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. 

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.

Vulnerability is an interesting thing…

I’ve done a pretty good job at maintaining control in my life. Even in the chaos I have been able to see what is possible, how I can rescue myself, how I can maintain some semblance of ‘control’.

“Relax. Everything is out of control”

A co-worker put this post it on my computer the other day and I thought “yep. that’s about it”. I’ve recently stepped into two new spaces that are really new to me work wise. Every angle I check from, the work is exciting, it’s scary, and I have no idea what it’s going to develop into. One area – being the Student Support Advisor in a tertiary creative college is really independent. There is the ability to make the role quite involved across different elements of the ‘student experience’ if you’re highly self motivated and can fit other things into your schedule. I describe this role as being the bridge “between life and academia”.

One of my favourite parts is assisting students through their state of overwhelm and collaborating on a plan that will support them moving forward. Seeing their faces shift from anxiety to calm is quite rewarding. I get a positive feedback kick from working with them and they feel heard and contained, with a plan to through the next couple of hurdles as the assessments and life rolls on. We tend to be drawn to what we are good at, right?

The scary space between beginning and success

A new location calls for an update in my approach to working with people. I’ve long been the type of clinical therapist (AEP) who works with both the body and the mind, recognising their integration. It has long baffled me how much these two elements are separated in some approaches to rehabilitation and therapy from either end. So, I created my own approach – Integrated Body Therapy.

This is where vulnerability kicks in. Each passing hour I don’t have a client booked in I question if I can do this. Do I need another qualification? Another degree?

The reality is I know I can. I’ve spent time in people’s spaces physically and virtually doing versions of “Integrated Body Therapy” before I gave it a name. Though as I sit in my rented space in Byron Bay, each week I feel so exposed if my calendar is empty. As if it’s an electronic example of me failing. I want to shut it all down, call someone I know will value my opinions and thoughts and pretend like it’s the same thing as having actual clients. (As it happens, I had a call from a friend who wanted my thoughts and opinions just as I wrote that sentence… Killing it! Ha!).

This is my own version of “daring greatly“, of putting myself into an uncomfortable position with the willingness to see it through. Each time the scary space seems overwhelming, I pick a tool that I’d use with a client and practice what I preach. Come back to a space of who I am, what I have to offer to my clients, and who I am choosing to be every day.

Attachment is an interesting thing…

In the pursuit of furthering my purpose in the space of physical and mental wellbeing, I am 2.5 subjects away from completing my Grad Dip in Counselling. The .5 subject is Grief and Loss which is currently focussed on Attachment Theory. If you’ve never come across it, it pertains to how we humans interact with a ‘secure base’.  This may be a care giver as a child, a significant other as an adult, or even a workplace. There are four styles: Secure, Anxious Ambivalent, Anxious Avoidant, and Disorganised.

Why is this relevant?
Knowing your attachment style is an interesting piece of information. Understanding and taking the time to see how it plays out in your work and home life can be quite insightful. What is there to gain from understanding or being aware of this?

You can identify your Attachment Style characteristics.  

Relationships of all forms can be impacted by attachment style even the interaction to the workplace entity, outside of individual relationships with colleagues. We don’t often think about it, yet when people experience the loss of a role, job or separation from an employer, there can be a strong emotional response. Having previously worked with long tail insurance claims, the emotional component played out as perceived ‘rejection’ and left a residual bitterness many years after their last day of work. This often created an additional barrier to moving forward in their life.  It was quite evident it impacted their own feelings of self-efficacy and self confidence across their whole life. Understanding how your attachment style patterns play out can assist in providing your own self-support in periods of unrest.

The emotional rollercoaster wont last as long if you know your patterns.  How they shift between different approaches pending the circumstances is also important.  Meaning, you can do something about it. If you’re aware your background is an ‘anxious style’  that leads to distancing yourself or becoming overly attached in times of stress, having tools in your arsenal to bring you back to a ‘secure’ perspective can be helpful beyond measure. You may still initially respond in your previous manner, though rather than following it down the usual rabbit hole you have choices. Sometimes that’s enough to stem the flow of momentum for a moment of clarity. Pairing knowledge with breathing is a really good approach.

Something like this:
1. Receive information / be in situation
2. Feel emotions shift
3. Pause for breath (you have to do that to live anyway, right?)
4. Consider why you are feeling this way
5. Knowing what you know about yourself, what’s the best choice of action in this moment?

For example, I know that generally speaking I am a securely attached person. However, in situations and circumstances where I am feeling particularly exposed or vulnerable I can become either anxious avoidant or anxious ambivalent. This can also happen if I’m run down or haven’t been looking after myself with sleep, exercise and fun.  If I catch it, I know that I have to use my tools or I’ll end up saying/doing/reacting in a manner that’s out of sync with who I am.  Then I’ll have to deal with that mess too. Ultimately, it’s a learning process built on self reflection and self awareness. Plus, having an understanding that those ‘in the moment’ emotions are fine, they don’t have to define the whole situation and subsequent outcome though.

If you think about a situation at work and at home, can you identify similar emotional loops? Do you ever wonder why this cyclic process is happening in your world and how the hell you can change it?

What I love to do
This brings me to what I love to do – assist others with having a life that is easier. Recognise and respond, rather than react.
Tools, understanding, insights, practical approaches – that’s my style. My flavour is bringing this into all aspects of life – mental, physical and emotional. You bring your life, your interests; I’ll bring the the space for discovery, with a touch of fun and a whole lotta joy.  What could be more joyful that opening yourself up to a new way of approaching life’s tricky situations?
Get in touch and lets chat.