Seasons Reflections

For the first time in my life, this year I felt a longing to be with family at Christmas. It was hard to describe – and perhaps it’s ubiquitous so I don’t need to – but I wanted to be around my cousins, aunts and uncles because of their differences rather than in spite of them. I liked the idea of all the members of my family putting aside their vast differences and being together just for a few hours once a year. I guess that’s the universal Spirit of Christmas, right? Overall I found it a little more trying than I expected.

I’ve heard a few people talk about “the racist uncle” as a kind of stereotype at family gatherings. I wasn’t too worried about racism this year (though it has come up in the past), and instead I discovered that there are many things to discriminate about. This year, I noticed judgemental language (often directed at me) that targeted vegetarians, vegans, Pokémon enthusiasts, people who enjoyed alcohol, people who didn’t give to charity, people who are sensitive, people who don’t have the latest model of smart phone, and religion and the people that practice them.

Furthermore I have discovered that I don’t really like the idea of Christmas presents. From my experience today, they are often generic and not usually liked by the people who receive them. Beth and I have worked so hard to declutter our home lately, throwing out, giving away and selling hundreds of books, games, consoles, clothes, furniture, figurines and other accoutrements. The last thing I want is to take home a bunch of new stuff that I am not in love with and want in my life, because then I have the task of rehoming the item and I risk the gift-giver being hurt if they find out.

It’s taken me a few hours to process everything that has gone on today. It was affirming to discover that I have a dislike for the materialistic side of Christmas, and that perhaps next year I will make donations to charity on people’s behalf, or provide other options that sit better with me. (I know gifts aren’t about my feelings, but I don’t think I could bring myself to give something to someone that I myself was repulsed by.) I’ve also learned that it’s hard for me to be around people who’s value systems are quite opposite to my own. Today I met people who valued eating animal products, having lots of (expensive) possessions, hobbies over relationships, negative self-talk, making fun of people (ostensibly to “toughen them up”), and being right rather than to letting people be happy. It’s fine that people have different values, though I think the frequency and intensity of those value clashes wore me down foster than I anticipated.

It’s been a busy few days, and I’m glad it’s over for the moment. Merry Christmas everyone <3

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Lessons from Living Solo

Beth has been dog-sitting at her parent’s house for three days now, and here are some of the things I’ve learned about myself:

  • I am always busy. When left to my own devices, I cram my schedule full of work, training, seeing Beth, and the necessities of eating, showering and keeping the cat alive. Even my relaxing is scheduled, and despite all the freedom I’m still consistently late XD
  • I’m messier than I thought. With no one to be tidy for, I leave clothes, dishes and miscellaneous stuff lying around.
  • This causes me to forget or lose things because I just put them down and have no idea where. When Beth’s here, she reminds me where I’ve been or where she’s seen my glasses, wallet, phone etc. Without her I just don’t notice it’s gone until I need it. (Case in point, moments after publishing this I spent five minutes going back and forth to the same rooms looking for my phone. It was next to the TV and not in any of my usual spots.)
  • I forget how many blinds and curtains we have, which lamps to turn on/off, and remember to open/close everything before I go out.
  • It’s always cold. I enjoy the idea of saving money more than I like the idea of warming the room with a heater.
  • I’m noisier. I sing, I crank up the TV, I don’t close the doors.
  • I don’t do nearly as much housework as I want to. I noticed the sinks are dirty, the cat litter’s full, the floor needs vacuuming, and I do precisely nothing about it.
  • I leave all the doors, cupboards and drawers open. Well, not all of them, but enough of them, under the assumption that I’m going to go right back in there so I don’t need to waste time closing it again.
  • Twice now I’ve had to get out of the car and gone back into the house to grab something I’ve forgotten, like my wallet.

All of this is reminding me painfully of my father. Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall so far from the tree after all!

PD through PD

Personal Discovery through Professional Development.

I spent way longer on that title than I wanted to.

 

I’ve done a lot of learning and growing in recent times. My work has taught me so many things that I probably would never have learned otherwise, and it’s kind of hard for me to keep track of it all. Every tiny nugget of wisdom changes who I am and the way I move through the world, and week after week, month after month, all those learnings are adding up to something quite spectacular. I feel like my heart is growing, and I can care more easily and more deeply. I’m also learning a great deal about not caring too much, and knowing where I end and another begins.

 

That’s why I sat down at my computer this morning and started reading about burnout. I’ve noticed in the past few weeks in particular, my patience has been at an all-time low.

Working in mental health, sometimes the people that I support seem (to me) to be “stuck”: they’re in pain, and they don’t want to do anything to change their circumstances. As someone who loves to rescue people, it’s been challenging for me checking my inner-white-knight and being with people where they are. I’ve felt a lot of frustration and, in the case of one person, two years of it built up week by week until I finally realised I couldn’t hold onto it any more and I had to share it. My manager and I sat with the person and I let some of those emotions out from behind the dam and it was cathartic. I realised that my frustration was actually concern, and that all I wanted was the best for the person and I was worried about them.

 

Since then, I’ve found it really hard to keep my frustration removed from my client interactions. I’m really struggling to sit with people where they’re at because I want so badly for their lives to be different. And that’s an interesting one that I’m still working through: How can I still care about the people I work with, without caring so much that it drains my cup? The solution, I think, are boundaries: in a nutshell, being okay with not taking on other people’s stuff.

 

I find it amazing that three weeks I was noticing these experiences and I didn’t really take any heed of them. Looking at them in hindsight, they are increasingly alarming signs that I was heading towards burnout. I’m grateful that it was brought to my attention seriously, so that I can give it the serious attention it merits. I’m more aware now of what I’m feeling relating to work: what feels good, and what feels draining. As my awareness grows, I’m more informed about the decisions I make: what boundaries to set down, and how I want to work in a way that is sustainable and joyful. I want to value self-care more (which, even as I write it I’m thinking “I don’t have time for that, my black belt grading is coming up, I’ll self care in two weeks from now”) and be okay with letting myself rest and heal more often. I want to continue developing methods of decompressing between appointments and after work, maybe seriously get back into meditation and reconnect with that well of inner peace within me.

 

I don’t really know where I’m going with any of this. I haven’t eaten breakfast yet, and the cobwebs of nightmares still cling to me. I guess I just wanted to say, to myself and the world, that I value my wellbeing, and that I’m continuing to work through stuff. I am continuing to seek that balance between growing and resting, and I’m getting better at it all the time.

The Best of the Wild: Part 3

This is the third, and probably final instalment of my favourite moments from Breath of the Wild. If you’d like to read my first two, you can read them here and here.


Several times upon my journey I came across a young couple named Tye and Sorelia. Newly married, they were roaming the forests of Hyrule looking for the rare flower called the Silent Princess. Tye had heard rumour that, if you declare you love before a freshly plucked blossom, you and your partner will live a charmed life. He had intended to venture out into the world on his own to find his flower and swear his love by it, and Sorelia could not bear the thought of the danger he was exposing himself to on the quest. She decided to buckle on her adventurer boots and go with him, to protect him and to share in their adventure together.

When I heard their story, the first thing I did was reach for the Silent Princess in my pack. I thought to myself, “Here at last is the end to their journey! No longer will they need to huddle in the rain and fight bokoblins every day.” And yet speaking to them, they were both overjoyed in the adventure they were living, full of risk and passion. I decided not to give them the blossom they were seeking, because in a way, they had already found it.


In the village of Hateno, there was a strapping stableboy named Manny who pined after Prima, the young mistress of the inn. It was the stuff of cheesy adult fiction, except that Manny could not bring himself to utter a word to his beloved. He besought me to inquire what Prima wanted most in the world, and when I asked her, she invented the idea that she would only be interested in someone who could give her one hundred Restless Crickets. Manny begged me for ten, which I gathered for him, which he did nothing with. Apparently he was paralysed by anxiety and couldn’t bring himself to find any others.

I however had no such compunctions. I took to the field, cutting grass and sneaking up on crickets day and night until I had precisely one hundred. I went back to the inn and, five at a time, dropped them in front of Prima. She did not thank me, and with an annoyed look, simply inquired whether I wanted a soft bed or a regular bed. I left her with her plague of crickets and turned my efforts elsewhere.


As I have said previously, combat has been my favourite part of the game. Eventually I became so adept that, for fun, I would drop down into a pit full of Guardians and fight off four of them simultaneously, deflecting beams back at their owners, darting in and out of cover, electrifying some, hitting others in the eyes with ancient arrows. For the ones that still had legs, I would cut them off with an ancient weapon before they even fully initialised, swinging my ancient battle axe in wild circles to end them before they even realised it had begun.

Imagine my delight, then, to discover that in the depths of a great canyon were the ruins of a Forgotten Temple covered in the decaying remains of Guardians. I strode right through the front door without attempting to take cover or stealth past them as five or six lasersights turned and locked onto me. Batting two of the beams aside simultaneously, I continued to walk right through the temple, an unstoppable force with impeccable timing, Guardians exploding all around me as I strode every forward. They protected an ancient shrine, and a priceless treasure: a statue of the Goddess Hylia in proportions scarcely before imaginable, easily ten times the height of me. It was a profound experience humbling myself before her and receiving her blessing.


I heard rumour of a ruined coliseum that monsters had since made their home. I could not resist the call of a good fight, and made my way across the mountains to enter it from above. I scoped out the place thoroughly, working my way around it from above and identifying what manner of creatures occupied it. Rather than approaching each of them stealthily as I normally would, I equipped my full Knight Armour (84 defence) and approached them in single combat, besting them one after the other. From moblins to lizalfos to bokoblins, and finally to the Silver Lynel at the base, I conquered them all without challenge. It was a brutal slaughter, and when it was over there was no one to hear me yell “Are you not entertained?!”

I was beginning to feel like the game had no more challenge for me. Until…


Far across the sea, I made my way to an island called Eventide. Once I set foot on the beach, the voice of an ancient monk resonated in my head and darkness overtook me. When I awoke, I had been stripped of all my armour, weapons and items, on an island full of monsters. My task was to find the three orbs and place them on their pedestals while surviving the trials of the night. It was exhilarating.

The first thing I did was avoid the bokoblins and set into the forest to find some tree branches as makeshift weapons. A storm came as I was carefully making my way across a bog, and I noticed that lightning struck the water not once, but twice. Curious, I pulled out my Sheikah Slate and discovered a metal chest at the bottom of the swamp. Inside it was a soldier’s sword, a much greater weapon than my humble stick. I foraged for mushrooms and crept through the night. I found a camp of bokoblins and killed them, cautiously using their campfire to roast my mushrooms and sleeping lightly until morning. It was exhilarating feeling so vulnerable.

It was a greater challenge still to fight a Hinox, whose healthbar far exceeded the capacity of my weapons to damage. It was only in hindsight that I realised I could have taken the orb around his neck by stealth, and instead I peppered him with the handful of arrows I had scavenged, broke most of my weapons upon him, and then used Magnesis to beat him with a metal crate for several minutes while he tried to climb the hill I was on. I was not proud of that particular battle.

By the time I climbed the summit of Eventide, I had acquired most of the weapons of the enemies on the island. I was once again a walking badass, a big fish in a small pond, and I was sad to end the challenge. The Trial of the Sword DLC looks to be exactly what I’m craving.


I always felt a little guilty exploring Hyrule, completing shrines, hunting dragons and spending weeks in the game chasing wild horses and falling stars while Zelda was locked in a life-or-death battle with Ganon. Whenever I spoke to Impa, she reminded me to save the Princess as soon as I could because she had been struggling for one hundred years straight and could use a break. When at last I unlocked the final memory, I realised that I did not want to delay any longer, and even though I had five shrines yet to be discovered, the time had finally come: I was going to assault Hyrule Castle.

My preparations were extensive. I made one hundred ancient arrows to deal with the Guardian Stalkers, Turrets and Skywatchers. I had already upgraded every single piece of armour in the game to maximum defence (save one pair of earrings which required a fragment of a falling star). From my home in Hateno, I took from their displays the weapons of the fallen Champions: the Lightscale Trident, the Boulder Breaker, the Scimitar of the Seven, Daybreaker and the Great Eagle Bow. As I was preparing, a blood moon began to rise so I cooked dozens of dishes to maximise my health and defend me against every element and condition I might face. And the dawn broke, I made for the Castle, not wanting to risk another blood moon whilst I was inside.

Inspired by the final memory, I chose to wear the Hero’s tunic and Hylian trousers, wielding nothing more than the Master Sword and a shield. It would have been safer to equip full Guardian armour, but I wanted the Ganon to know I wasn’t scared of him and was more than a match for his sentinels. I enabled the four talents of the Champions (I usually kept Daruk’s Protection and Urbosa’s Fury disabled because they interfered with my playing style) and strode right up to the Castle gates, cutting my way through dozens of Guardians and reflecting their beams right back at them.

Having announced my presence and defeated all of the sentries perched on the exterior of the Castle, I began to explore in earnest. I wasn’t expecting such a complex dungeon, and it took me several hours to uncover each of the rooms and their many secrets. I loved discovering the ancient barracks, whose inhabitants reached for the gleaming weapons on the walls when they noticed my intrusion. It was a great pleasure, too, swimming through the docks and finding the many ways which the palace might be breached. I felt a chill run over me as I returned to Zelda’s study and the lone Silent Princess growing there. When I discovered her bedroom nearby, I loved that she had a Royal Guard Bow on her mantelpiece, and I was deeply moved by finding her journal on the table. I was stunned to find that Link was not in fact mute, and chose to be silent for his own personal reasons. And what a thrill it was to find King Rhoam’s hidden study, where he wrote in his journal about the struggle he had with himself for pushing Zelda so hard to be the Princess his Kingdom needed.

Most exciting of all though, earlier in the game I had paid an absurd amount of money to a crazed shield surfer and he imparted on me the rumour that a legendary shield lay waiting somewhere in the Castle. After many hours of searching, deep in the bowels of the dungeons I came upon a test for knights who wished to prove their skill. The skeletal giant, Stalnox, lay waiting in a chamber for me to approach, and I defeated him swiftly and without issue. And then, after so many hours of dreaming, it was finally before me: the iconic Hylian shield, to join me at last, in the last of my adventures.

It’s hard to describe how much I love Hyrule Castle, and how much it means to me. It’s dangerous enemies, secret passageways and powerful items and that incredible music tantalised the adventurer in me. It might well be my favourite place in the game.


When I finally entered the Inner Sanctum to confront Ganon, we battled magnificently, and I loved every moment of it. After it was over. my save file+ told me that I had completed 46.15% of the game after sinking 185 hours into it. At first I didn’t know what to do with my life: I had been so invested in the adventure, and now it was finally over. Eventually I decided I didn’t want to 100% the game (those Koroks, man, I still had 635 of the 900 to find), but would at least find the remaining shrines to free those monks from their 10 000 year wait, complete the compendium (I had about 18 photos to go) and finish off the last side quest, cooking royal cuisine for that enthusiastic stablehand. I had finally relieved Zelda from her long struggle, and there will still adventures yet to be had. Hyrule is a large place with many secrets yet uncovered, and I have many hours ahead to experience them yet.

 

Reflections on 2016

2016 has been a bad big year for me. (That was a genuine typo, or perhaps a Freudian slip. I’m very tired.) Lots of people (myself included) have complained about 2016 as the year of Trump and Celebrity Deaths. And lots of people have urged these not to become the theme of the year: to choose to see love instead of fear, hope instead of despair. Lots of things have happened in 2016, and for me personally, and in many significant ways it’s been the most eventful year of my life.

Peppermint (The Muffinthief) Silvermane had just come into our lives, and I learned what it meant to be a responsible pet owner for the first time ever. I mean, I knew all the theory, I’d just never had enough responsibility to care for the welfare of another sentient being (apart from poor Lyota). It was a great challenge for me not to despair when she toileted all over Beth’s favourite rug and our bags, causing my black belt to reek of cat pee. I had never been so hurt and so angry in all my life, (except perhaps for that time the Sorting Hat believed I might be in Slytherin), and I really did consider giving her away again. My relationship with Peppermint is a work in progress, and I’m coming to terms with her infrequent levels of affection and her dislike for being picked up. We’re living pretty harmoniously at the moment.

I got married, too! A very big event indeed. So much organising, and so much money! Still, apart from the blur of congratulations and the extensive photo shoot, I still remember how beautiful my bride looked and how wonderful it was to spend the day in the company of friends and family.

Our second trip to Japan was incredible, and brought many new and treasured memories. Among my happiest moments were putting on samurai armour and walking the streets of Miyajima, grilled dango at Mt Inari, Anita and all her antics, and most of all HogwartsVisiting South Korea for the first time was quite an adventure in itself, and I’m very grateful to have formed the memory of Hot 6 on a Starcrafty night.

While I hate to talk about work, I must admit it was a huge year for my career as well. I started working on a new mental health project in my organisation, one that had some very rocky moments. It was, and is, a stressful and rewarding part of my life. I’ve learned so much professionally and personally, the growth I’ve undergone in my practice this year is quite immeasurable. (We also won the Outstanding Team and Team of the Year awards!)

I’ve done three chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) performances this year, mainly o-temae, and acquired enough implements to perform ryakubon (a portable tea ceremony using a platter) and chabako (a tea ceremony set to take on picnics). To my great sadness, my teacher has returned to Japan (though she will visit in the following months) and we shared a beautiful chaji (formal, themed tea ceremony including a kaiseki – a special meal and sake).

In my study of martial arts, I’ve undertaken some extra duties for the school as well. I clean and do extra training after every class, and it’s been wonderfully gratifying transforming the building week by week, item by item. As I said to another student recently, if there’s a piece of paper in the building I know what it says. It’s been especially rewarding for me to take the initiative and buy, clean and organise things for the benefit of the dojo, talk to the neighbouring shops to reestablish good relations, decorate for the holidays and create beautiful, open spaces so the building can breathe. I’ve been teaching more, too. I’ve probably taken about a dozen classes in the school, as well as teaching taiji to a group of Mum’s on a carer’s retreat.

Beth and I moved out of our small townhouse and into a unit with three bedrooms. Moving house is always a massive project, and it’s been fantastic having enough room to just spread out. I’ve got my study, a room of swords and computers, Beth’s got her den, full of herbs, books and crystals, we’ve both got a loungeroom that isn’t tucked under the stairs… It’s been a wonderful year for decluttering and refocussing.

 

Speaking of refocussing, I’ve actually got a few resolutions I’d like to make for the New Year. I’m going to try making them SMART (or at the very least, Specific and Measurable). They are:

  1. Watch The Appendices (Making of) The Lord of the Rings for half an hour every morning for a month, or until I’ve finished them all.
  2. Go for a run once a week for at least three months.
  3. Do weights once a week, preferably after every class at the Academy.
  4. Study Japanese for an hour at least once a fortnight. I’d love to say that I could do it every other day, but I don’t have a lot of desire to spend my extra energy on study outside of work and training!
  5. Be more mindful of food. This is a hard one to measure, but maybe

Welp, it’s looking like this year will be a good’un. Can’t believe the end of year holidays have passed by so quickly. Here’s hope, for a bright 2017.