si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Category: life

Random Thursday Night Adventure

I was sitting at home the other night, minding my own business when a text message flashed in on my intra-planetary communicator:

“I’m coming to pick you up. I’ll be there at 9:50pm. Pack a toothbrush”

Well, okay then.

(Secretly? I adore these kind of spontaneous adventures.)

On the agenda? Sitting in an outdoor jacuzzi half the night; a glass or two of red wine; catching up on old times; watching the lights from the ships coasting in and out of the harbour:

This was the jacuzzi view.. except, you know, black. Night time, see.

We eventually crashed about 4ish. Then up at 8 for breakfast in bed (bacon & mushroom omelette, toast, camomile tea) and a quick drive into town.

I suspect the breakfast was to buy me off so I could drive my mate to an appointment. He went to that, and since it was a super gorgeous day I grabbed a coffee and walked along the beach.

Beach! (well, obviously) Also: City.

As isolated as New Zealand is from the rest of the world, it really is one incredibly picturesque place. As the song goes, you can’t beat Wellington on a good day.

the local marina (was looking for a friend's exquisitely restored 1800s boat, but couldn't find it)

As I was wandering around, i got to thinking about mistakes. Now, I have (historically) been something of a type-A personality. Hard charging, ambitious, etc. The upside is, you get a lot done. The downside is you tend to be a pain in the ass to be around, but that’s a whole other conversation. Oh, also, there’s the ever-so-slight issue of perfectionism and the attendant self-criticism.

Now, as an example: I know I look good when I have about two days of beard growth. Now, I don’t think of this as attractive. No, I think of it as “optimally hairy.”

In other words, except for about 6 hours two days in, my facial hair is permanently sub-optimal. Wow, self-criticism much? *laugh*

Walking in the sun, I suddenly realised that I haven’t been making mistakes my whole life (or having sub-optimal facial hair, now we’re on the subject). What I’m really doing is experiencing previous karma. In other words, there’s no way, at any given time and place with the knowledge and experience I had then, that I could have chosen otherwise. This is stuff I have had to get wrong, so I could learn from it.

Of course, we do dumb shit, suffer the consequences & thus (hopefully) grow, heal, unwind that karma. That is how we progress through life.

The key point is this: We may have to experience the same “mistakes” over and over and over. This isn’t because we keep making them. It’s because we have to keep growing, until such time as everything is in place, and we’re finally ready to learn the whole lesson, not just the obvious, surface stuff.

The mistake is in looking too closely at any given action. “Oh, I went out with the same kind of shitbag again.” What we’re missing is that we’re learning a ton of other things, and we’re just working our way down through the layers, little by little, at a pace which is right for us.

Things are always perfect, even when they suck. All we’ve gotta do is just keep paying attention. Keep learning when we can, and keep loving ourselves.

Why? Because giving ourselves a hard time just adds to our misery. It doesn’t help us learn, or grow, or heal. As much as our ego might like to convince us otherwise, it also doesn’t prevent us making the same mistake in the future. Healing, learning and growing does that, not self-flagellation.

When we’ve truly grown past it, the opportunities for that mistake generally won’t even appear. The shitbags disappear (of their own volition) out of our lives. And trust me, I’ve seen this, ohhh, many times.

So, you know, mini-satoris like this are always nice, but I still had more heavy duty walking around to get done!

Also, mental note: Buy a beard trimmer.

Because I’m such a raging narcissist, I simply had to take a self pic.

Self portrait, with boatsheds (note the Very Important Peace Sign)

I learned everything I need to know about posing for photographs from the Japanese tourists who used to endlessly harass us when I was training Aikido in Melbourne. (You have never seen such polite & deferential harassment in your life.)

For reference, these are the best swings (that I know of) in central Wellington. Look at the view from the top – wow!

I spent a LOT of time on these swings when I was last in town

I didn’t get a chance to have a play – but that’s ok, cute blondes take precedence, and anyway, I had to hurry along.

I also saw a perfect family outing:

Mum with the baby, daughter, dad

How cool is that? Dad’s on a long board (kinda like a skateboard, but super long and very flexible). Note also his beanie: Official Hat of Wellington.

Oh, and if you were curious just how far my home is from here? (ie, looking in the other direction for once):

land of the long white cloud...

See those clouds, right off in the distance there? I’m staying juuuuust to the right of centre, right back there. Wouldn’t want to swim there – for a start, the last 25kms is over solid ground. Luckily there’s a motorway.

After that, I picked my mate up, and we went for a picnic in the gardens of Isengard (you remember them, right?)

Picnic. Not shown: food.

Those are my boots. I’m being utterly shameless today, I know.

Oh, and how could I possibly go past this?

Flying fox! FLYING FOX!!!!

This scared the living crap out of me when I first went on it (age: maybe 8 or 9).

It’s quite vigorous when it hits the end.  Ok, ok, so these days I take a running jump off the platform to get maximum speed up, but still! It’s definitely an activity that stands the test of time. I.e., still awesome. I love it!

I also saw a bunch of fantails, skipping around and being all fantaily (as is their wont)

Three guesses why it has the name it does...

They’re an Australasian peculiarity, although this type is only found here in NZ. They’re super cute, very flighty, and about the size of a sparrow. One came up to within a foot of us eating. Pretty amazing.

Bet you never thought you’d learn about birds coming here, now did you? Do I make you ‘orni, baby?

And on that note, something utterly ridiculous. This is a local stationery company:

Seriously guys, buy a dictionary. Please.

It’s like the company was named by someone who’d never used a writing implement before (*cough*illiterate*cough*). The. Mind. Boggles.

All in all, quite a delightful Thursday night/Friday morning adventure. A+++ would run delightedly out of the house clutching my toothbrush again.


    Catching A Bus

    At the moment, I’m living in the gardens of Isengard.

    You what?

    The Gardens of Isengard (See? Hair! Staffs! All magic like!)

    Yes, these gardens.

    Well, ok ok, I actually live in a cottage. The gardens are (quite literally) across the road.

    This is where my parents live. Rivendell is just up the road, and yep, in general the area is every bit as picturesque as in the movies (Lord of the Rings, in case you’re not a complete nerd).

    It’s also kinda neat to be able to spend serious time with my family. This hasn’t happened since I left home, twenty something years ago. It’s super educational, and a great growth opportunity (which, of course, I simply love).

    It is, however, quite a way from the nearest decent sized town (they call it a city, but I’m not 100% sold. Maybe city-lite?)

    So how far away is it?

    Well, the other day, I went to catch a bus.

    Catching a bus is something I haven’t done in… Well, I think the last time I caught a bus was in Seattle, in 2006.

    That was the time some crack head woman started screaming at the top of her lungs then climbed out the window into traffic… and people wonder why public transport is so unpopular?

    Anyway. I’m sitting on this bus. It’s not particularly exciting as buses go. It looked like this:

    This is a bus (note: no crack heads)

    Right, now stare at that for (spoiler!) an hour.

    The bus is ricketing around so much I can barely send a text message. I definitely can’t read. Well, I could if I didn’t mind losing my eyeballs, but I prefer them inside my head. I’m a bit of a fusspot like that.

    Why was I even on the bus in the first place? The short version: my local drivers license got eaten by the gaping maw of Australian bureaucracy. I just need to order a new one; I simply haven’t got around to it yet.

    So, no driving = public transport time for moi. Thus, the bus.

    If I was driving, it would take about 20 minutes to get into town. By bus? An hour.

    The bus does not take the direct route. Colloquially this is known as “a tiki tour” – ie, a trip that appears to go everywhere & nowhere (much like life, I suppose).

    Town's to the right, behind the tree..further..a little further..40km further..

    After about twenty minutes, we were driving past horses. Seriously, horses live closer to the city than I do. Horses!!

    So there I am, being jiggled around like popcorn in a pan, getting increasingly frustrated as the driver leads us deeper and deeper into suburbs unknown.

    Then I suddenly had what my Sensei likes to call a mini-satori.

    Why was I so annoyed by all this?

    It was the thought of having to catch this bus on a regular basis. Wasting all that time, being unable to do anything about it. The thought of all the choices I’ve made that lead me to this situation.

    But wait, this was the first time in my life I’d ever caught this bus. For all I know (who can predict the future?) it might well be the last time too.

    I was getting all wound up about something that may or may not even happen, in the future.

    I was being upset by stuff I couldn’t change anyway, in the past.

    The actual situation itself was, well, fine.

    How often do we get our knickers all twisted over something that isn’t even happening?

    Often. VERY often.

    As soon as I realised that, I was back in control.

    I’m the boss of my brain.

    I let go of my past decisions. For better or worse they’ve been made. For all my self-analysis, I know I made the best decisions I could with the information I had at that time.

    It’s always easy to look backwards (or stand outside) & judge. Any fool with a newspaper can do that. So, there’s no value in criticising ourselves for the past (Learn from? Sure. Criticise? No)

    And the future hasn’t even happened yet.

    I was feeling crappy for something that might never even occur.

    Wow. We sure give ourselves a hard time. Well, I do, you’re welcome to speak for yourself, of course.

    The great news is – just realising it set it all free. I immediately relaxed. Prepped some peppy music. Laughed as the bus driver waved hello to all the families in their driveways (I swear, he knew the entire suburb). Sat back and enjoyed the gorgeous views rolling past.

    Simple as that I was filled with an overwhelming love for the entire situation.

    Maybe there really is something to this whole “present moment” mumbo jumbo. All those hairy old dudes, they can’t have been right all this time, surely?

    Nah… That’d be too easy.


      Bad Morning

      This morning I woke up feeling bad.

      How bad? Really bad. The worst I’ve felt in… months?

      Kinda like this:

      (Years back I used to sing this to myself every day at work… but that’s a whole other story)

      In fact, I distinctly remember thinking “God, I feel so crap even a blowjob wouldn’t cheer me up today.”

      Which is pretty damn bad.

      I have no idea why I felt so bad. I hadn’t had a bad dream. Best guess was that I’d eaten too much licorice the night before and was suffering an extreme sugar crash. But, you know, if you don’t know immediately, trying to figure out never helps (your brain just gets all tied up in knots).

      I noticed my brain was just circling. Thoughts like “Holy fuckballs I’m in a shitastic mood” kept echoing in my head.

      So, what to do?

      1. First, I made a choice to think about something else, other than how bad I was feeling (repeating the same negative thought only makes you feel shitty. Changing that thought also reiterated that I’m the boss of my thoughts, not the other way around)
      2. I consciously decided to be ok with the crappy mood (not beat myself up about it).
      3. I asked myself “Could I choose to be 100% happy, even if was feeling crappy?” (pro tip, the answer is always “Yes”. This didn’t shift things completely, but it sure as hell helped. More on this later)
      4. I ate, took multivitams and omega 3’s (to stabilise my blood sugar)
      5. I hid the licorice in the cupboard (take immediate, concrete action to remove negative influences from your environment)
      6. I noticed & relaxed tension in my face (simple, but definitely helped me relax)
      7. I emailed a friend for encouragement (Create an emotional support network. Help them. Let them help you)
      8. I did a mindmap on whatever came to mind (nothing like a sugar crash to get you questioning the core of your existence). A little tapping, a little releasing.
      9. I did some tapping on one of my CAP lists (always ensures I have a better day. More on those here)
      10. I went to aikido (exercise, socialising with people I love, doing something I enjoy)
      11. I rolled around on the grass with those beautiful trees (connection to nature)
      12. I listened to loud, upbeat music (music has a strong effect on mood)
      13. I basked in the sunshine, feeling warm concrete through my socks & the sun on my face (vitamin d elevates mood)

      What helped? Maybe all of it. Maybe none of it. Maybe it’s all bullshit. It doesn’t really matter. I’m a huge fan of – if you have a problem, throw every possible solution at it. There’s a million things you can try. Just do what feels right at the time. Trust your intuition.

      After that, I listened to this:

      And you know what? It felt pretty true.

      I’m slowly learning, this journey isn’t about being perfect. It’s just about the highs slowly getting higher and more common. It’s about when the lows do hit, how quickly you pull out of them. Over time, it gets faster & faster.

      Not perfect; just more perfect, more often.


        This Is The Fun Bit!

        Positive reframing is an interesting thing.

        In case you haven’t heard of reframing (or can’t be bothered reading the wiki page), I’ll quickly explain it.

        Reframing is the act of taking something shitty, and spinning it to emphasise the (to you) positive aspects.

        Here’s a classic example:

        Why yes, I have seen someone wearing this. Oh boy.

        So really, it’s just choosing to look at things from a better angle.

        Here’s another great example:

        saying "Oh captain my captain" is optional

        Often something as simple as standing on your desks can be enough to shift your entire viewpoint.

        So, other than the myriad of cheap laughs, why bother reframing?

        Because oftentimes dissolving a problem, or seeing your way past a situation can be as simple as changing how you look at it.

        Audiences know what they expect and that is all they are prepared to believe in.

        Unsurprisingly, it’s like Shakespeare said “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so (Hamlet to Rosencrantz, how awesome is that?).

        In other words, no situation makes things as difficult for us as how we think about that situation.

        So, to reframing.

        Until now, I’ve never really been convinced about reframing. What am I going to do? Just say something differently (lie to myself?) & hope it sticks?

        Yeah, that never gelled.

        Until I stumbled across this particular phrase:

        “This is the fun bit”

        I’ve got some pretty hairy stuff going down in my life right now (long, boring story – but also why I haven’t posted much). And yep, it’s been crazy stressful at times. A lot of uncertainty, a lot of confusion, a lot of what-the-eff?!?!

        And yet every time I say that phrase to myself, everything instantly shifts.

        “This is the fun bit”

        • Things stop being crazy and out of control; they start being crazy and fun (like being attacked by 4 ukes at once in Aikido).

        “This is the fun bit”

        • Things stop being scary; they start being exhilarating (like a rollercoaster).

        “This is the fun bit”

        • Things stop being unpredictable; they start being thrilling (like an exciting movie).

        “This is the fun bit”

        • I stop freezing up because things are overwhelming; I start rolling with it all instead (like flowing effortlessly through a bustling crowd)

        .. and as an added bonus, I’ve found that quite as a side effect, I instinctively & effortlessly dump a huge amount of negative energy around whatever-it-was that was bothering me in the first place.

        It’s the single most powerful thing I’ve found to say to myself in times of strife & difficulty.. and so, I pass it to you.


          Dealing With Overwhelm

          Overwhelm is a huge part of life. It happens to the best of us. Eventually there’s a point where we just can’t keep up. As life gets ever busier & more distracting, the likelihood of it happening continues to climb. Obviously it’s also a huge contributor to stress (and all the nastiness that entails).

          So, what to do about it?

          Remember that saying “Trust in God, but paddle your own canoe” or my personal favourite “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camels”?


          I noticed when I was much younger I would get stressed (feel overwhelmed) any time I had too much in my head.

          Sitting down & writing out every thought that was buzzing around would help enormously. It would also show me that 90% of them were variants on the same issue (eg “Where am I going to find money to eat?”)

          Getting things out of your head & into some kind of system – whether that’s an app, a piece of paper or a personal assistant – is the core of the Getting Things Done approach. There’s a reason GTD is so popular. It works.

          There’s been a million books & blogs written about it, so I don’t need to go into more detail here. The key aspect is this: Get every thought that’s burbling inside OUT of you.

          Us humans really aren’t very good at holding too many thoughts in our heads at one time (the apocryphal number is 7 +/- 2). Thus, getting them out helps enormously. Then, any time a thought recurs, you can immediately dismiss it with “Yep, it’s on the list.”

          Clear head = no overwhelm = no stress.

          Once you have your list(s), group, sort & order them in whatever ways feels best for you, then take action. For me, “things to do today” and “some time”, then ordering by “most important” with a smattering of “quick, easy” in there so I can get my coding momentum up seems to work best.

          The TRUSTING ALLAH part

          Ok, it’s not a perfect analogy, but hey, roll with me here. Also, if you do have a camel, please let me know, I’d love a ride – crazy awesome!

          Aside from getting everything out of my head, hands down the single best thing I’ve found is to use EFT (& ooh, I refound the video I had up there. You should check it out, it’s really quite snazzy).

          You don’t even have to say anything while you tap. Usually, after I’ve done a single round (tapped from my head down to under my arms) I’ve already calmed down enormously. Two or three rounds – just while my thoughts are burbling around will clear a ton of energy off, and get me back into a super calm space.

          Once you’ve calmed down a bit, feel free to rant (out loud is best, but not critical) to your heart’s content. It really doesn’t matter what you say. Just yabber about all the junk that’s been flying around in your head. Tapping your meridian points will help take the energetic sting out of it super quickly.

          In fact, I’m just amazed I haven’t mentioned this earlier. I’ve used this on myself, and watched friends use it, literally hundreds of times over the last few years – always to great success.

          There’s no need for overwhelm to take over your life, your day, or even more than 5 or 10 minutes. Dump it and get the hell back into awesome-space.