Australia, Gay, Gayblog, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Being Present.

Being present feels like such a toxic wellness culture buzz phrase, along with the term ‘…journey’ or ‘centre-ing’ ones self.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good self-help book, article or podcast, but yeah sometimes it gets a bit too much even for me.

How do you define ‘being present’? It’s such an abstract and rather esoteric concept. Perhaps it means being mindful of the present and those around you in your current surroundings, as well as maybe not being in your own head too much, and letting your thoughts and internal monologue take over.

This is something that I seem to struggle with far too much. I let myself become overwrought and fatigued with thoughts and emotions and worries in my head which then leads me astray, I lose focus and or I get down and sad, which then is followed by wallowing in my own self pity. I miss out on whats happening around me as it manifests in social anxiety or being in my head too much. As many friends can attest, as it is simply so easy for me to decline going out in favour of staying home. Yet in doing this I stop and halt my growth in life. I need to learn to not let this happen, and I am at least becoming adept at recognising when this does. For example as I type this I am feeling anxiety. Anxiety over an upcoming trip overseas which I feel unprepared for, anxiety over moving overseas in a couple of months and again feeling unprepared, and anxiety at not seeing my parents enough lately, and how soon I may not for long stretches of time. I worry as I don’t know how long my dad will be around. I worry because I think of all the remaining logistics that need to be worked on and resolved before we pack our lives up and move to San Francisco. I worry about not being around my friends and loved ones and in my nice comfortable flat, and I worry and become anxious when thinking upon what I will be doing in San Francisco. In my mind, I have far too many channels of thought going on simultaneously. I think of it like an electronic circuit board, and how pulses of electricity run between all the different components near instantaneously. I have far too much in my mind currently, and it is getting more and more difficult to stem or even just divert some of this thought into positives and calming mantras.

I try to calm myself and negate this buzzing and internal monoluguing through several methods, or strategies and tactics as I like to think of them. As an avid strategy game lover, I tend to think in terms of strategic objectives and manouvres. Working on my mental health and being present is part of this. Some of these strategies including thought modification: the moment I hear that whisper of negativity and anxiety I need to recognize it, and tell it to simmer down and try to change that thought into something positive. Which is easier said than done. I hit the gym regularly, and have been for the last couple of years now, which has been an immense help in calming my nerves and lowering anxiety. I like to say that I go to the gym first and foremost for this reason, and most people don’t seem to believe me which is fine. It’s not all narcissism for me, rather it genuinely helps me become more ‘present’ and ‘centred’. Of course, it’s awesome to see the change in my body as well, and to have others remark. Some people swear by meditation, yet my meditative space is when I exercise and exert myself. As much as I despise the saying ‘My body is a temple’, I can glean the truth and wisdom that this saying imparts. You really have to take care of yourself physically, and the rest will follow. Like building a bridge or house or other structure, the support and foundation needs to be there to build upon. If it is not sturdy and strong, chances are it won’t stand tall and will collapse.

Writing as reflection has also been immensely helpful for me. Look at me now. I write almost daily, and reflect upon my thoughts. This helps me as a process to work through any issues and problems I have. And, in conjunction with it being a great exercise for mental health, I am practicing a craft that I am learning to love and have passion for, and I am [hopefully to you, dear reader], becoming more and more versed and skilled at framing my thoughts and communicating them to you. It really has helped me a lot. I keep coming back to this quite often with my blog, especially posts about my mental health, which are fast becoming the majority. Picking up a little Moleskin A6 journal which you can take about with you in a bag or even pocket if need be and regularly penning any thoughts and/or ideas and vexations can be so incredibly helpful. Sometimes there’s nothing nicer than taking my journal out to a park and sitting in the sun and just writing for even 5 minutes, and letting the sun’s warmth wash over me, and surrounding myself in the smells and sounds. I’ve been journaling for about 7 years now. Pretty much since meeting Adrian. The journals over time have gotten dark, and back to light. It’s almost as though a film transitions from grey monochrome to vivid Technicolor. Don’t worry, I still have my grim and dire days. Yet it’s a great tool and method to get through your bad times. By penning your thoughts, they become real and alive, yet it also as though you’re giving them a finality, as though you’re saying to these negative thoughts. ‘Ok, I’ve created you, put you down in my book, and now it’s time for you to go’. Every day I write I feel a bit better, and a bit more present and aware.

Being present for me equates to being mindful, empathetic and taking full advantage of your life, and not letting it simply run through you. I have to remind myself to let those thoughts out of my head and simply love the day, no matter how mundane it is or how difficult I find it.

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How To Stay Creative.

 

As someone who craves creating things, whether it be taking pictures, writing or just doodling in a notebook, it can be so frustrating to have that creativity simply stifled by ‘day to day life’.

It’s so easy to be completely caught up in the mundanities of life like 9-5 jobs, house chores, or other commitments, that if you’re like me and you are someone who lives to create, it can be a job in itself to keep on track and continue doing what you do best: giving something singular and special back to the world.

I’m reminded of what a teacher at my college where I studied Photography once told me. It went a little something like this: ‘Those who work 9-5 jobs and work in banal places with no excitement have extraordinary dreams, just like the rest of us. The difference with people like you and me is that we can make our dreams a reality, which is turn salves and relaxes our minds and let’s them run wild and free. If you don’t let this out, then your mind loses hope and your life becomes pale and meaningless’.

This is something that really stuck with me from my days at art college. Besides how to take good pictures, it is an ethos and philosophy that has a valuable grain of truth to it, being:

YOU MUST CREATE.

A big reason for me personally, as one of those much-maligned ‘Creative Types’, for my at times dark periods of getting down and out is when I don’t make something, write something or let my thoughts and imagination free in any way shape or form. I feel like I need to be constantly stimulated or responding to something, or otherwise I will end up wallowing in a non-productive, destructive cycle of non-action and self pity.

It’s one of my difficulties in life to stay single-minded, focused and determined, or even inspired on the one thing. Like most Aquarians, we are a rather transient bunch. We love novelty, newness and anything exciting and different. We are conceptual creatures, not bogged down with realities of situations. We aren’t perfectionists, like my Libran boyfriend, and nor are we hard-headed like a Tauran. We tend to simply go with the flow, and let life, and inspiration take us where it will.

I have a few smaller projects that I try to work on, such as this blog, as well as series of images that I’m working on with the end-goal of an art show. It may not be much, but it’s enough for my creative appetite to satisfy itself now. Yet some days it is so hard to gain the traction and motivated required or even the inspiration needed to move ahead with any creative endeavours.

So what are some good, tried and tested ways to keep your creative energies up and flowing?

1: Procrastination Is The Enemy.

It takes me so much time and energy just to start something, and even more time and energy just to keep it going and afloat, and yet even more to finally finish a project. Procrastination can be something that is just so easy to fall into, and if you’re like me you are a veritable professional procrastinator. I can spend hours and days wasting away watching episodes of Game Of Thrones, Adventure Time and yes maybe some Star Trek Voyager. Or mash away on your Ipad playing some silly game for hours. It seems like there are so many distractions that can lead you astray, and staying focused and motivated can be such a job and occupation in itself. Especially if you are a gadget lover like me. So how do you fight procrastination? I find that like anything else worthwhile, it takes practice and persistence to kick the habit of procrastination. Minimise any and all distractions that may present themselves to you, ie any digital devices and pieces of technology. It’s increasingly difficult to sit in front of your computer for instance and edit photos or write even just for a short time without heading back to the warm bosom of the internet and social media, so a good idea may be to unplug your Wifi, turn the phone off, and leave them somewhere rather inaccessible. Or if you have a loved one or friend nearby, maybe give them the wifi modem for a couple hours!

Don’t have a Zero Day.

What’s a ‘Zero Day’? A day where you do nothing productive. Zero. This point correlates to the first one, being time is the key. For me, I try and do at least one thing productive in the day, in any way or shape. If I don’t I tend to feel regretful and a little spiteful at myself for being lazy. Maybe write in a journal for a few minutes? Or tie up any loose ends that may need resolving. It takes so much of a load off your shoulders, and it feels great to have accomplished even that one thing to get you closer to where you need to be.

Make lists of ideas.

I love, love, and actually adore making lists. It once got so out of hand that I had a list for lists I was going to make. I love the hierarchical nature of list making, as well as the de-constructional element. You’re breaking down tasks to their most basic, yet it’s also rewarding the accomplishing of these tasks by crossing them off. In creative terms, lists could be compiled for ideas, concepts, inspiration or even mundane bitsy things that can help your project. They’re easy to do, some might say fun [ok maybe its only me who would say they’re fun], and they’re a great way of remembering things. Write one now and you’ll see what I mean.

Take a Break.

There’s nothing more helpful than taking a break from something which has become tedious. Go for a jog. Have a cup of tea. Call up a friend for a chat. Heck, go masturbate, it feels good and you’ll release tension. Another method is putting your work in blocks. If you have a day or half day, maybe create a schedule like back at school? They did that for a reason. For instance, I try to break up any work that needs doing by working for an hour, having a half hour break, then going for another hour. This means my mind doesn’t get completely numbed by what I’m doing, and stays fresh and stimulated. But just make sure you get away from the computer!

Keep your workspace clean.

This goes without saying. A nice, neat workspace with some slight personal embellishment [Yup, I have a wall full of photos, and magazine clippings] really can help your situation. I love the idea of things having their place; I always get reminded of an episode of The Mighty Boosh where the rather daggy Howard runs through his systematic, thorough yet awfully OCD organised work counter, which he dubbed ‘Stationary Village’. The paper clips live in Paper Clip Castle, the Blu Tac live in Blue Tac Garden, and the Sellotape lives on the Sellotape Tree. It pretty much sums how I like to keep my workspace. Well. Maybe not quite as anal but hey it does help having things in their right places. I share a desk with my lovely and ever so dashing boyfriend. Whom always looks sharp, well presented and always dapper in public. He always gets way more likes on Instagram. Yet everyone assumes that me, slightly scruffy, rough round the edges Alex is the messy one. I’ll be sure to post an image of our shared desk. It’s almost like Berlin during the Cold War. My side of the desk tends to be ordered, neat, tidy and de cluttered. Adrian’s is a jumble of wires, random bitsy things such as bits of loose papers which I’m far too scared to throw out as I’ve already once been in trouble as one of these tidbits of paper had some monumentally important information scrawled upon it. I tend to thrive when things around me are neat. My mind works at a better pace, is far more clearer, and much more open to inspiration. It’s been proven that being in a neat and tidy space decreases depression, which is yet another reason I try to keep my workspace neat.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up.

Self-criticism is actually great. It can be an impressive motivator, especially for someone who is quite perfectionist. Or, conversely, it can tear down any progress or inspiration, and leave you back where you started. Being self-analytical on your own work can then be such a double-edged sword, that it’s worth remembering to give yourself a break. People are always overcoming blocks of inspiration, or obstacles that stop them from succeeding. It’s sometimes nice to review any and everything you have done and give yourself a little pat on the back. It’s all too easy to hate what we’re creating. Especially when having worked on a project for an extended period of time.

These are just some things I do to keep myself motivated and inspired. Some things may not work all the time, but give it a go!

How do you stay creative in life?

 

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