I Am, I Do, I Know

As Good As Can Be Expected

My Dad passed away two weeks ago.

People keep asking me how I’m going, as though they’re half expecting me to break in front of them.

I’m glad they ask.

I’ve realised it’s much nicer than not being asked.

How am I going?

I’m not sure.

Mostly I say, ‘as good as can be expected.’

I suppose that is true.

I’m not sure what the expectation is when you lose one of the most important, pivotal, beloved people in your life, but I feel like I’m doing as good as I can be – I’m waking up, and showering, and eating, and caring for my son, and driving my car, and running errands, and seeing family and friends, and cooking, and cleaning, and checking emails, and making phone calls, and planning, and doing all the little things people do that fill their days.

Some people don’t know what to say, which I somewhat understand, but here’s something else I’ve realised; it’s not that hard to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ or ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ or ‘I hope you are doing as good as can be expected’.

I have been showered in support, and love, and thoughts, and I feel them, wrapped around me. I am so appreciative of every single one of them.

But my Dad has died.

He’s gone.

And my life is forever changed.

Everything is kind of the same, but paradoxically, absolutely nothing is the same.

Nothing will be the way it used to be, ever again.

I am mostly fine, except for when I am not. I am mostly ok, except for when I am not.

Sometimes it slowly creeps up on me, like a looming dread in the pit of my stomach, and sometimes it hits me, bang out of nowhere, and I catch myself clutching my breath.

I’m as good as can be expected, but I am angry.

I’ve got a simmering rage inside me that I’m containing, but boy does it bubble. I’ve had to remind myself, every day, to ‘let it go’, that ‘it’s not worth it’, to ‘calm down’.

I’m as good as can be expected, but I feel robbed.

Robbed that Dad didn’t get enough time, that I didn’t get enough time, that we all didn’t get enough time. Robbed for what he’ll miss, for what I’ll miss, for what we’ll all miss.

It’s true that we don’t know our own strength until we need to; people have commended me for mine, which is lovely, but also slightly odd.

I’m ‘strong’ because being anything less seems like a disservice to Dad; to his honour, and legacy. I’m ‘strong’ because I have a child to raise, and a family to love, and being anything less seems like a disservice to them.

People see strength as ‘getting on with it’ – helping organise a funeral, and saying a eulogy without falling apart, and running yourself into the ground with errands, and doing as good as can be expected, and they say, ‘Good on her, look how strong she is,’ like you’re a show dog at a competition.

That is not strength.

That is autopilot, running on adrenalin.

Do you want to know what strength is?

Strength is not snapping someone’s neck in rage.

Strength is not losing your shit at someone else’s incompetence.

Strength is repeating the same story, over and over, to sympathising guests, when all you want to do is lie down in bed with the doona well above your head.

Strength is choosing not to be negative; choosing life, and beauty, and adventure, and wonder.

My Dad may have died, but that doesn’t give me the right to act like a dick.

So I am being as strong as I can, in the way I know how: by not being an arsehole. The world has enough of those.

Death evokes all sorts of feelings and reactions in people, and they’re all ok. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, or empathise. For the most part, people use it as an opportunity to think about themselves. At the centre of their own universe, they think of how death affects them. I’ve discovered, in this fortnight that feels like a year, who is really there for me, and who is not, who my true friends are, and who are just people I know.

There’s one small thing I’ve found exceptionally difficult: how quickly ‘is’ and ‘are’ become ‘was’ and ‘were’.

The instant change in tense is jarring.

And, there’s another thing: how the world just keeps spinning.

My Dad may have died, but that doesn’t mean the world stops.

I get that.

That is the way it should be.

It’s just a little unnerving, how everything goes on, swiftly, at full tilt.

It’s all very surreal; that this has happened, that this is life now.

I’m not convinced that anyone can truly know what it feels like to lose a parent, until they have lost one. And the well-wishes are pleasant, and the thoughts are kindly, but the advice is inordinate and borders on offensive. You either know, or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’re fortunate.

I’ve unwillingly become part of a club I don’t really want to be in but the other people are lovely, and they get it, and the biscuits are nice.

I’ve discovered there’s no real preparation for losing a loved one; whether it strikes you out of nowhere or you have a long lead-time – there’s no difference whatsoever. There’s only here or gone and until they are gone, they are here.

Predominantly, I understand there’s no right or wrong way to go about any of it. Being close to my family and friends has helped me, but some people might choose to shut off. I know that people mean well – and it’s better having people mean well than not having people at all. I recognise that, like with anything in life, there’s constant challenges and choices, and I get to choose my choices, and own them too. I acknowledge that grief is a bit like a wave, and I think I’ll be buoyed forever…

but I also know that I’ll still laugh

and love

and soar

and that the thirty-two years I got were better than thirty, or twenty-five, or ten, or none at all

and that so much of who I am is because of him.

So much. Of who I am. Is because. Of him.

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I Am, I Do

Saturday

Saturday

This café I’m in is bustling.

It’s humming with conversation and a coffee machine that hasn’t stopped once in forty-five minutes. There’s tapping coming from another laptop, but it’s nowhere near as vigorous as the sound coming from mine. ‘They’re happy taps,’ I think, and I know it’s true. People don’t bash away at a keyboard when they’re light of heart. They just don’t.

I order another coffee. ‘Strong, please,’ I say.

There’s a group of girls to my left. I haven’t quite nailed what they got up to last night, but I’ve pieced bits of it together, mainly from their steady stream of analysis on the night’s antics over the past half an hour. They’re laughing. Really laughing. ‘Good on them,’ I mutter. And I mean it.

The wind is flapping away at the sails outside, and a dog tied to a chair leg starts to bark. Four kids whizz past on scooters and a car alarm goes off somewhere in the distance.

It’s just another Saturday, in another week.

Except it’s not for me.

It’s the fourth Saturday, in the longest month of my life.

It’s the fourth Saturday since my world started to change.

And my brain won’t let up. Not from all the crowded thoughts.

Like whether this is how I will measure things now; because before seems different to this.

I think about how many days I spent writing emails, in the name of distraction and avoidance, instead of something straight from my heart and onto a page, and I count twenty-four.

Twenty-four days.

I have never gone that long.

Maybe it’s because I still don’t know what to say. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to say it.

The constant stream of people popping in for a takeaway coffee hasn’t let up. They roll in, and then out, hopping into their car or onto their bike, before they tick off their next Saturday errand, or go to the next place they need to be.

Soon enough I’ll close the lid on this laptop, then pay my bill, and walk out onto the street, and back home, before I hop in my car and go to the next place I need to be.

Saturday will turn into Sunday, and then Monday, and my to-do list will fill again, along with my inbox, and my phone will ring, and clothes will need to be washed, and dogs walked, and floors swept, and dinners cooked.

Everything keeps going.

Even though I’m a little bit broken.

Even though my world is splintered.

Everything keeps going.

And then Saturday will be here again.

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I Am, I Do, I Know

Why I’ll Hop On The Bus. Every Damn Time.

Living life without fear, or comfort

I was chatting to my friend Steve the other night and we got talking about the idea of being ‘comfortable’.

I told him, without a moment’s hesitation, that I don’t do comfortable.

He nodded and said, ‘Comfortable makes me nervous.’

Me too, matey, me too.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint over the past couple of days exactly what it is that frightens me about the familiar; the routine, the security, the safety.

I haven’t quite got there, so I’m doing that thing I do when I try to figure something out; I free pour out of my brain onto a blank page and then post it online for the internet to read.

I get why comfortable is enticing; it’s relaxing, and comfy, and easy. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to, or needing to, be comfortable.

But I find myself sitting back, listening to people bang on about being comfortable, with my head slightly tilted to the right, thinking, ‘Yeah, not for me.’

I talk to a lot of people. And I see too many of them stifled by fear. And insecurity. And I think it sometimes stems from a desire to clutch onto what’s comfortable; the things they know, the people they know, the world they orbit.

It’s all very nice. It all makes perfect sense.

I just don’t think it’s enough for me.

I just don’t think I can even pretend it’s within me to be like that.

The other day, I went to a festival with my friends. We were waiting for our bus to depart the city that morning, and there was this guy, holding us up, because he was waiting for his friends to turn up and board the bus. For whatever reason, they were a no show.

I was looking at him out the window willing him to get on the damn bus. Partly because the sun was shining and I just wanted to be in the Yarra Valley already, but also because here was this fully grown adult, with the potential to have an amazing day right in front of him – literally a few steps in front of him – and he was going to miss out on that because his friends weren’t there.

‘Get on the bus, mate.’

He turned around and walked off.

One of my friends asked, ‘Would you get on the bus?’

Me and Teagan, my sister from another mister, replied, without a moment’s hesitation.

‘Absolutely.’

There is no doubt about it. With the upmost love and respect for my friends, if they left me standing in front of a bus, on my own, I would hop on it. I would hop on it, every single time, without question.

Maybe I’d have a dead boring day. Or maybe I’d find some people and talk. Maybe I’d learn something new. Maybe I’d make a new friend. Maybe I’d dance with them. Maybe the direction of my life would change in some remarkable way. Or maybe I’d just sit back and listen to some music in the sun and think, ‘Isn’t this lovely.’

I know that our natural inclination is to run to what’s warm and comfortable, but you’ve got to feel the cold sometimes. Every now and again, you’ve got to do things that completely terrify you. Well, you don’t have to, of course. But I know I do.

I purposely make myself do things I’m terrified of. Mostly because I know if I don’t, I risk becoming everything I know I don’t want to be. And because the other option – that comfortable one – is far more terrifying to me than anything else I could ever be afraid of.

Not allowing myself to fall into a trap of being comfortable has resulted in some pretty marvellous things. Like every now and again, I make myself walk into a room without the comfort of knowing a single person. Doing that is no big deal. But you’d be surprised at how many people won’t. I’ve made some great new friends this year. And they stem from that one, single action. From that one, single choice.

I’m still not exactly sure why comfort irks me. I’ll keep thinking and get back to you.

For now, what I think is that maybe life is just a series of choices we make. Maybe it’s as simple as choosing between getting on the bus, or staying well off it.

Whatever choice you make is fine, and it’s yours.

I just don’t think I’ll let the bus drive off without me. Even when I don’t really feel like hopping on. Even when the ride is sure to be bumpy. Even when the passengers don’t seem all that friendly. I’m going to keep getting on the bus. I want to see where the ride takes me.

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I Am, I Do

I Like…

I Like...

I like being around people who make me hungry for life.

I like doing things without knowing how they’ll turn out.

I like tiny interesting choices, because I know they make all the difference.

I like dinner for breakfast.

I like talking to strangers.

I like celebrating every little victory, because I know that’s what makes a win.

I like dancing.

I like it when my blood races.

I like it when people randomly remember completely insignificant things about my life, because I can then put them in the ‘keeper’ file.

I like long dinners, with wine.

I like words, and how putting different ones next to each other creates a rhythm, without there being any need for music.

I like listening to people, and their stories, because it’s the best way I learn.

I like how once you’ve experienced something new, you can never go back.

I like honesty.

I like the seconds, between moments, where the unsaid lingers, because anything could happen.

I like optimism.

I like people who have the courage to be themselves, without any apologies or excuses.

I like being afraid, not all the time, but quite a bit of the time, because then I know I’m doing it right.

I like it when you want catch a wave, and there’s that brief moment where you can either get sucked under or ride it, and all you can taste is salt, and all you can hear is your heart pounding, ba ba bum, over and over in your ears, and then all of a sudden you soar, and it feels like you’re free, and everything slows down, and you look up to see the bright yellow sun, and it’s kind of blinding.

I really like that.

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I Am, I Do, I Know

31 Things I Know, Now That I’m 31

1. When I was 16, I felt like I knew everything. Now that I’m 31, I know that I definitely don’t.

2. Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.’ As I get older, I see more and more people dying. Their bodies just haven’t realised it yet.

3. There’s nothing wrong with routine, or habit, but every now and again shake it up; take a different route, start the other way around, order a different drink. Just because.

4. Where possible, do things because you want to, not have to.

5. People change. It’s unreasonable to expect someone to be the same person for an entire lifetime.

6. Don’t make excuses.

7. A well-stocked freezer never disappoints. There will be nights when you’re cold and weary. Nights when your legs feel like lead. Nights when even thinking is too tiresome. These are the nights you defrost.

8. Different people will stir different things inside of you. That’s why your circle should be wide and varied.

9. We are guests of this world, this planet, and we don’t own shit; let’s all act accordingly.

10. People do the best that they can with what they have and what they know. But people can always do better.

11. Anything is possible. I mean Cadbury just put Vegemite in chocolate, so really.

12. Use everything; your best earrings, your favourite shoes, the expensive hand cream, the fancy gifts. Use ‘em all until they fray and run out and break.

13. Figure out what you’re not prepared to compromise on, ever, and don’t.

14. There’s very little black and white and a whole heap of grey.

15. If you have to choose between settling and running, run.

16. When a day ends and you’ve been scared and challenged and nervous, understand that’s not a bad day. That’s the very best type of day.

17. Live like you mean it.

18. When it all seems too hard, too big, too messy, wait until the sun sets and the sky goes midnight blue and the stars start twinkling. Then look up.

19. Love yourself first.

20. Someone recently shared some advice with me they’d once received, advice they live by: ‘just say yes’. So just say yes. To the things you want to do, to the things you don’t know how to do, to the things that scare you.

21. Throw yourself out of your comfort zone. Often.

22. Eat your greens.

23. You’ve just gotta listen to music every day.

24. There is enough of everything for everybody.

25. People will tell you to ‘be yourself’ but in order to do so, you’ve got to get really comfortable with who you genuinely are.

26. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do.

27. One day you’re 20 and then you blink and you’re 30. Some days might be long but the years are short so if you can do something with them – something meaningful and good – then you should. Don’t let a decade pass only to wonder what could have been.

28. You will likely leave this world in a similar way to how you entered it; naked, screaming and gasping for air. I don’t know why people make the part in between those two events so difficult and pointless, but if you can help it, try not to be one of them.

29. Everyone is on this quest to find the blank white space where everything is neat and perfect and sorted and solid. And that’s great. But if you can get lost in the sticky for a while – that gooey, uncomfortable place that everyone’s running from – then you should. Get wildly lost.

30. Things are only ever as complicated as you make them.

31. To feel is to live. If you don’t feel it, you’re not living.

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I Am, I Do, I Know

Why I Love Him

This morning I read this beautiful piece, written by Malcolm Turnbull, to his wife, Lucy.

And I loved every line. It’s about real love; the kind that is enduring and somewhat rare. It’s about honest love; love that has grown, with people that have grown.

My favourite lines are these:

Yet, truthfully, we have been so lucky in so many ways. To meet the love of your life at all, let alone at such a young age, is such a blessing.

Over the years, we have grown together. It is almost impossible to imagine, let alone remember, what it was like not to be together, so much so that I have a much clearer sense of “Lucy and me” than I do of “me”.

I think I love this piece so much because it reminds me of my great love.

I met my husband when I was 17. He was 19. We have grown and evolved and changed but we did it together, teetering a fine line between growing and thriving personally and staying together, on the same path, walking beside each other but never for each other.

We did it, truthfully, without great effort. Without trying too hard. Or being too conscious of it.

I know people, couples, that have been wonderful but they met and then grew and then grew apart.

I’m not sure why we didn’t grow apart. Life has pulled us in different directions, it has sometimes even chewed one of us up and spat us out, somewhere far away, but together we have stayed.

I also don’t remember what it’s like to not be with Kaz. Even though we both have separate interests, and do things together, but often apart, I know he is always there, somewhere, metaphorically hovering around.

Perhaps that’s where our strength has been; being together whilst also remaining ourselves, pursuing our own interests, whilst supporting and fiercely defending each other.

Perhaps it’s because, before anything else, he is my best friend. And that has never waivered.

Perhaps we are lucky, but I don’t particularly believe in luck. Perhaps we have worked hard at it, but I know that hasn’t been the case, at least not most of the time. Or perhaps it’s because it just works, without too much effort, and maybe that’s the most important part.

Kaz and Sandi Sieger

On our wedding day 

There are so many reasons as to why I love Kaz; because he is kind and caring. Because he is funny and witty. Because he is talented and modest. Because he is fair and clever.

But maybe, and maybe somewhat selfishly, I love him because of how he makes me feel and how he improves my life.

Because he makes me laugh, when I need it most. Because he finds humour, and beauty, in things I would sometimes ignore.

Because he pushes me to be better, when I think I am, or have done, enough.

Because he makes me happy.

Because when I was in labour with O, he was brave, when I needed to be brave, even though he was more frightened than me.

Because he teaches me things, all the time, probably without even knowing it.

Because he makes me more capable than I already am.

Because he is my greatest cheerleader.

Because he usually makes me see the other side of an argument, or issue, and even though I usually fight the point, or disagree, I am later thankful. Sometimes I even change my mind.

I don’t remember ever thinking, or believing, that we’d never end up together, forever. I never saw my life without him in it. I still don’t. It’s unimaginable.

I know what we have is special. Sometimes people tell us that, and it’s a nice reminder. Sometimes we recognise it ourselves. Sometimes, I see a film, or read a piece like I did this morning, and I think, ‘I have that. We have that.’

And it’s all kinds of wonderful.

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I Am, I Do

Cutting Through The Bullshit

There’s a quiet still in my house that can only come from it being 6.15am on a Sunday morning. My husband is asleep, the baby is asleep… even my chow chow is curled up and breathing deeply.

It’s a nice place to be. It’s a nice thing to sit in the thick of. And, I’ve realised, sometimes you need moments of pure silence so you can hear yourself the clearest, and the loudest.

Over the past few days I’ve been meaning to find a moment to sit and reassess. Check in with myself and make sure everything’s on track. I’m generally in a good rhythm, but sometimes I can miss a beat.

Missing beats, for me, aren’t necessarily big things. They’re little things that, over time, add up until suddenly I find myself wondering…what am I doing?

You know what I mean.

The meeting you agreed to, but probably shouldn’t have. The coffee date you wish you hadn’t have made. Time spent doing a favour for someone you don’t even like…when you should have just said no. The phone call you keep taking. The salesperson you allowed to sway you, just a little.

I saw a dear friend yesterday, Gaynor Alder, and she said something that I know is true (and couldn’t have come at a better time):

“You’re all about cutting through the bullshit. It’s what I love about you.”

I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullshit. I just can’t stand it and I’ve no interest in playing with it. But, like anyone, from time to time I find myself dancing in a little pile of it, because I think that’s what’s required to play along… but it isn’t.

And the reality is that now, more than ever before, I’ve got the best ‘excuse’ for my zero tolerance policy. He’s about 57cm long and cute as a button.

A couple of months ago, my best friend Mickey told me that after you have a child, you really reassess what’s important in your life. Your friendships, your job, your commitments, everything, because your time is so precious. And you do, even in a subconscious way. Sometimes, even before your baby has entered the world.

Since having my little boy, I’ve been surprised at how determined I am to do better and be better. My passion for my work has not trembled. But my time has, and with that, my questioning of what I want to value my time with.

Do I want to travel to and spend time in meetings devoid of actual purpose? No. Do I want to sit and meet with faux friends, the ones who natter on about their everything, but fail to ask how you are? Hell no.

I want to sit in meetings that matter. Meetings that achieve things. Have coffee with people that allow for a two-way conversation. I want to work, and write, and continue to grow Onya Magazine, and O&S Publishing, and run camps for kids and be a goddamn firecracker, but I don’t want to waste any time.

So I’m reassessing. I’m cutting through the bullshit. I’m making sure I’m on track. Not missing any beats.

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I Do, I Read

Books Don’t Harm Kids, They Arm Them

“Books don’t harm kids, they arm them.” – Mem Fox

I popped into The Little Bookroom on Degraves Street in Melbourne yesterday afternoon. Of course, now I’ve legitimately got a reason to spend quite a bit of time scouring the shelves. I just love the little store – and I would have been mad about it as a child.

I was mad about books as a youngster. Still am. And it’s a love I hope my little man inherits. I read him a story every day. Many people would say it’s a waste of time. Many people would assume he doesn’t understand any part of it. But I know that with each story being read his language is developing. His mind and imagination are expanding. He’s becoming more empathetic, more understanding, more curious. And it’s a beautiful part of my day, one of my favourites, sitting with him and reading.

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud—it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”  ― Mem Fox, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever

When I was two years old, I had already memorised my favourite book, The Little Red Caboose. I never struggled with reading, not for a single moment. I know the confidence that comes from being able to read and communicate well. It’s a basic skill I believe all children should have – and it’s not hard for them to have, all we need to do is read to them. Five minutes a day. To change their lives forever.

And so, because I love books, and because I’m armoured with all the reasons as to why reading is so beneficial for children (if you need the reasons, check out Mem Fox’s Reading Magic), I can’t stop buying them for O. I’ve gone a little mad. But I think it’s more than worth it.

photo copy 3

Vader's Little Princess

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I Do

Sincere Forms of Flattery

Sincere Forms of Flattery

So, I’m certain you already know about O&S Publishing, a little e-pub business I started with my friend, Olivia Hambrett. And I know I’ve written about Sincere Forms of Flattery on this blog before. And now, there’s only one week left until we release our little love project – très exciting.

But if you don’t know? Here’s what it’s about…

It was the idea that started it all. An anthology that drew together a cluster of top notch young writers and asked them to write a short story in the style of their most beloved writer. Accompanying the story would be an essay on why their chosen writer is so important to them and how their own craft has been affected by this wordsmith. The anthology would be an homage to writers of the past and those who continue to enthrall today. A volume of love and appreciation.

Originally, we were going to print it, but when the idea for O&S Publishing took hold, we decided to make Sincere Forms of Flattery our first title, and try e-publishing. We would have complete editorial and aesthetic control and the book would be instantly and globally available.

SFOF brings together a handful of some of the most exciting voices we know, honouring some of the most terrific voices literature has ever known. It will be the first title of O&S Publishing and it is coming this year.

Get ready for a seriously good read.

Sincere Forms of Flattery will be available for download on June 3rd, 2013 for $7.99. If you would like to pre-order your copy, at the discounted rate of $5.99, please email sfoforders@gmail.com with your name, email address and what e-reading device you use by June 2nd and we will contact you with the next (extremely uncomplicated) steps. 

I’m so excited to share this fab, fab read with you all.

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I Am, I Do, I Know, I See

My Son

My son

I’m sitting up, in bed at hospital, looking at my husband sleeping to my left, and I’m smiling.

My husband’s arms are thrown upwards, escaping the sheets, wrapped around his head. He’s in a deep sleep and his handsome face is full of peace.

It’s the exact same image I was greeted with only half an hour earlier when I went to feed my son.

My son.

My beautiful, peaceful, joyful son.

Two days ago, our little man entered the world, and life changed. I’ve never loved anything so much, so quickly, with so much intensity. And, as each hour passes, I can’t believe how much further in love I fall. How much more my heart swells. How much stronger I grow. I’m in awe of him.

A friend sent me a text message tonight and wrote that despite my ability for writing, and my husband’s talent in music, our son was most certainly the best thing we’ve ever produced. And I can’t help but agree.

He’s the product of almost twelve years of love, laughter and friendship. Staring at him, I almost don’t believe he’s real. But then I see my husband’s expression across his face, and I know he is. I see my nephew in him, my brother, myself. And I realise that he’s more than real; he’s ours and we made him.

And I get lost for words. I lose myself in his face.

My son.

Our son.

The best thing we’ve ever produced.

I’m besotted.

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I Do, Press

Wisdom of the Ages

Wisdom

I was thrilled to be invited to speak at Wisdom of the Ages, an event organised by Tina Jensen to be held at Hub Melbourne this Friday the 8th of March, to coincide with International Women’s Day.

I’ll be reading a letter, sharing a story, to my 18 year old self – “If I knew then what I know now…”

All are welcome and you can find further details and ticketing information by clicking this link.

Image © Sandi Sieger

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I Do, I Write, Press

Oh, looksy, it’s me!

I’m very, very thrilled to announce some exciting news… I’ve got a new writing gig and it’s with a company and publication I admire and respect greatly; Forbes.

As of, oh, well, now, I can add Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent to my bio. And I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ll be writing about (one of) my favourite cities in the world, Melbourne. Blogging, answering questions and providing expert advice.

You can view my profile here.

Sandi Sieger, Startle/Forbes Expert, Travel Correspondent

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I Do, I See

Wonderful Weekends

It wouldn’t be a wonderful weekend without this guy…

I love a good weekend.

And for quite a while now, they’re the only kind I’ve been enjoying.

Ever since I decided to shut the laptop and switch the smartphone to silent come Friday night, I’ve enjoyed weekends more than ever.

I’ve discovered that I’m more productive from Monday to Friday after two work free days; I’m more motivated and more refreshed when it’s time to get stuck back into it.

I’ve realised that no matter how much you love something – writing, social media, Internet surfing – that a little break each week results in a much less stressed, more content working week. And so that’s how I treat my weekends, as treats. That I’ve earned. And don’t need to feel guilty about. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that if you can’t finish your work in five days of the week, you’re either incredibly overloaded or incredibly ineffective.

Belgrave’s End of the Line Festival, featuring a sneaky snap of Des the Wizard.

This weekend started – after morning chats in bed with Kaz – by popping into the Selby Fire Brigade Fair, followed by breakfast at the Kallista Tea Rooms, then some sunshine-filled meandering around our local Belgrave where the End of the Line Festival was in full swing. After ducking off to my new hairdresser for a much needed trim, I spent some time sitting on the deck, reading the papers, soaking in some sunshine. A spontaneous decision to head to the pools resulted in some refreshing splish, splosh, splashing. Then it was back home for a BBQ and creating some tasty Japanese dishes using my Saori Sauces I picked up that morning at End of the Line. Saturday night was spent relaxing, reading, catching up with the in-laws (and catching up on some much needed zzzzzs).

Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

On Sunday, after a French toast and berry compote breakfast feast, Kaz and I headed to Fitzroy to prepare for the All India Radio ‘Red Shadow Landing’ album launch. Kaz has been playing with the band for a few years and their ambient rock music is truly exceptional. And by preparing I mean that Kaz was unpacking the car and setting up for sound check, and I was wandering the streets and window shopping.

All India Radio ‘Red Shadow Landing’ Album Launch.

The best plate I’ve ever seen.

I murdered some lunch at The Workers Club whilst chatting with the lovely guys from the band, then enjoyed the gig. That was followed by dinner at Little Creatures Dining Hall with friends, where this small feast was devoured:

Hand-cut chips and hummus with flat bread.

Rocket, beetroot, feta, broad-bean and walnut salad.

Prawn and prosciutto + potato pizza.

Cinnamon doughnuts.

And so, a full and fun weekend, that was also relaxing, resulted in these two happy faces:

The Siegers.

And I think that says it all.

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I Do, I Know

Mistaking Motion for Action

The other day, I read this blog post from my dear friend, Faustina. Currently in LA, Faustina is stumbling upon some life lessons that are making me nod my head and ‘ah’ in agreement:

One thing that I’ve become far more aware of, particularly in the last couple of months, is that lessons in life will keep on presenting themselves to you until you learn and understand them wholly. The lesson I’ve consistently been presented with is to stop rushing aspects of my life when making transition.

That paragraph sums up the last few months of life, for me. There are lessons, and thoughts, and feelings that keep on presenting themselves; sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, that make me think, ‘Ah, I’m back here again.’ Thoughts and feelings and lessons in waiting that I cannot shake, that keep peeking around and popping up in so many aspects of my life.

Then I read this, and it made so much sense I felt it with every fibre of my being:

When I wake up in the morning I think about what I feel like doing that day. Not just what I should – cause then the list goes for days. And then the pressure sets in.

We hardly ever give ourselves enough credit to follow what it is we want to do.

Granted, there’s things we should and need to do, but if we fail to put the want into our day, we’re just cheating ourselves.

And sometimes, we needn’t worry about what we should do. Some days we should pack the car, go for a drive, hit the beach or the mountain and breathe, or, go wherever it is we feel like going and do whatever it is we feel like doing.

I’ve been following my gut feeling over the past few months and it has lead to some discoveries and realisations. As well as some of the most relaxing and fulfilling moments of my life.

I’m sick of the should-dos. And the can-dos. The up-and-gos. And the to-dos.

I’m sick of rushing.

I know too many people who are too busy getting very little done. There’s been some great work written on busy lately, of which I entirely agree, and I say that as a person who’s spent the best part of her twenties being busy – and fulfilled, and happy, and full of life.

I still want to be fulfilled and happy and full of life, but I recognise that in order to do so you don’t need to be busy. We are constantly bombarded with messages of ‘life is short’, ‘make every day count’, ‘live each moment like it’s your last’, but the reality is, for most people, life is long, full of many days and moments, and I feel like all this ‘make every moment count’ hoo haa is just another way for, as Faustina says, ‘the pressure to set in’.

We’re so obsessed with making each moment count, we try to have multiple moments in one. We’re no longer satisfied with one thing at a time. We’re no longer satisfied by simple moments.

Social media, for all its brilliance and blessings, has allowed us to develop a behaviour where we feel as though we can’t miss a moment, so we need to be plugged in and switched on all the time, but not only that; we also can’t miss out on the opportunity to capture a moment. Our computers and laptops and smartphones, gadgets that bing and ding and ring and ping, are pulling us from the very moments we’re supposed to be enjoying because we’re so afraid we’re not capturing it all, or, that there’s something going on that’s more important or interesting than what we’re currently doing.

We can no longer watch a TV program without vomiting opinions about it – in real time – online. We can no longer watch a movie at the theatre without a screen lit up in our palm (I’m about one movie away from picking up someone’s phone and throwing it). We can no longer capture a beautiful view in our minds, we need to Facebook and Instagram and Twitpic it.

The constant need to share has started to make me a little ill. I actually don’t want everyone to know what I’m doing, all the time. And I don’t really want to know what other people are doing all the time, too.

I don’t want to have conversations with people that are multi-tasking. I expect undivided attention.

I stopped using Foursquare weeks ago, because I realised I didn’t want people to know where I was enjoying a coffee, and it’s become more and more apparent that I care less and less about where other people are having one too.

I love gaining insights into people’s lives via social media, I love the banter, the humour, the connections and the links sharing great writing. I don’t love the negativity. I don’t love the opinions – particularly those that are degrading or rude or judgemental. I don’t love the links sharing bad writing.

So I use social media in my own way now, in a way that suits me. That means taking in 10% of what’s going on, sharing 15% and using the other 75% in more positive and productive areas of my life.

I don’t run to social media first thing in the morning anymore, or last thing at night. I switched off my notifications. My phone rarely pings and dings and bings anymore. I only answer calls if it suits me to answer them. Ditto emails. I check social media when I want to (some days, I forget to check it at all – it’s surprising how quick and easy it’s been to detach). I find myself enjoying social media more, when I do use it, because I’m using it less. I find myself less affected by people’s opinions and negativity. I find time to read more good quality blogs, online magazines and newspapers. I still connect with people. Online and offline. And I’m getting more done. I read more. Yes, books.

I’ve written about the farce that is multi-tasking before, and I kind of feel that way about online activity now – not that it’s a farce, but that you can spend a day flicking between websites and social media profiles, feeling busy and rushed, but achieving very little.

When online activity started to make me feel rushed and pressured, when I started to feel like I had to have something to say, and share things in my day, that’s when I decided to change my approach.

Life may be full of moments, but I don’t think each and every one of them has to count. I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favourite films, The Age of Innocence, when Newland Archer played by Daniel Day Lewis, replies to a question of how he’s going to spend his day, by saying, “I’m going to find a way to save my day, rather than spend it.”

That, I believe, is what we should focus on. Not the ways to make each moment count, as though the more we do, the more we have to accumulate, thus making our lives more worthy, but rather, focusing on how to save and cherish moments, acknowledging that sometimes, whittling away the hours doing sweet nothing is far more meaningful than rushing in the pursuit of something.

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I Do, I Know

Why Multi-Tasking Is A Farce

I’ve stopped multi-tasking in my job.

And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

I’ve realised – after several years of thinking that doing too much all at the same time is a good idea, and with thanks to business coach Marie Forleo, whose B-School course I have just completed, that multi-tasking is a complete farce.

Yes, a farce.

The past week, I have focused 100% on exactly what I’m doing at any given time – and on that task alone – and I’ve noticed a huge spike in my productivity, concentration and quality of work.

This might all sound very simple. And you may scratch your head and wonder if this ‘lesson’ I have learnt is really that much of a discovery.

But easier said than done.

The truth is, working in the online space is often erratic, frenetic and involves having 82 tabs open, 10 programs, 12 social media accounts, 6 email accounts, one landline, one mobile phone and a partridge in a pear tree.

It’s overwhelm, on your senses, and in every sense of the word.

And sometimes you get to the end of a long day, back away from the computer and think, ‘Wow, today was so busy, it was go, go, go.’

Which it most likely was.

Go from phone call to email, go from Facebook to Twitter, go from YouTube to online magazines, go from writing to editing, go from here to there and repeat.

I have done this long enough to know that a busy day might not necessarily equal a productive day.

So, after reading the stats and research on the importance of banishing multi-tasking, after learning and evolving, I have stopped multi-tasking at work.

And I get so much more done. I now schedule like a mo-fo, I map out my week before it’s even begun, I break tasks down and I set aside sufficient time for them to be completed in.

And I’m smashing it.

Not being pulled and stretched too thin means I’m not worn out at the end of the day, but more importantly, it means what I’m doing during the day is great work, as opposed to good work. There’s order to my day and that order has brought a certain clarity with it that’s so new to me, I do feel a little bit like a new person.

This is a huge shift for me. And whilst I certainly won’t stop multi-tasking outside of work (the washing, cooking and cleaning trifecta is best left alone), I don’t think I can go back to multi-tasking at work again.

Parts of my day still involve tab-jumping and serial mouse-clicking, but I’ve allowed time for that to happen. It’s not my whole day. Whole timeslots in my day are now blocked out and dedicated to just one task.

If you think it can’t be done, or if you’re scoffing at the thought, give it a go.

Don’t make excuses. I used to all the time. All of the reasons as to why I needed this open or that at my fingertips.

The world will not stop spinning if you spend an hour devoted to working. Your client will not die if you call them back 45 minutes after they leave you a voicemail message. You can take four hours to email someone back. That tweet can wait.

We’ve created this idea that we need to be on top of everything, all at the same time; but that’s not only impossible, chances are it’s also damaging your working life (and maybe life beyond that). As I’ve looked around this week, I’ve noticed people declaring how busy they are, how much there is to do, but then at the end of the week, their to-do list barely has a tick on it. And so they go into the next week with the same list and the same thing happens and then a month has passed. And they’ve somehow kidded themselves into thinking this is how work is supposed to be done.

I should know. I’ve been there.

What we need to do is be clear, focused and on task so we can get the job done. And if you can do that with 82 tabs open, 10 programs, 12 social media accounts, 6 email accounts, one landline, one mobile phone and a partridge in a pear tree, then all power to you.

But I have finished a week where I’ve given multi-tasking the flick and it’s been the best working week I’ve had in a long time. Even though I worked late into the night twice this week. Even though there were some minor frustrations.

So goodbye, multi-tasking, and hello, clear to-do list.

Let’s rock this.

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