An animal-to-animal encounter

It’s a bright, sunny morning. The weather app on my iPhone tells me it’s going to be a stinker. So before it becomes unbearable, I take my dogs for a walk.

The three of us make our way onto our habitual route – through the park and onto the shared walk-bike path adjacent to the eastern freeway. I decide to go rogue and stay on the path instead of getting off at our usual spot, to loop back home via residential streets.

This was a big mistake. Of course, I did not know this at the time. Within a hundred metres, coming towards us from the other side of the path is a ball of fluff about four months old. You could tell it was well-loved. It had a floral-print ‘chief around its neck and it momentarily paused taking us in with is black beady eyes.

The puppy doesn’t register me, yet its face expresses elation: oh, here are two of my kind – whoopee! It bolts towards us, crossing over the forbidden white line. Thankfully there were no bikes whizzing by.

But soon a group of men in lycra ride past. I stop walking, so that the puppy stays with us and doesn’t tangle into the bikes. I yell out “This is not my dog” in case I get told off for not having my dog under ‘effective control’. I’m a responsible citizen and the irresponsibility of this puppy’s owner is stressing me out.

The puppy keeps circling us and pouncing in the typical doggie-play position. After over a 100 metres of this, and only being able to move at a pace one would call shuffling, I no longer find it cute or its behaviour endearing. And neither do my dogs. My older one now anxious, continually jumps on me.

The owner is nowhere in sight. And I now I think the puppy might be lost.

With cutesy noises I coax the puppy to come closer and as quick as lightning make to grab its collar with my one free hand. But the puppy is nimbler than me and its collar is hidden under the ‘chief, so on my first go a bunch of fur slips through my fingers.

Second time lucky, I hang onto the collar with my left hand, and stand on my dogs’ leads with my left foot, so I can have my right hand free. I use it take out my phone, and now I only have one limb free.

The collar is leather, beautiful – almost the same colour as the puppy. Its name and owner’s number is etched onto the collar, so it’s tricky to read, but possible were it not for the puppy’s flipping about. It’s twisting, turning – making the collar tighter – and whimpering loudly. With the trajectory of my luck this morning, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone were to report me for animal cruelty. I’m just waiting for it.

The puppy is fighting back, shaking me about as I try to punch the number into my phone with my right thumb, the remaining fingers gripping onto the phone for dear life. I only managed to get in four digits when the phone drops. Now I feel like whimpering too. But my hope gets restored when I see this couple, middle-aged, on their morning walk heading my way.

“Can you help me?” I ask feebly. I’m desperately hoping they’d agree to call the owner, while I held the dog with both hands and read out the numbers. But you know what they said? And very nonchalantly, might I add. “That’s our dog.”

Whaaat?!!!

Whatever was holding me together gave way. “Where have you been? Do you know your puppy has followed us for the last 10 minutes, stressing out my dogs? It should be on a lead! It could get hit by a bike!”

“Oh.”

I let go of the puppy, thinking it’d run back to its owners. Another mistake. It still circles us, and totally ignores the commands mumbled by its owners.

The owners’ limp scramble to control their dog boils my blood. It’s going to be up to me. The responsible citizen.

We are near an opening that makes its way into a residential street. I head that way, hoping the puppy will get the hint and stay on the path. Wishful thinking. It continues to follow us, and now I think a car might squash it. The owners don’t even bother to follow us. So I return to the grassy bit between the road and path.

Despite my lack of inner calm, I find the motor of my mind whirring for a solution. The puppy is simply not understanding hooman.

Before I know it, my lizard brain takes over.

I leave my dogs on the grassy patch. And then I charge. With my arms stretched above, hands curved into paws and fingers clenched into claws, I scream-growl and bare my teeth. The puppy face tells me it understands. That bear is going to eat me! Run! It scampers off to its owners – I hope – who still haven’t shown face.

My dogs, miraculously, have stayed put. I grab their leads and don’t look around to see whether anyone has witnessed this animal-to-animal encounter. My cheeks are hot and I feel perspiration on my back, my heart in overdrive. After a minute or so, we continue on our walk, my head turning from side to side, wary of meeting the puppy again. Instead, we only meet two women walking a greyhound on a tight lead, who say “leave it” as they walk past us.

Dancing towards play

I think of play as a loss of self-consciousness in bed with flow, birthing a child-like joy. Like when my 12-year-old, honey-coloured Beaglier – a King Charles Cavalier x Beagle – chases his tail.

I turn to the Macquarie Dictionary & Thesaurus Online to check my interpretation. I discover that for a four-letter word, play has just as many facets as a classic-cut diamond. Well, almost. The Dictionary offers 97 definitions and uses for the word. (A quick Google search also reveals over 340 idioms.)

The first definition listed is “a dramatic composition or piece or a drama”, and the second is “a dramatic performance, as on stage.”

A stage play doesn’t come to mind, but Neymar Jr does. You know, the Brazilian soccer legend renowned for his ‘diving’ antics during the 2018 soccer world cup? Diving is the theatrical falling down and rolling around on the field acting as if you’re grievously injured.

Even if this behaviour isn’t considered outright cheating, I liken it to dirty play. Maybe I have a narrow viewpoint, though. The world at large has played along with the joke, fervently taking up the ‘Neymar Challenge’. With online news headlines proclaiming “The Neymar Challenge has fans around the world dramatically falling down” and “The ‘Neymar Challenge’ is the latest viral sensation taking the internet by storm.”

I just don’t get it. What a party pooper I am.

The third – “exercise or action by way of amusement or recreation” – and fourth – “fun, jest or trifling, as opposed to earnest” – definitions confirm my lack of playful genes.

It’s 1975. A one-year-old baby, almost a toddler, is carefully lifted out of the car. The mother is about to place her on the fresh green grass of the front lawn. Instead of delighting in the anticipated ticklish prickle of the lush blades against her bare feet, the toddler scrunches her toes and bunches up her legs.

About 10 years later, the same mother willingly writes notes so that her precocious daughter – who at the time equates exercise with an excruciating way to lose weight – can get out physical education classes.

Having lived with the daughter for over 40 years, I am realising, rather disappointingly, the seriousness of my disposition. Reviews govern my restaurant choices. And familiarity my repeated visits to the same cafès, with the staff knowing my name and me theirs. Uncertainty sends me to Google in search for an answer, a way. Behaviours such as these allude to a fear of a life lived wrong.

Over two years ago, my five-foot-two self butted against a former model and basketballer turned author, PhD student and business owner – all rolled into a six-foot blonde. She was my boss. And I worked in her business for nineteen months before she unceremoniously pushed me out. I believed it was my continual refusal to put her on a pedestal and apologise for being human. But it was my lack of play that was to blame.

I realise – always too late – that when two strong-minded personalities clash, one must concave to soften the impact. Behavioural experts recommend this concaving come in the shape of play.

In The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships, John M Gottman (with Joan DeClaire) writes:

“We also discovered the importance of playfulness in people’s bids [for interaction and connection]. For years I have wondered why some couples are able to make jokes and express affection for each other – even in the midst of an argument. It’s an important question because our research shows that such emotional ‘repair tools’ lead to the development of happier, stronger relationships.”

Dr Stuart Brown also concurs, stating in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul that “The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.”

So, instead of shooting emails at each other about the restructure of my role – my boss from her office and me from my shared space less than two feet away – I needed to get up and walk over to her and say: “Hey, what’s up? Is it my turn to get you coffee or something? Let’s grab one and chat.”  

I still might not have kept my job, but the departure might’ve been less acerbic.

Not long after my demise at work, my life took a serendipitous turn towards play. I got a job with an organisation that has ‘vitality’ in its name, to which it is unabashedly true. As its digital content specialist, I can work from home, but I choose to turn up in the office at least once a week. Why wouldn’t I? I laugh often, hear pet names like ‘precious’ and ‘sweet cheeks’ float through the airwaves, and my mistakes are seen as part of being human – i.e. no big deal!

Both Dr Brown and another behavioural expert, Bowen F White, a medical doctor and author of Why Normal Isn’t Healthy, stress the importance of selecting friends who are playful. I just happened to get lucky with my colleagues.

Work wasn’t the only ingredient to up my play stakes. Roughly a year ago, I took up dance classes. Not ballet. But dance of the street variety – Bollywood and Latin Rhythms – where improvisation and feeling the vibe of the music are keys to loosening up and playful self-expression.

Before each class begins, our Zumba instructor tells us in her thick Venezuelan accent, “I don’t expect you to be a professional dancer. I want you to just forget your problems and have fun.” And my Bollywood teacher instructs the class to “Move your hips so far right, that it’s out the window.” This proclamation is immediately followed by a giggle.

Soon, I discover I’m confident enough to take play off the dance floor and into situations I’m not naturally comfortable.

In a meeting a few months ago, a new client is describing her swanky offices in Docklands, a modern harbour development adjacent to Melbourne’s CBD. Floor-to-ceiling windows. An indoor bridge connecting two buildings. It all sounds glamorous. And I say, “Well, welcome to our humble abode.” We all laugh, the ice broken.

When I google the etymology of play, I find: “Old English pleg(i)an ‘to exercise’, plega ‘brisk movement’, related to Middle Dutch pleien ‘leap for joy, dance’.”

Maybe there’s a hint of Dutch in my bloodline.

Whether I was born with it or not, I know I can dance – not dive – my way onto the field of play. But vital players are necessary.

If I had just 24 hours to live

My friend Alex gave me a free advanced copy of her new book So This is the End: A Love Story. It was engrossing. Funny. Sad. I could not put it down. In it, the protagonist, Norma, is given a second chance to live, but it’s temporary. She only gets 24 hours.

This got me thinking…if I only had 24 hours, what would I do with my time?

Twenty-fours isn’t much for some of the things I wanted to put on my list – like learning Italian fluently. I think I’d panic and waste a few minutes wondering what to to with my remaining precious hours on Earth. But here is what I would do for #MyFinal24:

  • Take my two fur babies – Kobi and Lulu – for a walk with my Hubby and then all cuddle together on the couch.
  • Eat brunch and enjoy the best almond-milk magic at my favourite café. I’ll read – one of my favourite pastimes – while I’m there too.
  • Soak in the Peninsula natural spring spas with my girlfriends – miraculously there will be no one else there!
  • Eat my mum’s chicken curry Indian style – by hand!
  • Stare at the moon – hopefully she’s a full one. But I’d be grateful for any visibility.
  • Write a farewell note on my (this) blog, with special mention of people who are dear to me.
  • Dance to reggaeton music.
  • Last but not least, have an intimate gathering at my house, hanging out and laughing with the people I love – Hubby, Mum, Dad, Jaya, Shourov, Arjun, Keshav, Josh and my two fur babies.

What would you do with your precious last day?

Why it’s more than dance

When the yoga teacher kept yammering away about practicing aparigraha (the Sanskrit word for non-attachment) and how to brreeeathe, I knew it was time for a change.

Other than walking the dogs, yoga was my main form of exercise. I needed to mix things up a bit. To balance out the precise movements and life advice served up in yoga with freedom, fun and some badass sass.

This is when I decided to take up Zumba and enrol into the South Indian Street Dance course at Studio J Dance (full disclosure: my vibrant sister Jaya owns and runs this studio).

After six months of dancing, I got the irony. Dancing gave me the space to reveal my true nature – rather than tell me who I should be. It gave my life more meaning without my even trying – except for the commitment to show up to classes each week, of course.

Usually, my chest and throat tighten and my tummy plummets when I suddenly find myself in a limelight or in confrontation with a domineering personality. I don’t know how to deal with it, and stumble through the situation awkwardly.

But with dance, I began to notice a shift in my confidence – I was becoming braver at expressing myself, not only on but also off the dance floor. I was backing and trusting myself more. It just happened naturally.

For example, recently I had to lead a meeting with a new client to implement one of our products, since I am the product specialist. To make this go smoothly, our regional sales manager set up a meeting for me to go through the start-up process. She said that while she was going to be in the meeting, to act is if she wasn’t there. Oh dear!

I noticed my nerves as I was being introduced. The feeling was familiar, but something was different about it now. I was connecting the nerves to an uplifting, exciting sensation. One I got from dance.

You see, at the end of each term at Studio J, the class gets videoed performing the routine they have learned. We doll up, and dance with gusto, as if we were performing to a live audience. Well, close enough to it: the video gets posted on the studio’s social media channels. I feel an adrenaline rush – to get it right, to look boldly, cheekily into the camera as it’s rolling. And, importantly, I have a self-belief that I can do it.

I'm furthest to the left, not in screen view when video starts.

I got the same feeling when I led that meeting. I even have the chutzpah to make a joke. The client is telling us about her new offices in the Docklands. Modern. Floor-to-ceiling windows. An indoor bridge connecting two buildings. It all sounds glamorous. And I say, “Well, welcome to our humble abode.” We all laugh, the ice broken.

Normally, I wouldn’t have the gall to make such a comment. But it’s different now.

At the end of the meeting, after the clients leave, satisfied that they’re in good hands, the sales manager beams at me, “You were brilliant. We are so lucky to have you.” I’m sure I’m glowing, and have grown a few inches taller.

Yes, it’s much more than dance.


This article was originally published on Studio J Dance. You can view it here.

Pondering the meaning of life is a luxury

Some philosophers, like Nietzsche, believe that life has no meaning in itself, but that one has to construct it. I generally agree with this. But I feel one has to be in a position of privilege to contemplate the question: How can I create meaning?

I arrived at this point of view after watching a scene from a Spanish film. The movie is called Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados (Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed) and is set in the 1960s.

A teacher, who is a Beatles enthusiast, is driving across Spain to a location where John Lennon is supposedly shooting a film. The teacher is desperate to meet his hero. I believe he has quit his job to make the trek. During his travels, on separate pit stops, he meets two adolescents in their late teens; they are hitchhiking their way to another life because their current ones don’t fit.

As these three misfits drive towards their destination, they come across a boy, around the age of 10, who’s begging by the roadside. This boy’s clothes are tattered and he is skin and bones. Suddenly, the teacher has an epiphany. You can see it on his face. It says: I know what this boy needs. He needs a soccer ball, because that’s what all boys want, don’t they? And I bet this boy doesn’t have one because he has no money.

So the teacher gets out of his car, opens his boot and pulls out a soccer ball. He hands it to the boy. The boy takes the ball, looks at it and at once his face droops downwards. What his expression cries out is: Sir, I can’t eat this ball. Can I have some money for food, please? I’m begging you.”

To me, this scene doesn’t merely strike a chord but bangs on a drum, emanating a long-lasting vibration: when one is so poor that all they can think about is where their next meal is coming from, then there is no space to contemplate anything – like playing a game of soccer just for fun – let alone the meaning of life.

Luckily, most of us in the western world are not in this situation. Not only are my basic human needs met – food, shelter, warmth, clean water – but also I have more than I could ever need. This means that my brain is free to contemplate life, since it doesn’t need to concern itself with my primal survival.

But with all this extra space, my mind can easily go down the rabbit hole of wanting more. And more. Of thinking that my life is not enough.

The scene from the Spanish film serves as an important reminder: that to be able to meditate upon my mere existence and whether I’m doing it justice is an indulgence. Because it means I’m doing ok. More than ok. It’s a reminder to move forward from a space of gratitude for all that I have – not what I lack.

Forbearance is a form of kindness

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way home from a writers’ retreat on the big island of Hawaii. In the last leg of my flight, from Sydney to Melbourne, I heard a repetitive chant being played in a foreign language. I turned around to see a middle-aged Asian woman sitting directly behind me. She was leaning against the window with her eyes closed and a tiny portable radio wedged in the crook of her neck, between her temple and her shoulder. The volume was audible, but not loud.

“I hope that doesn’t go on for the whole flight,” I thought to myself. In my body, I began to feel hints of annoyance and panic – at the thought of having to bear this for an hour and 20 minutes. To the lady in my row, sitting in the aisle seat, I whispered, “Can you hear that?” “Yes”, she replied with a sparkle in her eyes and her eyebrows raised.

I was fishing for her opinion, so I said, “I hope it stops soon.” Smiling, she responded nonchalantly, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Just ignore it.” A pause as I thought about this, and took in her easy-going nature. “She’s probably scared of flying,” I offered. “Yeah, true. It’s probably a good thing then – her chants might protect us all,” the lady offered back.

The trait this lovely woman was displaying was forbearance – a good-natured tolerance to minor things like delay, incompetence and ignorance. In the Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes that forbearance is a form of generosity. I would like to posit that it’s a form of kindness, too. Generous because you know their behaviour is not about you and so you can easily forgive a fellow human being. And kind because you really don’t know what’s going on in their lives, so you give them (and yourself) the grace of not losing it.

I could take a few leaves out of my plane buddy’s book. I’m sure many of us could. The thing is we humans are great at banding together to fight against great injustices – such as domestic violence, terrorism, treatment of asylum seekers and marriage inequality – but we can become indignant about the small stuff.

Like when someone accidentally bumps into us and doesn’t say sorry. Or when someone abruptly stops in front of us on the footpath to check their phone, or cuts us off while we are driving. We take it personally. We react impulsively. But if you think about it, this is also ‘ignorant’ behaviour. I’d like to insert a pause in between the trigger and my reaction, so I can choose how I respond.

I know that practicing forbearance can be challenging, especially if we’re tired, busy or in a hurry ourselves. Well, at least for me. But if we cultivated it – what kind of world would we live in? Perhaps there would be fewer injustices to fight against because we were kinder to each other? It’d definitely be a happier, more positive place to live in.

While the Asian woman did turn off her portable radio when we took off, I don’t know how I would’ve fared if she played it the entire flight (hopefully simply put my headphones on and listen to music).

Nevertheless, I will always remember my plane buddy – how calming and kind she was, so much so that she was able to instil the same in me at that moment – as a reminder to be more forbearing towards my fellow human beings. Because I know I would be grateful if they afforded me the same.

The importance of noting your little successes

Yesterday I was deep in conversation with a friend. Let’s call him Art.

For the past 10 years, Art had lived and worked overseas, where he had created a name for himself and his indie performances. But a few months ago, he moved back to Australia to help his ailing dad.

Art is in his 40s. He had used up all his savings to invest in his projects, and now this unforeseen return home put him financially in the red.

Because he couldn’t afford outings or accommodation, Art found himself housebound and living with his parents – people who weren’t supportive of his work, and made his life difficult in the past for not conforming to their ideals of success.

But one of the main blows for Art was his projects also suffered, since he didn’t have his creative networks within reach to collaborate with, or his trusty fans to perform to.

Art was teetering on a dangerous edge, mentally.

“If I didn’t do anything about it,” he pronounced, “I knew I’d find myself spiralling into a dark, deep depression.”

Looking at At’s smiling face, I asked, “So, how did you turn things around?”

“By focusing on making each day a success and writing down every little triumph I had,” he replied.

Art doesn’t recall how he got the idea, but he says it’s what  made him get out of his funk.

By focusing on and writing down his daily, run-of-the-mill achievements, he felt worthy. Worthy enough to create, live, be who he is.

What did Art’s successes look like? “Writing,” he had recounted. “Sometimes painting, cooking, and taking a walk. The key was jotting it down.”

Art went on to get a casual job in a café – so he can afford life’s little luxuries, like enjoying a cup of coffee and eating out with a friend occasionally. He also creates his art every single day.

Hearing my friend’s story, I realised that anyone – even if their circumstances aren’t that dire – could benefit from writing down their successes daily. They don’t have to be grandiose ones either. Think caring for someone, vacuuming, fitting in some exercise, calling a friend. Heck, some days it could just be getting out of bed and having a shower.

So yesterday, at the end of the day, I took a leaf out of Art’s book and wrote down my small wins of the day:

Doing 25 minutes of yoga at home, using my favourite app.

My three-hour deep-and-meaningful chat with Art, over coffee and a nutritious bowl of goodness, all of which fed my soul.

Taking my dogs to the park, even when I was tired and didn’t feel like it (looking at their happy faces as they ran around aimlessly made me feel glad that I did).

Changing the template of my blog for a fresh start, now that the plan was to write more in 2018.

Cooking the lamb skewers we had for dinner to perfection – not chewy at all!

Reading a few pages of The Happiness Project – I have read it a couple of times, and it makes for a motivating read at the beginning of a new year.

It  was gratifying experience. It’s the little stuff, daily, that matters, that makes a life, I realised. Thank you, Art, for this invaluable life lesson.


Life is full of little victories if you choose to see them. And by writing them down, you get a boost. A pat on the back. Something we all need from time to time to keep on keeping on.

I’ll be writing my daily successes in a journal for the next few weeks to see how it makes me feel. Want to try it, too?

Lesh x

2017: my year in review

What were my goals at the beginning of 2017? To be honest, I can’t recall, as I don’t believe I formally set any. I mostly went with the flow, and felt like I floated all year and didn’t really achieve much.

yearly reflections

Upon reflection, however, I found that this wasn’t true. I had subconsciously focused on movement and deeper connections – my two-word ‘goal’ of 2013. This made me realise that how long it can take – in my case years – to build habits, and that it’s always going to be work in progress.

Movement

In the case of movement, I still walk the dogs at least five days a week for 30-50 minutes, but the number of yoga classes I attended weekly declined from three or four, to one or two. This might seem like a step backwards, but it wasn’t.

After not enjoying the yoga retreat I went to in Greece this year, I lost my yoga mojo. Asking myself why, I put it down to two things – lack of variety and the need to feel feminine. The latter because my life felt ho-hum, flat, rigid. I wanted to feel sexy, fluid again. So, I shook things up, literally.

What replaced yoga was dance. My sister had opened a dance studio at the end of 2016. So, one term saw me do Bhangra Hip Hop, and another two terms saw me do Bolly Zumba. I even ‘starred’ in a promotional video clip for the studio (I’m the one in the white top – in my defence, the other three are professional dancers and I had only learned the routine in 10 minutes!)

I also took the Flow dance course with Dee Street Studios. The course was described as “Celebrating the sassy, the sensual and the cheeky from Afro, hip hop, r&b and dancehall, Flow gives you the space to release, love yourself and feel sexy and grounded.” Booyah!

And right now, my favourite way of moving is Zumba – mostly because I’ve discovered some fun instructors who run sassy classes close to home. Convenience matters for long-term commitment, I have found.

Also in the theme of movement, I bought myself a stand-up desk earlier in the year, since I have a desk-based profession. I usually have Latin dance music playing (influenced by Zumba) as I work, which sees me swaying my hips – thank goodness I mostly work from home!

Deeper connection

Moving on to deeper connection, this year I learned that by not regularly expressing myself in writing, I lost a part of me. I dabbled in a couple watercolour painting classes to reconnect to my core, and while it was fun (and daunting at times, for I was a true beginner), words, I realised, are my medium.

I also focused on making more time for people who make me feel positive and alive. To work out who they are, I observed my thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns while in the company of people.

To make more time, I took the initiative – rather than waiting for them to get in touch – by messaging, calling, catching up with them (if they are based in Melbourne, too), and consuming their material if they are artists.

Other realisations

As I reflected on 2017, I realised I also did a healthy amount of travel.

It was my husband’s dream to see the Northern Lights, and exactly this time last year, from the 1st to 5th of January 2017, we braced -40°C in Ivalo, Finland, and crossed our fingers in hope that we got to see one of nature’s greatest spectacles.

Luckily, the gods blessed us two nights in a row. The lights danced in the pitch-black sky, and we watched in awe, momentarily forgetting our frozen faces.

northern lights ivalo finland

The lure of the lights wasn’t enough, though. I had brokered a deal with hubby before we booked the trip: If I was going to freeze my butt for his bucket-list item, we had to tag a place on the way home that was considerably warmer – and I chose Morocco. I hadn’t realised that at this time of year north of West Africa is also chilly. But I suppose 9°C is considerably warmer than -40°C.

For me, Morocco didn’t hold a candle to the experience I had in Finland, but it did satisfy my curiosity about a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

In May, the Greek island of Hydra called me for a yoga retreat. As soon as the yoga studio I had been a member at advertised this retreat in 2016, I jumped onto it. The idea of yoga on a Greek island with cobblestone streets, traditional tavernas, brightly coloured doors, a crescent-shaped harbour, and no cars (just donkeys!) held me in such a strong magnetic pull, that I just had to book in.

What I had learned is that I let romanticising get the better of me. Yes, I did want to visit the island, but not while on a yoga retreat (too much yoga for me) with a group of people who weren’t really my people.

While the above trips were pre-planned at least a year in advance, my husband proposed a question to me, out of the blue, in July 2017 – would I like to accompany him to New York in November when he runs the world’s biggest marathon? “Yes”, I sad, without a moment’s hesitation. It has been one of my best holidays yet.

The last significant realisation I had in 2017 is related to work.

In my 20+ years of earning an income, I’ve career-hopped enough times to have learned a few secrets about work. One of the keys ones is that jobs are like relationships. For relationships to have a hope of working, both parties need to be a good fit for each other. And by a good fit, and I don’t mean a person’s experience to the job description, but a person’s nature and working style to that of their boss’s and of the organisation’s. And if the relationship doesn’t work, it’s time to move on. Nothing personal.

I came to this realisation because of two things: years of trying to be myself in cultures that weren’t a good fit (and experiencing anguish and heartache for too long as a result), and finally finding one that did.

In October 2016, I wrote in my journal what I wanted out of a workplace at this point in my life:

Kind, compassionate, encouraging boss who sees my potential. Equally, I’m kind, flexible, encouraging and can appreciate the developmental opportunities my work offers me. The work is in the field of lifestyle health and wellbeing, and preventive health. I am able to work from home and it is fun!

It astounds me that only two months later, in December 2016, I landed a job that, after being in it for all of 2017, I can say wholeheartedly satisfies all the above, and is a close match to my core values.


Putting 2017 into words gave me greater insight about myself, made me realise what a phenomenal year it was for me and gave me clarity for where I’d to go from here.

If you’re feeling that 2017 flew by without your accomplishing much, you may like to, like I have, jot down all the great things you remember about 2017, and what you learned about yourself from the positive and the not-so-great stuff.

~ Lesh x

A picture paints a thousand words…that you cannot see

This is a photo of me at Bisti beach, on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra.

What is it saying to you? That I’m happy? That I’m having the time of my life, frolicking in the turquoise-blue waters of the Aegean Sea? That I can afford an extravagant holiday on the other side of the world?

Maybe. Maybe not.

You don’t truly know.

But let me tell you. What it’s not saying is that I found the water utterly freezing. That I only dipped in for a few seconds because I thought it’d be a shame – and a waste of money – not to get salty seawater on my skin, having flown over multiple time zones.

It’s not saying that I wasn’t enjoying myself (the smile even fools me). That I felt lonely, even amongst people – people who were kind, but whom I couldn’t connect with. That I wished I were home with my loved ones.

Sure photos evoke feelings – but they’re your feelings of your perception of a micro moment in time.

That’s how we easily delude ourselves when we see others’ photos, as we scroll down our social media feeds. It’s how comparison sets in.

Even if we know that we can never see what’s actually going on.

It’s easy to look at people and make quick judgements about them, their present and their past, but you’d be amazed at the pain and tears a single smile hides. What a person shows to the world is only one tiny facet of the iceberg hidden from sight. And more often than not, it’s lined with cracks and scars that go all the way to the foundation of their soul.  ~ Unknown

Like the hairline cracks appearing in a relationship of a newly wed couple while honeymooning in Paris, who are slowly coming to realise the difference between romantic love and the love that’s required to sustain a marriage.

Like the anxiousness and sadness of a person out on the town, drinking cocktails with a group of friends she’s outgrown… because what she really wants is to be at home reading a book on the couch, but fears she’ll miss out or be lonely if she doesn’t play by social norms.

Like the gruelling days/months/years of hard work, failure and sacrifice behind a start-up that is now become a successful business, or of someone who’s lost 20 kilos and is now running marathons.

Like the self-doubt of a woman donning size 2 lululemon active wear, eating an acai bowl while in a pretzel-shaped yoga pose.

So, stop comparing yourself to someone else’s life – one that you’ve made up in your head.

Get offline to live your real life – every messy bit of it.

 

Eating out – the (lack of) joy

In Melbourne, eating out is a no-brainer.

Here, food is not just for sustaining your energy or feeding your hunger.

No.

It’s a place where food is Art. Fashion, even. (Just ask the hipsters – they wear the café scene.)

And when you can get delicious diversity at a reasonable price, with food better than in its home country – OK, may be not Mexican food; LA can have that one – then why eat at home?

Not even the ‘80s-style dinner parties have survived. The way to catch up, to see people nowadays (and be seen) is usually over a coffee or a meal – at an ‘in’ restaurant.

It’s just so easy, so trendy to eat out.

Even I’ve succumbed to the habit. Coffees (magics, if you please). Brunches. Friday night dinners. The midweek dinner to catch up with a girlfriend.

I absolutely love it.

Well, I did until recently.

I’ve become too greedy for fashionable food, eating out too often. And this has had its consequences.

And I don’t necessarily mean financially. Well, not in the ‘smashed avocado–can’t afford a home deposit’ kind of way.

For me, when I eat out too often, I notice I become a little numb to the experience. That it no longer holds wonder and joy as it once did. That it becomes blasé. Nonchalant.

I don’t wish to feel this way. I wish to light up when I see a beautifully plated dish. To have all of my five senses stimulated. To not take it for granted.

The only way to do this is to choose to decrease my supply.

I pondered the idea of giving up eating out for a month. That thought only lasted for a split second. For the fear of becoming a hermit and not having a break from cooking.

So, here I am, aiming to find balance between making my own fodder and eating out.

But, if you say the magic word, I’ll be there.