Straight up; this isn't like my usual posts. Although, this is something I feel particularly passionate about. All I ask is that you, please, take the time to read these words with an open mind and an open heart.
So here it goes...
Big words, I know. And I completely appreciate their weight. However, I am not about to discuss the gravity of everything that these two words mean to me. I won't talk about my dreams of seeing the battle of the sexes abolished, in favour for a balance of the sexes on a global scale. I would simply like to tell you of a local barber shop, just trying to do their bit for the lads of Adelaide.
Robbie's Chop Shop, quoted to be "The Last Male Sanctuary," resides on King William Road in Hyde Park. On the surface, it is a place where guys can go to get there hair cut and their face shaved. Easy, yeah? No. This establishment is limited to the more masculine sex. No women allowed.
I know, right? Dun-dun-duuuuuuun!! How can I possibly sleep at night knowing that there is a place where I am not welcome? That I cannot freely walk in, with my hard earned money, and pay for a service. All because I have a vagina?! What is this world coming to?
If you just had a "you tell 'em, girl!" moment, I will ask you to refrain. Robbie, and his faithful crew of amazing young men, have worked hard to provide a space that is purely for the boys. It is a place where men can go, hang out and take some time for themselves. Where they can feel safe to be who they are, free from judgement.
Look, let's face it (and I may just be speaking from my heterosexual view point, here) the dynamic between men changes when in the presence of women. Their behaviour becomes more subdued. Stifled, if I may say. I see a change in the behaviour of women when the situation is reversed. Whether it is girls trying to get noticed by some dude, or on the flip-side, feeling the need to completely emasculate their partners in front of their friends.
Think on this: Girls love to have their Girls Nights! Taking time to laugh, eat naughty food, share thoughts and, generally, just feel like they don't need to work as hard to be seen. Please note that this is a very generalised statement. I am not saying that all women are like this. But do we not enjoy being just with the girls on occasion? Do we not have all-women gyms? Places we can go to sweat, work hard and leave looking absolutely mangled without the fear of being seen by, dare I say it, a man?! Why even have these establishments if this is not the case?
You may not like to admit it, but the fact of the matter is that something in the air changes when men and women are in close proximity. Perhaps we feel we are to behave in a certain manner. Girls are (well, they were in my time) taught to be courteous, lady-like and assertive. Boys are told to behave, don't cry and "be a man." When we are around our own genders, these rules no longer apply. We are completely free to say, do and be what we feel is natural to us.
Now, this idea may not resonate with you. But think more broadly. For example: I am a woman, and I know how society, my upbringing and those around me make me feel. Therefore, I am not alone. Men and women, alike, are being controlled by the idea of what it is to be in their own body. Their gender becomes part of their identity.
I know it seems like I have strayed off the path and into the valley of where-the-hell-is-she-going-with-this? Please allow me to bring it on back for you. Robbie's Chop Shop is one little place where boys, potentially your boys, can go and feel comfortable being themselves. There is no premise of being anything more than one of the guys. Having a laugh, and leaving relaxed and looking dead-freaking-sexy.
I understand that there are women out there who would like to take their son's to Robbie's and get them all schmickafied. But I ask you this: Do you really need to be there, holding your son's hand while he gets his hair cut? What is it about this situation that frightens you? They are completely safe and will be taken care of. Chances are, they are going to have the best time ever! It also affords your little boy an opportunity to become the independent man you want him to be. It seems simple, but by allowing him to take responsibility for this tiny portion of his own life, you could be granting him the freedom to explore the person he was born to become. What a gift! Imagine that this small act of selflessness, on your behalf, is actually setting your child up for greatness!
Look, Ladies... We want equality. True equality. This doesn't need to continue as demands of what we want to take. I would love for us to start thinking about what we can offer. We don't need to be there. We don't need to invade every single space that men have previously sanctioned for themselves. Let our sons, boyfriends, husbands, brothers, cousins, fathers and grandfathers have one fucking space to call their own.
Ultimately... Haters gonna hate. If you feel any resistance to my words, I welcome free discussion. However, I implore you to take a few minutes to check in with that negativity you may be experiencing before making contact. Where does this fear come from?
Allow me to leave you with these final tasty nuggets of truth. I have a nephew, he has just celebrated his ninth birthday. It brings such unfettered joy to my heart that there is somewhere he can go to be supported by other men. Smart, funny, courageous and loving men, who can show him what it is to be a man today; creative, strong, masculine, beautiful, giving, kind, generous, loyal.
I, for one, want more men like this in the world.
Just a heads up: I've realised I use the word "shit" a fair amount in this post. You've been warned.
The idea of "you are what you eat" popped into my head this week. I sat with that thought for a little while and digested all that it meant to me. I realised that it goes so much further than just eating and drinking.
Digestion starts in the mouth. We place food in, chew (this is a good idea for those who don't do it, by the way), then swallow. The enzymes in the mouth start to break down the food being eaten, so the stomach doesn't have to work as hard (hence why chewing is so important). As this liquidy feast sloshes its way through the digestive tract, our cells and microflora absorb all the goodies (and the notso-goodies) that pass. I won't go through the entire digestive process for you here, but I'm sure you get the idea. At the end of the day, or the beginning for a lot of us, we excrete a product of our own making.
Such is the same with everything else we consume.
Our eyes take in the scene around us, the TV shows or movies we watch, and the actions of others. Our ears take in the music we listen to, the people who talk to us, and all audible signals around. We are consuming so much more than just what we put into our bodies physically.
If I surround myself with, let's say this outright, bitches, spinning their Bitchy McNegative-Bitchness, then this is exactly the thing I will become. I am absorbing all the hate that these people are producing. If I eat that shit up, my breath is going to stink. What else can I expect?
This doesn't necessarily have to be a meal I am willing to sit down to, napkin tucked into the front of my shirt and cutlery poised and ready in each clutching fist, there is such a thing as passive consumption. Negativity can latch on and seep its way into the bloodstream just by being surround by it. If one is immersed in shit... Well... If it looks like a duck and smells like a duck... Quack.
Everything we take into our bodies, in any shape or form, becomes part of us. One with us. And, if we are one, then we are it.
By purifying our thoughts and intentions, we are altering our internal environment. But this can only go so far. A person needs to cleanse their external environment as well. Otherwise, what is the point of trying to think cleanly, when everything that filters in is tainted with scum.
If there are people who make you unhappy, remove them from your life. (DISCLAIMER: I do NOT mean "from the face of the Earth. I mean, just stop allowing them to have a presence in your existence. I don't recommend nor condone murder.) If you live for the weekend because you hate your job, look for something else. And, yes, it is that easy. It just takes courage.
Find all the things that bring you joy and delight. Welcome them into your home, body, mind and soul, and become them. Become all that you love in this world. You, and all those around you, will thank you for it.
I'm here! Back and ready for procrastinating action!
Actually, this post is a vehicle to get me through, what seems to be, an endless voyage of self-doubt, -hate and stagnation. So, strap yourself in and feel the G's!!
(Somehow, I think it is going to be more of a playful "chitty-chitty" sound like Professor Potts' car. But hey, seat belts are always advised for safety.)
I haven't been so active on the Blog Scene (have you noticed?) and this is basically because life happens. So much life! And brain clutter! All these things that have to be done, and to be true, some of them do. I have noticed that, with all this life happening, my mental space has been filled with creative-fatigue.
Hearing the call to arms recently, with a commissioned chibi portrait of a sweet couple in the U.S. of A, forcibly broke that drought. But the artistic juices were quickly cut off at the source once complete. Here's a picture of that one, in case you didn't see it on Instagram:
Well, I'm getting that call yet again. But this for something I have never encountered, or even fathomed, before. I have been asked to make another portrait of not just one or two people, which is the most I've ever drawn, but twelve people. Yep. Epic. Not only this, but it has been discussed and requested that I make it in a style that is completely foreign to me.
Rather than my faithful, and very comfortable, chibi-style artwork, this client has asked if I could learn to draw more of a manga-style. I immediately felt resistance because it is so unfamiliar to me and, I believe, a more precise art form. Chibi is cute, it's fun and playful. There is something very serious about manga. However, after much back and forth discussion, I have taken this client's request on board.
I would like to add that the client isn't in the wrong for asking something of me that I don't typically do. He enjoys my work and wants to make a gift for his friends. He has merely put the question out there, it was completely within my power to answer "yes" or "no." And, as nervous as I am (that's an understatement, by the way. It is causing me to literally (and I mean that in the true sense of the word, not in the way the kids are using it nowadays) question my own existence) I know I can do this. It is going to take time and patience, but it will come to pass.
My struggle with this single, yet major, piece is sending a cascade of self-destructive thoughts through my entire being. Ridiculous, no? Just draw the bloody picture, Art Monkey, and be done with it! Oh! How I wish it was as easy as that for me. Alas, this is my process. So, how do I overcome these feelings of inadequacy and doubt? I'll tell ya! I've broken my week up and designated time to all the things I (think I) need to get done. I currently have a few things on my plate, so I have set aside a minimum of two hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to get this portrait moving. I will allow for more time, of course. The two hours is just to make sure I sit there for long enough to get something on paper. Once I get my groove on, it will snowball and the wondiferous magic that is Creativity will naturally occur.
Now, even I am thinking that six hours a week isn't much. But I need to remember that this isn't the only demand I have on my time AND it is only a starting point. So, by prioritising it on these three days, I know that there will definitely be times when I will sit at my desk with this task at hand. I will no longer be all over the place like a mad woman's hair. I have structure. And heaven knows I love structure. Truly. I'm not being sarcastic about that. Structure is da bomb!
Anyway, back on track. Now that I feel I have lots of little milestones to achieve, and not just one massive MUST FINISH ALL THE THINGS!, I know I have this in the bag. I figure, with the time I have set aside this week, I can get a rough outline of the piece... hopefully. The positioning of the people, at least. This gives me such relief. You know, like when you're busting for the loo so bad that you start doing the Anxious Dance, only to sit down and finally let go of everything you've been holding on to? Yeah. Good times.
So, yeah! I'll check in with y'all in the near future with some good news!
May the force be with you.
I've come to realise something; I can only be killed by the mundane.
I say "only." Clearly, I can die by the hand of many a mortal affliction. I'm merely making a point.
To give you a better picture, allow me to describe myself to you (or at least the version of me I see myself to be at present - but let's not open that can of esoteric worms): I am incredibly driven. When I have a set goal in mind, nothing will stand in my way of achieving it. During this time of clarity and focus, I feel strong, healthy, confident and I am all but bursting with fruit flavour. My positivity and unwillingness to give up or give in urges me to continue. It's my upward spiral of success. Feel good. Do good. Inspire greatness.
However, I've currently been lolling about on the the flip-side, and I don't mean that in the outward expression of happiness kind of way. I've been lazy. I found my nice, warm corner of comfort and became distracted by it. Hiding under the covers, safe and sound, I had plenty of time to get lost inside my head. Thinking of all that could be, if only The Universe provided me with the opportunity to do so, I started to fester in negativity. I became stagnant. Every thought was in a state of hesitation, static and stunted growth. I felt the friction of anxiety wearing a hole within me, but I still did nothing about it.
I lost touch with the woman I have been growing into over the last twelve months. I started to see that I was gaining weight, felt sluggish, willing to eat food I would never usually eat, slacked off on the exercise, and I was no longer able to tap into my creativity as readily as I once could. I had lost my motivation for life. This had to change... fast.
This comfort zone needs to be destroyed. I accomplish nothing while I am here, and how am I meant to fulfil my life's purpose if I can't even get off the couch? I decided to take this year off from my studies, so I could heal, grow and take stock of what I have done and how far I have come. Well, after six months, I am finally doing that. I have spent the first half of the year doing all the things I felt I needed to do in order to become the person I am meant to be emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually, not realising how far from Earth I have travelled. Although I don't believe this time to be wasted, on the contrary, but I now know I have been delaying the inevitable.
I am, once again, putting myself in situations that will promote growth and activity. Forcing myself out of this place of softness, beige and boring. Bring on the hard lines, clear shapes and vivid colour! Let's invigorate this life with a bit of excitement! Give me a pair of scissors to run with! (Please don't. Safety first and all.) Grounding myself in the present is vital for my future. What do I want? What can I give? What do I have? I have accumulated so many skills that can be utilised right now. So, I'm going to get off my arse and start being the person I want to be. By putting these cogs in motion now, I am giving my future-self an opportunity to look back on this moment and be proud of me. What a notion! To look back on one's past and be proud of the person who created your current state of living.
I like that.
It has been a small while since I last checked in with you all. Let's just say that I have been going through a bit of a mental/emotional/spiritual growth spurt. I figured I'd share it with y'all. Why not? Sharing is caring. So, please prepare yourself for some over-caring.
For those of you who suffer from anxiety, you may be able to relate to the title I have given this blog post. But considering these situations can vary from person to person, maybe you won't. For those of you who have never been gripped by the sudden and cataclysmic sensation of your entire world being utterly focaccia'd in the dot and it is all your fault... well, then. This may just be an interesting read for you.
DISCLAIMER: Let's make one thing plain, here. I am NOT a doctor. I do not claim to have any expert knowledge on this subject, accept the fact that I am well-versed in panic-attacks, hyperventilation, extreme negative thoughts, and many other symptoms that go along with anxiety. I am not offering a cure-all, merely insight to a recent experience of mine and how I overcame it.
Right. Now we have that out the way.
I feel varying levels of anxiety. There's the worry stage, which can often be satiated by getting off my arse and making life happen for me. (What a go-getter, huh?) If this doesn't happen, it is escalated to over-thinking. This is a dangerous stage. This one can very quickly amp up to the crippling my life is never going to change and it's all my fault stage. For me, this is when the magic happens. Looking back on that moment, when I am calm, cool and super-amazing-awesome Nicky, is easy. But living in that moment is a whole different kettle of ball games. When that feeling of being punched in the guts hits, and I lose the ability to breathe, that little slice of life is the hardest morsel to digest. But rather than letting it completely devour me, I have found a way to kick-start the regulator and begin consuming oxygen again like a boss!
The latest moments of pure pleasure I encountered (for those a little slow on the uptake, I am being sarcastic) happened while I was at work. Now, when one works in a busy café, this isn't the best place to lose one's shit. I got myself caught in the over-thinking stage, when I was struck with a stupid thought. You know the ones. They are small and spiteful, but they are ultimately not worth your time.
Step 1: When faced with a stupid thought, simply ask, "Is that true?"
More often than not, it isn't true. If your first response happens to be "yes," however, ask the question again and be truly honest. It isn't true. Those thoughts never are. That's why they are stupid.
Dismissing that first stupid thought rapidly gave rise the to face-slap thought. These are interesting little guys. They are sudden and shocking. But these are the ones that do the most damage because they hit home so hard, they tear the stadium apart. Even through my restricted breathing and verging on tears, I referred to Step 1. Although, I felt like I was in denial and this situation truly was all my fault, I put it aside and got on with my job. This is Step 1.2, I guess. Do what you have to in order to get through the day (or the next hour, or half an hour or thirty seconds). It's a band-aid. It isn't going to help long-term, but it will get me through the next couple of hours until I can be alone to deal with that land mine I just uncovered. Sheesh!
Once getting home, and giving myself space to breathe and think, I proceeded onwards.
Step 2: Check-in with the face-slap
The thought I had was blaming myself for the kind of people I attract. This, too, seems stupid. But, as I considered my own history, it resonated pretty hard at the time. So, addressing Step 2 meant that I gave myself time to see if I truly, madly deeply believed this. Yeah. I really did.
Queue Step 3!
Step 3: Dismantle the dark (Twelve Foot Ninja, 2012) (how's that for in-text referencing? BOOM, baby!)
This part was really tricky and, although I will be making it sound easy-peasy-testie-squeezy, I assure you... It was that painful... I assume... Okay. I began by thinking of the hateful statement I made to myself and, very quickly, found evidence to support it. Then I started checking in with the emotion that this conjured and began to articulate it. I felt like I had failed myself. That I couldn't be trusted to make decisions for myself. And that, because I believe the Universe responds to our intentions, it was my fault that this keeps happening. Queue the shattering of my own heart.
After wallowing in my own self-pity for a while, I continued to deconstruct this horrific idea I created. I wrote a list of things I wanted for myself. Things I would like in order to make myself a stronger, healthier and more vibrant spark of life. This is a piece of my list:
See what a difference it can make? I committed this mantra to memory the night I wrote it. I woke up in the morning reciting it. I even said it aloud to myself all the way to work that day. These words remind me that I am strong, I can be trusted and I am truly giving. Which actually means I don't need to lose myself in any of it. My purpose is to bring light to those who need it, I know this. And in order to do that, I need to ignite it within myself. So, whenever I have moments of doubt, I check in with my list to see which line it relates to and I immediately find solace in the words. You will be astonished at how much this covers! It hasn't let me down. I haven't let me down. And I will never again.
Like I said, I make this seem super-fantastic-easy-fun-time. But I know what it's like to feel hopeless, helpless and completely alone. I know the comfort in that, too. It is so unbelievably hard to think of positive things at that time. But if you can ask yourself, "Do I want to feel like this forever?" and you find the answer is "no," well, then! Please find a small space in your heart for yourself. What kind of person do you want to be? What qualities do you want to reflect?
Even if you don't suffer from any mental/emotional hic-ups, this exercise might be a bit of fun for you! We can all benefit from checking-in with ourselves to see if we are functioning at our optimum capacity.
Be the reason to make someone smile. Especially if that someone is you.
Twelve Foot Ninja 2012, 'Myth of Progress,' Silent Machine, Volkanik Music, Sydney.