Thursday, November 17, 2011

finding what I had forgotten to look for

Tonight, as I sat in bed working on some new short stories and day dreaming, a feeling of contentment settled over me. Not the kind of contentment that comes with the cool dusk light, nor the contentment that comes with that comforting sleepiness that settles in after a certain time. No, this contentment felt…tangible. Like I could reach out and touch it. Like I could grab hold of it and keep holding onto it until I felt strong enough to let go.

It filled me up, inflating me into someone more confident, more sure of themselves. More alive. I am almost afraid to fall asleep, lest my grip loosens and it dances away. But I have a feeling that it won’t. I have a feeling that on this seemingly normal spring night I found a small part of myself that I had been missing for a long time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Summer Salads

Today I want to talk about food. Okay, okay, I want to talk about food every day. Let me rephrase that: today I am going to talk about food.

It is summer here and summer here is hot. Cooking starts to seem less like a chore and more like torture. Sticking needles in your eyeballs kind of torture. Hence the need for quick and easy salads on the days where it’s either that or cereal for the fifth night in a row.

So here are two of my favourite salad recipes that are delicious, nutritious (see what I did there?) and actually manage to fill you up. Note: I never put quantities in my recipes, just go with what feels right.

Rocket Salad (recipe from my sister)

Sundried Tomatoes
Baby Mushrooms
Baby Spinach
Feta Cheese
Olive Oil (or cooking oil if you’re like me and are too cheap to pay for olive oil and can’t taste the difference. And yes, I understand that it is extremely unhealthy to do that.)
Lots and lots of salt and pepper

Mix together in a big bowl. Ta-da!

Tofu Salad: Recipe and picture from here. It is modified a little bit because I am lazy and these ingredients are easier to get. But they include how much of each thing you should use, so head on over if yalikethatsortathing.

Tofu (I like to use Chinese soy tofu because it is smothered in soy sauce!)
Carrots (cut however is easiest because I can’t julienne anything)
Bean sprouts
Baby Spinach
Soy Sauce (lots! Nothing like getting your weeks worth of salt intake in one easy hit)
Kepis Manis
Sesame Seeds (it says to toast them, but who wants to spend time doing that?)

Mix together in a big bowl.

And there you have it, my favourite salad recipes for summer. Just a tip though: don’t eat them every single day for two weeks straight. You might not believe me right now, but you will get sick of them and your husband will say 'I told you so'...

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Perks of Being an Optimist

I wrote this about a month ago when things all became a bit uncertain. They sorted themselves out in the end but I thought I'd post this anyway :)

I used to turn down my nose at optimists. ‘They are setting themselves up for disappointment’ I would think, shaking my head.  I prided myself on my negative world view. ‘If it turns out badly, I won’t be too upset because it was expected’, I said, ‘and if it turns out well, I will be pleasantly surprised. Being a pessimist is a win-win.’

You see, I used to believe that optimists were those that always believed that good things were going to happen, no matter the odds. But now I see, by looking at the people around me who are always cheerful and always smiling, that optimists are really those that make the best out of any situation.

Which is an amazing trait to have. Because I often find myself unable to cope when things don’t turn out that well, unable to see how it could possibly be a good thing. But lately I have made a concerted effort to see the silver lining.

Right now life is sort of ‘up-in-the-air’ for me. Things may be changing suddenly; things that we have built up over the years may fall down into a mess of dust and rubble. And when I first heard, all I could think of was all of the horrible things that may come out of this. Granted, it is not a good situation, but nowhere near to that catastrophe that it could be were I simply to make it so.

But here’s the thing: A pessimist would look at this as a disaster, as I did initially. But an optimist would see this as an exciting new opportunity. So I have decided to join their camp. Because if I think about it as an opportunity I am lucky to have, well then I am so much more likely to turn it into something wonderful, rather than sitting in a puddle of self-pity until it all magically fixes itself again.

Optimism means making the most of what you have. It means looking around at all of the wonderful things in life and being thankful that they are still there, rather than drowning under the weight of losses that is inevitable in life. It is approaching change with smile, and a sunny up-beat attitude, ready to turn whatever you are handed into the very best that you can.

I am not sure what is going to happen over the next few weeks. But I know that no matter what it is, I am going to approach it with the most positive attitude I have, and make the most out of the changes that are sometimes forced on us.

An optimist is one that relies on themselves, and knows that that life will always be good because they will always make it so. A pessimist is someone who expects the worst, and makes no effort to change it or take any responsibility for it when it does.

After looking at it that way, I see my earlier thinking was flawed. From now on it’s optimism for me all the way. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I Love Holidays (aside from the obvious)

Do you know what I love most of all about holidays? Just how completely ridiculous they are. I mean really, who came up with the idea to decorate a pine tree in baubles and leave it in the living room? Or to eat chocolate in the shape of rabbits? Or to dress up in scary costumes and go to people’s homes and demand that they give them candy?

Like I said, ridiculous. BUT that is what makes them so fun!

Take Tuesday for example. It was Melbourne Cup Day in Australia. Basically it’s a horse race for all of the Australians that don’t bet on horses and don’t particularly give two hoots about any of it. But on this one day we all wear fascinators, drink a lot, bet on horses, and then proceed to yell in excitement when the race comes on.

Holidays are the one time when even the grumpiest of adults joins in the fun and celebrate for no good reason other than that they can. As a country, sometimes even as a world, we throw up our hands and act like the most excitable of children.

And that is what I love the most. The sense of community. That unspoken agreement that on that day we are unrestrained by time and deadlines, that we are free to be happy and in love with life without the guilt that, sadly, so many people seem to feel.

I think that if the holidays weren’t kind of ridiculous; weren’t filled with glittering lights, strange traditions passed down through the ages, and food in odd shapes; that they wouldn’t be nearly as special. Because if the world can celebrate things like this with so much gusto? 

Well then maybe the world is not so bad after all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

learning a lesson the hard way

For a long time I have always been a firm believer that our happiness is entirely in our own hands. And it is, to some extent. But as someone who went through a hard time and got out of it, I felt like I had a right to judge people who were perpetually down.

You see, when I was a teenager I was a bit...dramatic. Okay, to put it bluntly, I loved self-pity like most my age loved candy. I made no effort whatsoever to try and be happy or to appreciate all that I had, and so I sunk further and further down until it took over my whole life.

I don’t like who I was back then. I resent who I was back then and I have absolutely no patience with her. Now, when I feel down, I jump on it quickly, stamping it out with gratitude journals, relaxation tapes, writing in the sun, breathing exercises, walks and time with friends.

But I forget. I forget that I was handed those tools, I forget that I didn’t find them myself. That it took years of therapy for me to be the happy person I am today. Yes, I work at it, but whenever a sad cloud comes I know exactly what to do. Only because I’ve been there before, and gotten the help I needed. Not because I am working any harder than others at it.

But I didn’t think about it like that until yesterday. Instead I went around pompously patting myself on the back for being happy, and judging those who weren't.

I realised how wrong I was yesterday though, when someone I love; the strongest, most giving person I know who has never wasted a moment on self pity; told me that they were sad. And had been for a while.
And it shook me to my core. I wasn’t surprised; I mean I had guessed it, deep down in that dark place you try not to acknowledge. But I couldn’t comprehend it. It shattered all of my previous views and I realise just how wrong my old attitude had been.

Being depressed isn’t weak. It doesn’t mean you’re not working hard, or are just ‘feeling sorry for yourself’. It means that you’re human. And sometimes life is tough. And sometimes we can’t go through it alone. Most people aren’t given the tools that they need to get through sad times, they don’t come naturally. It’s not an instinctual thing to be able to control your emotions effortlessly, or even with a hell of an amount of work.
Sometimes we need help. We need someone else to show us what to do to pull ourselves out of it. And there is nothing wrong with that. 

In fact, asking for that help? I think that it’s one of the bravest things that a person can do.