning to sound like some paranoid conspiracy theorist, just trying to explain that the internet isn’t as private as some people seem to think it is.

So anyhow, back on this not so private profile of mine on Facebook where I had a bit of a brain dump about how overwhelmed I was feeling about this whole festive season. What with the ever present money pressure most of us feel, kid’s expectations of what’s to happen, messy house, various personal family matters and that whole hypothetical issue with my work and copyright infringements… well, my black dogs didn’t need to be called to my side, they’ve been here lurking a few weeks now.

The brain dump took all of this and tried to explain how I was getting through it all. And the more I wrote the more I felt it would make a good blog post. I’ve extended it and changed it a little from the original “vent” but I do hope it helps some of you out.

And here it is…

This is the first Christmas season where I’ve felt totally overwhelmed, stressed and anti the whole idea of it. I can’t put my finger on exactly what is causing it as I know for a fact there are several things… including my inner black dogs wanting a gift too (me to have a serious melt down). I used to love Christmas, clean house all done up in tinsel and sparkly things, decorations everywhere and the excuse to whip up some of the yummiest meals to then live off for a week or so. Loved it… and now I’m over it and want to skip it this year despite how terrible that would be to my children.

And so, if you’re feeling like me and feeling down and out and wanting to call the whole thing off, this is what I’ve been telling myself to keep going:

The world isn’t suddenly going to come to an end if Christmas is a low key event this year. There doesn’t need to be dozens of gifts under the tree to show your kids you love them. There doesn’t have to be a Solstice feast with dozens of friends simply because it’s what you do every other year. If they’re really your friends, they will understand if you’re not feeling that sociable or festive. True friends will still be your friends. Those that aren’t, weren’t in there for the long haul, their loss.

Please remember: You have a home, food, a family, mostly good health and live in a country free of war and major conflict (if we ignore our politicians). Just let that negativity slide away.

We build up too many expectations of the perfect and magical Christmas… there’s no such thing. They’ve always been a mess and chaos and full of ups and downs, the human brain is just very good at only remembering the good stuff and forgetting the bad.

Go with the flow, smile at the bitchy family comments and snipes and ignore them. That is what family is like, you can’t choose your family but you can choose how to respond to them. Be the better person and don’t bite back.

Remember those who can’t be with you and wish them the best. And think on those who won’t ever be with you for Christmas again and remember the good times rather than feel sad at their passing. I’ve lost part of my extended family this year and Christmas is going to be tough because of it so it’s time to focus on the positive, remember the good and let the bad dissolve away.

Remind your children how important they are, how much they are loved and how these are the greatest gifts you could have. Spend time with them as your gift, rather than pile them high with plastic fantastic gifts that won’t last the New Year. They will remember a day in the park where mummy and daddy played with us more than a broken toy. This year we’ve chosen a new board game together, and plan on spending Boxing Day with just the five of us playing games, watching DVDs and snacking on those ‘sometimes’ foods we avoid for the rest of the year.

Thank your friends and family for being there for you this year… those that have been. I know this won’t work for everyone, but I am basing this on my own internal pep talk so work with me here. Again, think of the positives you’ve had with them this year, the other stuff isn’t worth a space in your head. Mentally rip it up and flush it down the loo. This is the advice I give to my kids and I think it works well for grown-ups too.

Basically – a lot of stressful and high anxiety situations we feel we’re in right now are that way because we let them be. Let’s leave that fight or flight instinct for when we really need it and just focus on being grounded, being ourselves, seeing what we have rather than angst over how we feel it should be… Just enjoy being so very lucky to live in a place of peace, abundant food, clean water and a safe place to sleep.

Did that help at all?

As, you know, for most of us life really isn’t that bad. I know there are some who have a true reason to feel stressed, miserable and alone at this time and so maybe share a thought for them? Possibly even help where you can? Be a shoulder, lend an ear, donate money for a food box to a complete stranger so they can enjoy Christmas lunch too. If you feel money is too tight or you’re too busy for this, don’t complain you have it tough! Because if you have time to moan you have time to donate. Or is that just me? Every true charity shaking their donation cans I’ve been past in the last few days, I dropped some coins in. Gold ones too. The children I sponsor not only got their usual Christmas cards, but I donated a little more to ensure they got something special along with it. Heck, to them getting a mosquito net for their bed was an amazing gift and I wasn’t even trying! Help a friend out who might be struggling to meet commitments. Even if that’s just having them over for an afternoon and subtly send them home with “left overs” so they have some nice treats for later. I love to cook and bake but 80% of what I make I give away. Not because it’s bad and I don’t want it, but because it’s good and I want to share it.

Remember how awesome you are, know you are worth it and even if you find yourself alone this Christmas, just know someone is thinking of you right now. Even if it’s just a total stranger like me sending out thoughts of love and hope to those not with friends and family this Christmas.

Please remember I am one of the biggest, most cynical bitches I know. Why think the positive when the negative is easier and more likely to come true, right? Well no, wrong! And this is one of the biggest things I’ve had to learn this year. In all situations, no matter how bad they are, try and find the positive. As I’ve realised I am a very lucky person to have what I have, despite all I don’t have. I am indeed blessed and I am a lot more awesome than I might think I am on most days. Oh, the “happy pills” prescribed by my Doctor might have helped with this too, but hey. At least I can see it’s true now, rather than just some twaddle being told to me.

No matter what your belief, religion, location, popularity, salary, skin colour, sports preference or shoe size – I am wishing you a safe and happy holidays and hoping the very best for you in the new calendar year. You’re awesome, you’re worth it and don’t let anyone try and tell you otherwise… even if that anyone is inside your head. They’re wrong.

Be happy, be safe, be proud of who you are.

Until next time,

Janis.

Some of the bunter teller I've made this year.

Some of the bunter teller I’ve made this year.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2014 in More pep talk than writing

 

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