Bike tyre motivation

Prior to the break over Christmas and New Year, I felt like a deflated bike tyre. Not particularly functional, no buoyancy. Objectively present and from the outside you could probably guess what role I played in the moving parts of my community. A lot more noisy than usual; I could feel my body, mind and emotional selves calling out for attention, demanding to be shelved for repair. 

Rolling over the state boarder between New South Wales and Queensland late on the Friday before Christmas felt like a momentous accomplishment. I’d made it. I was done. I could stop. 

Promptly collapsing on my friend’s TV room floor and didn’t resurface until 2 seasons of the Office were done. Rest, cotton candy for the mind, food delivered to the door. Sporadic crying to release pent up emotions. It was a time out, some moments of grace that presented quite ungracefully. 

This pretty much continued into the Christmas festivities with less sporadic crying. 

Set in rural Queensland

My family’s home is one of removed peace, birdlife, and happy animals. Those happy animals include the humans located there also. I am a very fortunate person to have a family unit that deeply cares about one another. We have spent the better part of 20 years trying to figure out good communication across generations and continents. Surrounded by Mum’s good cooking, Dad’s endless stream of newly lathed wood products and country air, I could feel myself inflating back into my usual functional form. Better than that, I felt the capacity for new things. New ideas to read about, adventures to research, and friends to reconnect with.  It felt like the sharp stones of the pathway were no longer at risk of piercing through the rubber. I could deflect them. I had space again. 

The end of 2020 was a visceral and timely learning experience for me. I am usually one who feels capable of shouldering responsibility, putting myself out of my comfort zone, holding space for others. As the year wore on and my tenacity became less fierce, I had to really pay attention to my energy levels, say no to things I would previously have enjoyed, really nurture my introverted self so the extrovert facing the world could make it through as best as possible. 

I know I’m not alone in this learning

2020 was a large slap in the face for many. My sense of reflecting and paying attention to lessons learnt has brought me to understand the following:

  • It’s okay to say no to things you’re used to saying yes to;
  • Creating stillness (meditation, mindfulness, etc) is a key component in identifying how ‘noisy’ the mind is and how close to unravelling it might be;
  • Joy is a beautiful component of building ongoing resilience;
  • MOVEMENT is imperative. The moment I dropped my deadlift PB weight back to the floor my mind soared with endorphins and adrenaline.
    “I can do this, I am strong, I am powerful”;
  • FEELING all the things – terrifying and empowering. Linked closely to ‘purge crying’ (formerly ‘ugly crying’ but who needs that label in their day?) where all the thoughts and feelings brought up through the day/week/in meditation make their way to the surface and result in deep and heavy sobs, fat tears and some chin creases from where the lower lip has been folded over. A process of catharsis;
  • Someone to reflect and be curious about things with. Being vulnerable and sharing the noise in your head, being open to learning something about yourself that can only happen in conversation. 

Even taking one or two of these points can be a game changer, or simply refining the tools you already have. Giving them a once over to see if they still fit the bill – is the tyre pump still in good working order?

Listening is one of my super powers.

Swing me a message and let us make a time to ensure the lessons of 2020 have the opportunity to integrate into the ride of 2021.

Being brave is an interesting thing…

Last night l walked out. I walked out of class and into the changerooms and sat right on the big masking tape X denoting its non-use and cried.  I’m not usually one to leave, I’m usually a peppy “you can do anything” type. This was not so last night.

Red eyes brimming and threatening to overflow, I quickly strode to my car and called my Mum (coz I’m a grown up).

“I can’t be brave today” I sobbed into the phone.

 I explained that the Jujitsu studio I go to has a ‘beginners and novice’ class that usually had a mix of people and a mix of belt colours (mostly blue, purple and black). It was all dudes (which was odd), there was one other white belt.  We learn new concepts, Professor moving so lithely and quickly that it’s hard to mentally track what his body is doing. I typically remember one of the three he demonstrates, then forget everything when it comes time to roll with another person.

Rolling

The ‘rolling’ part of training is pretty straight forward. Make eye contact, agree to roll, do the hand slap/fist bump combo and then get at it.  This is where being brave comes in. Eye contact, lots of strangers, feeling super insecure because I keep showing up and I still feel like I have no actual skills available in the moment.

Picture this: sitting on the edge of the mat, all donned up in a gi (murder pyjamas), having just learnt how to thrust your shoulder under someone’s jaw and lean into a submission position. Room is full of dudes. Only one or two you’ve rolled with before, who are both purple belts (read: good).  The thoughts enter your mind “don’t bother asking”, “you don’t know what you’re doing”, “everyone is avoiding your eye contact”, “no-one wants to roll with you.” You sit on the mat for the first round of 5 minutes, mentally rallying. “Just sit here and watch other people, you can learn that way”. The round ends. The break between for water and switching partners. Eye contact is avoided again. The dudes all pair up. The white belts looking apprehensive but rolling none the less. Sitting through the rest of this round feels impossible. The emotion wells up and up and up. Exiting is the only option.

It’s been a month of showing up

Making eye contact and asking people to roll. Bouncy and new. Eager. Enthusiastic. Brave. Last night, I had nothing. I had no shred of being brave, to step across the chasm between people who don’t know each other and be the one to builds the bridge. It takes something each time, to step up, ask, to expose yourself and be open to learning whatever the other person decides to teach you.  I had nothing in the tank. All I wanted was to be recognised as someone who was there, who wanted to participate, to have someone build the beginning of the bridge.

Instead, I left, went and sobbed on the phone to my Mum. It’s not simply being brave on the mat, it’s being brave everyday in life. Continuing to get out of bed when it feels too heavy, to listen to people, be present and hold space when they need soothing, to balance the output of support with the input of self-care and personal resilience. Being uncomfortable is where I like to live, how I like to extend myself. Turns out, even my steady state optimism can take a hit in the middle of a global pandemic. A reminder that we need to continue to look after ourselves, everyday. With grace.

Mum bought me a massage (coz she’s the best)

I’ll return to being brave tomorrow.

Expectations are an interesting thing…

Did I ever tell you the story about Machu Picchu? 

In my early 20’s I knew I wanted to travel. I always had friends from other places at uni, I was angry at my Mum for not letting me fly to NYC 3 months after 9/11 as a wide eyed (and highly naive) 18 year old, I dove head first into Summer Camps in the USA as soon as the ink dried on my undergrad degree. 

At some point, probably whilst watching the never ending stream of rom-coms that I’ve exposed my brain to, I made the executive decision that Machu Picchu would be conquered with my significant other in tow. In the layout of my life, we would meet, travel, adventure to places like South America and continue to fall deeper in love. Eventually getting married and continuing to explore with the aid of a day pack to piggyback small babies &/ toddlers around.

Unbeknownst to me, in that moment I put a series of conditions around my goal of experiencing Machu Picchu. 

In 2014 I found myself burnt out from work and my soul stuck between continents. I had turned to yoga to get a better grip on myself and my self management. This resulted in me googling “yoga teacher training in mountains”.  This is eerily similar to how I ended up at Blue Star summer camps in 2005. Mountains – they call me. 

Want mountains? Enter the Andes.

Peru came shining through in my googling research. There also happened to be an American based Yoga Teacher Training course run out of the Sacred Valley. Mountains cradling a sacred valley? Where better to learn about the intrinsics of yoga teaching? Plus, the fact I knew no Spanish would only be a minor hindrance. 

I paid some money, booked 6 months off work, and found myself in Singapore airport naming this segment of life #recklessabandontour as I made my way to France to meet family.  It took me about 2.5 months to wind my way around to Peru – via France, Amsterdam, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Collecting moments. 

In amongst the travel, there were scheduling emails between the pending Peruvian Yogis about the possibility of catching the train up to see Machu Picchu for a day trip. Three of us decided to go, booking our passes and train trips separately. In a slightly befuddled, yet totally true to ‘Hayley’ travel style, I booked a different train up and back to the other two girls. Mine was the second to leave from Ollantaytambo and the last to get back in. Oops. 

On the morning of departure, we three tried to change my ticket to match the others. It was impossible. There were no other seats on the first train. I must wait. 

My train arrived. I looked at my ticket and seat number. Car 1, seat A1. 

I made my way to my seat. I was in the very front. There was a wall of glass in front of me, beside me, above me. It felt like I was flying around the tracks, through the rock, next to the streams, and cliff walls. Spectacular. There were many people who came to the front of the train to take photos and experience the unobscured views. Many looked at me, casually sitting there and asked how I’d secured that seat. “I just booked a ticket”. Many silent “thank you”s were sent to the man in Lima who booked my ticket at the tourist information centre a few weeks prior. 

Yogis in Machu Picchu…
Standard poses ensued (photos and asanas).

In short order, we got to play in Machu Picchu. Three yogi friends who had all shown up to Peru for our own reasons, exploring wonders of the world with open hearts and spirited souls. 

Getting lost amongst the ruins, I recalled my former self declaring this experience was to be performed with the love of my life, the future father of my children, my partner. Whoa. Many expectations, many things to get in order before even setting foot on a plane. 

Instead, I got to fly solo on tracks laid before me. I spent the day with women who continue to uplift and inspire me on a regular basis. I got to be ‘me’, Hayley, rather than the partner, the girlfriend, the other. 

Recently, I am called to remember this feeling. To be curious about what other expectations and conditions I’ve placed on things without a conscious awareness? Are there other momentous experiences that I’m denying due to an element ‘missing’? 

What if I did it anyway? 

Let the magic of the unknown unfold. 

‘BRAVING’ is an interesting thing…

Boundaries – Reliability – Accountability – Vault – Integrity – Non-judgement – Generosity.

As coined by Brene Brown in the Anatomy of Trust presentation for SuperSoul Sessions. BRAVING is a great way of being able to identify why you trust someone and how that trust has been built, how it came to be. Do yourself a favour and dedicate 20 minutes of your day to checking this out. 

The part that I want to write about is B – Boundaries. I found myself exploring feelings of over exposure in a close relationship recently, wanting to identify how I came to feel that way and what choices I had made to put myself in that position. The BRAVING acronym highlighted that it felt like a boundary violation had occurred during and after the relationship. Then I had a discussion with a girlfriend about boundaries, ones that keep us safe within our own selves. Again I was brought back to Brene, though this time it was her conversation with Russell Brand around holding boundaries and when ‘no means no’ across the lifespan. 

Boundaries and integrity. How does that play out in life?

Enter “The Chilean F*ck Face” as he’s referred to in my book (a work in progress) whom I had a date with a couple of years ago. The short version is we had some wine and cheese, a couple of hours of good conversation, a wintery snuggle on the outside couch. After the wine had been consumed, I was led inside where it was clear the expectation was that we were going to have sex. When I said no and that I didn’t want to, I was escorted outside and he became hostile. I returned home, sat on the couch and promptly burst into tears. Why did I feel like I was responsible for making him mad because I’d said no? How was I left feeling like it was my fault that 3 hours of conversation and some cheese didn’t lead me to wanting him to penetrate my body?? I have witnessed 3 year olds have tantrums about not getting what they want and their behaviour was better than this adult male. Such venom in his anger about not getting laid.

Recently after relaying this situation to a girlfriend in a bigger conversation about personal boundaries, it led to discussing the times we hadn’t. I recalled once, a decade plus ago now, that I was going home from a nightclub with some people I knew. I dropped them off first and one of the guys refused to get out at his home. Just point blank refused. Let’s call him Mozza (it happened in Australia, so go with the colloquialisms). Mozza was someone I knew, not a stranger, not a threat, just a drunk dude who had decided he was not getting out of the cab. I thought I could handle it, he was pretty harmless day to day and was being a pest now. Laugh and deflect, laugh and deflect. Mozza came home with me, I put him on the couch, I was living in a studio apartment, he got into my bed. Mozza continued to be a pest, I continued to laugh it off. It continued, and continued, and continued. I stopped laughing.

I remember the moment with clarity, amongst the haze of the night, the thought “if I just do this, it will be over, he will leave me alone. Sex is all he wants”. It was a situation I did not want, I made a choice that was not in integrity with who I was. But, I was right. The act occurred and it was awful and it was done and it still makes me sick to think about it. Mozza fell asleep and left me alone. Then he left. 

The impact.

The next day I was mortified. I felt like a compass needle spinning without direction, in that one action, those few moments of darkness I’d lost part of what made me ‘me’. From that action I lost a relationship that was gentle and lovely that I had been building with someone else. Not only did I feel silently humiliated within myself and my community, there was a deep sorrow for hurting Matt that I could never really seem to apologise enough for.  

There was much self-loathing. It was inescapable. An experience that can only be lived through, no matter how hard you wish you could fast forward through the pain.

I rebuilt. I reformed. I relearned how to trust myself.

I will always be learning about boundaries, what they look like to me, how to ask people to respect them. How to not hold myself responsible when my enforced boundaries don’t match someone else’s expectations.

There has also been forgiveness. Forgiveness to myself, that younger soul who wanted it to end and didn’t know how to deal with the situation she found herself in. 

Loo roll & low backs are interesting things…

As you move through life, it’s interesting to reflect on the areas of life and little things that peak interest. One night, in my friend’s kitchen we were making dinner and talking about the idea of public toilets and how they impact and influence people’s life experience. In the moment of the conversation, my passion for body mechanics and how to look after the physical body came roaring forth. I had never before spoken out loud about my habit of doing a “low back impact assessment” when sitting on the loo. 

With a background in occupational rehabilitation and exercise physiology, I have found myself pondering the set up in many bathrooms and their associated impact on the human form.  With approximately 80% of Australian’s experiencing debilitating back pain in their lifetime and the toilet being a fairly central part to most people’s daily experience, there is an ongoing risk assessment happening in my head.  

How are these two linked? Why on earth do I care? 

Essentially, when you’re seated your low back bears all the pressure of your torso weight plus the load of gravity. Your leg muscles are not there to absorb the forces and distribute the impact into soft tissue. This is why people with back pain sometimes can’t sit for long periods of time and find standing to be an effective form of pain relief. So, there you are, sitting on the throne with some low back pain which may or may not be exacerbated by the simple act of sitting. The next layer to this situation is that when you add rotation into the mix, the load and pressure on the disc that lives between the vertebrae is further increased. Take a minute to ponder this… Where is the toilet paper typically located? 

In public stalls, the TP is within comfortable reach to the left or right. There is a convenient wall right there for the holder to be drilled into. Most of my bathroom angst comes about when I’m in private homes. Which, let’s be honest, if you’ve got debilitating back pain is where you’re going to spend most of your time.  Toilet roll holders in open plan bathrooms usually require the individual sitting to twist most of the way around to get the required squares for their needs. It is either that, or hope you have excellent shoulder range of motion so you can keep your torso facing forward whilst reaching behind you in a blind search. 

I spoke with a site foreman friend about this who has worked on many new apartment builds along with commercial construction. He outlined that for disabled toilets there is a whole page in the Australian Standards that identifies exactly where the loo roll and even type has to be located and used. Great for public spaces, but there is no building code for private dwellings and it’s usually left to the person installing the holder as to where it ends up. This conversation pretty much reinforced my notion that for something frequently used, not much consideration is applied. 

Thought overkill potentially.

It comes down to quality of life for me. If there are things a person can do over the course of their daily life to decrease or mitigate pain, I’m all about it. Particularly when pain is the dominating factor in their current experience. Decreasing the amount of loaded spinal twists someone performs over the course of the day will only facilitate a decrease in sensitivity in the affected area. One less movement aggravating an already annoyed and upset soft tissue. 

In a strange and functional way, understanding where your toilet roll is located falls into ongoing self care – especially if you’re currently experiencing an aggravated low back. In a world filled with ways to look after yourself, why not add a little bathroom reflection / low back impact assessment into your work day? Sit on your throne with a quiet confidence that you’re looking after your body for the long term. 

Toilets are an interesting thing…

A porcelain case of emotion.

Bathrooms/restrooms/toilets/washrooms, whatever name they go by in your workplace they are often the hub of emotion in an adults working life. For me, escaping to the safety of a toilet cubicle started at high school with the circulation of mean things written about me and passed around the classroom (pre-mobile phones when someone had to literally steal the paper away from the tormentors and hand it to you to read).  Chris passed me the note at lunch time and I promptly ran to the female bathroom to lock myself in a cubicle and began to read and cry with shame and embarrassment.

Is it due to the personal and completely individual nature of the activities that occur in a toilet stall that makes them feel like a safe haven for emotional expression? Or is it the lack of other private spaces available where you can’t be seen? A place to process, to create the space needed to work through feelings?

Meeting many needs

Through the progression from high school into adult life, the desire to run to the bathroom when these types of feelings arise hasn’t shifted. I can also quite confidently say I’m not alone in this processing experience. I’ve had lengthy conversations with friends who have run to the bathroom for a variety of reasons. Whilst on the verge of tears over confidence and body issues since returning from maternity leave; when feeling so completely at the end of their mental tether with workplace bullying that the only safe place is within the flimsy walls of a bathroom stall; when feeling so overwhelmed with all aspects of life that crying whilst sitting on the closed toilet was the only available release. There are also the personal phone calls we duck in to the bathroom to take as to no disturb those around us (yay open plan offices), whilst feigning a sense of privacy. Or the stolen moments of being ‘on the clock’ and playing games on your phone/reading the newspaper/scrolling through IG and Facebook, sending texts, etc whilst hidden from view. Whether this be for personal respite or reclaiming some time back for yourself, the toilet cubicle is an unofficial safe space in many regards.

The defining of boundaries and personal space

This ‘safe space’ can also be place where you feel threatened. Whilst processing my tumultuous teen moment of note passing torment, Kayci crawled under the stall door to reclaim the offending evidence. Safe space invaded, emotions escalated. These are the actions of teenage girls, and yet echos of this type of behaviour occur in bathrooms stalls in workplaces, schools, and public places world wide. With time away from desks monitored, the number of trips to the toilet tracked. We humans experience a vast range of emotions and it seems that those emotions, and the amenities that are provided for a very human experience, are entangled in such a subtle manner that we don’t recognise the importance of the link.

We gravitate to the loo for privacy, shelter, relief and sometimes even comfort. It can be a place of refuge, or injury; a place to reclaim your control over your own time and emotions. Taking a moment to reflect on how you approach your restroom use might seem a little naff, and yet it may also provide insights into your emotional processing in a way you’ve never considered before.