The $40 000 Fundraising Project

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On the 17th of September 2019 I set off on a 450km solo and unsupported hike from my home in Woodgate to the Brisbane CBD (itinerary). I did this to raise funds and awareness for Brain Injury and also because I wanted to have an adventure. During the hike I raised in excess of $5000. My target is $40 000, so I still have a ways to go and the best part of the year to get it done. All that money will go to The PA Research Foundation and STEPS, which are collaborators in providing rehabilitation for those struck down with a traumatic brain injury. Please contact me if you are interested in collaborating with me. I’d love to hear from you!

Having a brain injury myself, I am a member of my local STEPS support group who meet in Bundaberg every month. Brain injury is known as the invisible disability and I got to talk to a lot of people, including the Minister of Health (Hon. Dr Steven Miles) about what it means to live with such a disability. “Gees, you look fine.” “There’s no way I’d ever think that you had a disability.” “Yeah, but there’s nothing wrong with you though.” Were some of the responses I got from people I met along the way.

This was the second big hike I’ve done. In 2016 I walked almost 400km to raise money for brain cancer. Since I completed that first hike I’ve been training pretty hard, which made my hike to Brisbane much easier than the 2016 hike. My attitude has probably shifted a fair bit too because on that first hike I came to learn that I am an amazing person who can achieve unbelievable things, but that I’m not special. I’m just like everyone else; the only difference being that I’m someone who had an idea and I made the idea happen. All of us can do that; you have my permission to be awesome too!

me, damien and Minister

Damien Topp (CEO PA Research Foundation) Me and the Hon. Dr Steven Miles (Health Minister) in Brisbane on my arrival. (photo: Sue Wright STEPS).

 

 

 

Fatty and Skinny in Woodgate

Sometimes people tell me I’m skinny. I don’t think I am, I’m just really fit, so I have a fair bit of muscle and not much body fat. This doesn’t happen by accident because I train pretty hard, which is why I don’t really like getting told that I’m skinny. I just think that people aren’t generally used to seeing women who are my age and look like I do.

When I was a kid, I was teased for being fat. I don’t even know if I was. I do know that I was taller than everyone else in my classes all the way through primary school. It wasn’t until around grade nine or ten did the boys start to overtake me in height, and even then, there were only about four of them. Mr Fell, who was a teacher at my primary school in Hervey Bay whispered in my ear one day, “Jenny needs to go to Jenny Craig” What kind of an arsehole says something like that to a kid?! Ugh.

Me and Fatty have started hanging out a fair bit lately. This is Fatty in his natural habitat. Taken on the latest secret track I discovered in Woodgate:

I found a secret track on Google Earth a while back, so yesterday I set out with a hand drawn map (I don’t have an internet phone) to see if I could follow it:

f

I rode for two hours, mostly through deep sand along the secret track and back home again. It would’ve been around 30km. It was a really hard ride, but still, it was awesome, and this time I didn’t fall off, although I came close a couple of times. See, the bike needs to go forward when I’m on it, which is the whole concept behind cycling, and if I don’t have enough momentum when I hit a deep patch of sand, then over I go. It all happens in slow motion and is quite painless due to the soft landing. Getting the sand out of my shoes, and last time out of my hair and ear, is another story, especially when I’m all sweaty.

I fell off once due to a spider’s web. I’m really scared of spiders and I rode down yet another secret track and went face-first into a spider web. All I could think of was having a giant spindly-legged beast on my face or on my helmet and I screamed (even though I’m a girl, I rarely do this and my screams sound nothing like you’d imagine a girly scream to sound)  and jumped off the bike mid pedal, it stopped going forward and promptly fell on my leg. Fatty is heavier than a regular mountain bike (due to his obese wheels I’d say). This was about three weeks ago and I still have the bruise. There was no spider. This is how big a spider is:

 

 

But this is how big it feels to me, even if its non existent:

I looped around back to a track I’ve ridden down multiple times and Fatty said he wanted a rest, so he posed for a photo here:

I love Fatty, but it wasn’t always like that. And the thing is, he doesn’t even belong to me. He belongs to the cool guy I’m married to. When the cool guy bought this bike I told him he was being ridiculous. “It’s a stupid fad these fat bikes. We’ve already got bikes, why do you need one like this? It’s ridiculous, look how big the wheels are!” It’s pretty funny now that I’m the one who rides Fatty all the time and am always going on and on about how great it is to have a bike that can do the things that Fatty can do. There’s no way in hell I’d ever be able to ride a regular mountain bike in the places I take Fatty, and there’s no way I’d ever be able to make a regular mountain bike go as fast as I can get Fatty to go. On Fatty I feel like I’m invincible. I didn’t like Fatty in the beginning and sometimes it’s good to be wrong about things. Mr Fell was wrong about me too, when he believed I was worthless, and I was wrong about myself for a long time believing that I was fat, ugly and nonathletic.

Be wrong and see where it can take you

 

 

And we became The Sequestered

I wrote this story a couple of years ago. It’s a dystopian short story that relates somewhat to what we’re currently experiencing and it has a good ending:

The Drovers

First there were the bike riders.  They were on the highways, the backroads and the throughways.  I even saw some of them riding along the beach. They were everywhere it seemed, but I never really noticed them until it was too late. Just like the rest of humanity I was too busy swiping at my phone and commenting on Facebook to notice anything other than the Twittersphere. For me and people like me it was over long before it began.

“Why are you hanging out the window?” Sami asked me.

I wasn’t hanging at all, I was really only peeking out through the gap where the curtains met.

“I just thought, you know, that maybe the drovers might come through today,” I answered without looking around.

“Drovers? You’ve gotta be kidding me Tommy, they won’t be back this way for months yet.”

“Yeah, but Jonno said that he’d heard they’d rounded up a new lot. The breakaways from the sustainability movement. He reckoned they were bringing them through the valley in the next couple of days.”

“I wouldn’t believe anything Johnno says mate. You know what he’s like. Always making up cock and bull stories about one thing or another. Get away from the window before someone sees you and reports you, you bloody idiot.”

Sami was paranoid about the window. Usually I didn’t go near it, but I was longing to get a glimpse of the drovers. I’d never seen them and rumours were rife. I was sure my brother Saskia was one of them, but that wasn’t something I’d let anyone else in on. I felt that if I could just get a look at him and his wiry hair I’d know there was a way out of sequestration.

After the collapse the authorities directed everyone back to their homes and forced all people to remain indoors. We became The Sequestered. It was like this all across Australia and probably the whole world, but no one had any way of knowing anything other than what was happening in their own tiny sphere. In an instant we had gone from a society who knew no boundaries to only knowing four walls.

It didn’t matter anyway because there was no point going to work, to school or even to the park. Nothing worked anymore. The internet was gone and with it had gone our freedom, if indeed we were even free to begin with.

“Illusion,” I said out loud.

“What?” Sami asked.

“Illusion Sami, it was all a bloody illusion.”

“What was?”

“Life. The rat race, the pubs, the tele, the train timetable, work, Christmas, uni, dating. All of it.” I said with a rising tone.

“Let it alone Tommy. They’re gonna bloody hear you.” He looked towards the door with a wild eye.

“I don’t care anymore Sami!” I shouted back at him. I’ve got to get to Saskia and maybe if I shout loud enough they’ll come in here, cart me out and I’ll be sent out droving with the rest of them.”

“No Tommy, you don’t know that. They might put you on parade, mate. Cut you down in the main street like they did to Thursa.” His voice was a shouted whisper as he kept a furtive watch on the door. It was kept unlocked just like everyone else’s. A policy instated by the Sequestration Board.

Saskia was the one who pointed out the bike riders to me. He came home one day and said, “Tommy, I saw the weirdest thing today. I was driving along the highway and here comes this old bloke on a pushie with these big bags hanging off the side.  So, I slowed down to get a better look at his jallopie and the bags were grass catcher bags off a Victa ride on mower.  I went around the next bend and here are two more riders. They didn’t have mower bags on their bikes, but they were pretty laden down with stuff strapped down all over the frames of their bikes.”

The next day, instead of staring at my phone on the train ride to work I looked out the window and I looked at the other people sharing the carriage with me. Some of them had bulging hiking packs. I thought it was a bit weird, but how would I know if it really was?  Before then I couldn’t recall the last time I’d bothered to look up from my phone on the way to work.

Out the window I saw people riding horses along the side of the train track. Some of the horses were riderless and laden with bulky bags. I could have sworn I saw the barrel of a shotgun sticking out of one of the bags, but in an instant the horses were gone and when I turned back to the carriage a small spike of worry inched its way into my gut. What else had I missed in the world of flesh and blood?

Saskia offered himself up as a drover. Well, so I’d heard because the last time I’d seen him he was walking out the door and telling me not to worry about the team of gyro copters that had buzzed across the sky the previous night. We’d grown up on a big property out west and he was always good with horses, we both were. After I’d heard he’d gone droving I tried to enlist myself, but they wouldn’t accept me, told me I was too citified, that there was no way someone like me would be able to ride a horse, and I was herded back indoors.

The Sequestration Board was promising authority and small freedoms to those willing to chase down and bring in the breakaways:  the bike riders, hikers, gyro copter pilots and horse riders along the train tracks, plus the scores of others who had made their ways to the mountains to live in resistance to sequestration. They’d seen it coming long before any of us; the constant phone users, the Facebook fiends and the Twitter addicts. We thought we were connected and up to date, but all we’d done was left reality behind us and created a hyper version of the real world where everything wasn’t what it seemed. While we weren’t looking our future was being taken from us.

I couldn’t be bothered arguing with Sami anymore. It wasn’t his fault we were stuck here together, so I took a couple of deep breaths and prepared to apologise for losing my cool. Before I could open my mouth the door flung open and a Black Ranger grabbed me around the middle. My breath squashed out of me and there was no room in my lungs for new air. I felt like I was in a vacuum as the ranger hurled me down the stairs and onto the concrete path at the front of the building.

“You know we don’t tolerate your kind. There’s no room in sequestration for defectors,” the ranger growled through his mask. I couldn’t see his eyes and for a weird moment I wondered what colour they were.

“I’m not a defector, I’m just bored. What do you expect being shut up inside all day long? I can’t live like this. I’m being wasted here. I should be out droving and bringing those bastards in for the punishment they deserve.” I said with what I hoped sounded like conviction, although of course I didn’t mean it. I wished long and hard that I wasn’t blind for so long, then I would have been able to make my own way to the hills.

“Drovers are coming through today. Let them decide. Until then, get up and get moving. You gotta go on parade.”

“Parade? No need for that, I’ll just wait inside until then and you can come back and get me when the drovers arrive.”

“Shut up and get moving.” He said as he pushed me hard in the back with his big fist.

I thought I might throw up. Anything could happen on parade.  Thursa went on parade and never came back. It wasn’t something I ever really believed could happen to me, but it wasn’t like I had a choice so I let myself be propelled forward to the centre of the street.

I was nervous about being outside after so long shut up indoors. The air felt lighter out here and I was sure I could taste the ocean. I put one foot after the other and the bitumen cut into my bare feet. I was scared but at the same time I felt like maybe, just maybe this was going to be the day that would change everything.

I wasn’t out there for more than a minute when I heard the distant thunder of thousands of hooves. It sounded like a big rush, the kind that any good drover would want to avoid. I knew it, but I could see the ranger didn’t.

“That’s a rush coming. Better get off the road or we’ll be squashed flat out here.”

“Shutup and get walking.”

“I’m not kidding, mate. That’s a big mob headed straight for us. We can’t see them yet, but mark my words, they’re coming and there’s nothing that will hold back a mob that sounds as big as that.”

I could see he was starting to take me a little bit more seriously as the broken panes of glass began to rattle in the shop front next to him.  A piece of the shop façade shook free, landing at his feet and he promptly jumped to the right.

Whip cracks sounded and I could hear shouting, cooees and all manner of bush calls that rose on the thunderous approach. Maybe it’s not a rush afterall I thought. I could see the ranger was starting to lose his nerve. Afterall, he was probably just some bulked up twenty year old kid who didn’t have a clue about droving, cattle, horses or anything other than pumping iron at the gym.

The drovers approached in a brown cloud. They weren’t pushing a mob or driving breakaways, there were just thousands and thousands of them. Men, women and children. All on horseback and all at flat gallop. I’d never seen anything so spectacular in all of my life and it clear took my breath away.

The boss drover emerged at the front. The horse had its head as the rider swung two whips simultaneously to elicit an ear-splitting crack. Immediatley the overlanders at his back slowed to a trot and at the boss’s whistle they halted and the horses stood still, sweat and foam dripping off them everywhere.

His whips now stowed, the boss rode forward rolling a smoke with one hand, something Saskia was renound for. Some wirey hair poked out above his ears and I smiled.

“Saskia,” I whispered. “ I knew you’d do the right thing! How did you manage to get all these buggers together like this?”

“Mate, I just thought of how we used to round up all the boys when we were kids and set off on those wild rides through the mountains. The stuff that mattered to us back then, still matters now even though we forgot it for a while. All of us, all these people, they all just needed reminding,” he said as he gestured back towards the army behind him. “See, that’s what the collapse was for:  a wake up call.”

“I’m so glad you’re here.  I was on parade you know.  I thought you were bringing in defectors, but here you are a defector, no less the head defector, yourself! Bloody awesome.”

“Right now there’s mobs like this in every city in the country. Not all on horses of course. Some of us were working on the inside to disarm the authorities. It was a collaboration like the world has never seen before. It’s amazing what humans are capable of achieving through the collective when all the unimportant stuff is swept away.  We’ve got to start fresh Tommy, but in a way we’ve got to start old. Go back to the old values. Keep our sights set straight and true. It’s the only way forward.

“Sami!” I yelled up to the window. “Come down here right now. It’s time to get real!”

With trepidation people began emerging onto the street. The ranger who had so recently thrown me down the stairs stepped out from shadows onto the road. He pulled his mask off and threw it in the gutter. I saw then that his eyes were brown. Realisation fell on me. “Thursa!” I yelled.

“Sorry Tommy. I’m sorry. They made me. I had no choice.” He said with downcast eyes.

“You’re forgiven buddy,” I said as a grabbed him around the shoulders. “It’s good to have you back. It’s good to have everything back.”

***

We live in a time of dire predictions, fear and uncertainty. How will we prevail in such a calamitous future? Accepting that the predictions play out and the approaching end game arrives, we might open our hearts and minds that even through destruction, some of us may come to know a happiness that we would have been cut off from in the current model of life. Abundance might be possible and arrive in unimagined ways. New meanings and connections will form borne of liberations from a system that seeks to tie us down bodily and shackle us neurologically. Perhaps we can at last become what we were truly meant to be: HUMAN.

 

And the People Went Prawning

The Woodgate version of Kitty O’Meara’s poem:

And the people went prawning. And cast nets, and lines, and waited, and waited, and thought about the barra and the jack and were still in their boats and on their shore. And they listened to the ocean, the breeze and the white bellied sea eagle screeching overhead. Some people caught fish, others prawns and still others crabs. Some came home empty handed. And the people began to think differently.

And the people changed. The ones who had once taken more than their bag limit, lifted pots and took for granted their idyllic home, watched as the waters healed and the scorched bush regenerated. And after a time resilience led the way, it’s pillars holding back the loss, allowing people a new freedom and a new respect for each other and their home. They were healed of arrogance and dreamt dreams not of plunder, but of abundance, kindness, and a sustainable way of living, being and doing.

Still. And the people went prawning.

 

 

 

Sea sick

People probably think I’m a tough mofo, but I still get scared every now and then. It’s just that I don’t let my fear stop me. It’s not always easy.

I went fishing the other day with some awesome friends from Woodgate. A couple I lovingly refer to as The Tidies, which is an amalgamation of both their names, and another mate who could otherwise be known as Tytus Brosch (this in an in-joke that no one will understand, but I’m using here in the pursuit of anonymity and also because I wanted to draw a picture).

I really like boats and I like fishing, but it’s been many years since I was on a boat that wasn’t in command of the cool guy I’m married to and I was a bit worried about how my mate Tytus would behave on the water. What if he’s a total cowboy? I worried, and what if I need to pee out on the ocean when there’s three other poeple on a small boat? I wonder how long we’ll be out there. Will I get really hungry? What if the boat sinks? What if the waves are really big? On and on it went. None of that stuff was an issue. Tytus was great on the water, no hint of cowboy in him, but what I didn’t even consider for second was getting sea sick.

To my horror, I got sick! I was totally surprised because I’ve only ever been sea sick once when I was about eight years old, so I’ve been telling myself for years that don’t get sea sick and I’ve always felt a little bit self righteous about that.

One of us had already upchucked by the time we’d gotten to the first spot, and I said to myself, no way am I gonna let that happen to me, but as the morning wore on, I began to doubt my ability to follow through with that commitment. Even so, the remaining three of us didn’t say anything about feeling sick and we all kept fishing and joking around as though everything was perfectly normal, find and dandy.

After a while I felt I had to mention the situation and said, “Gees, I feel a bit sick.” Immediatley the other two people on the boat who didn’t appear sick at all yelled “Me too!”  and we all started laughing. All of us had been staying stum in an effort to hide our apparent “weakness”.

In the end we caught a few fish between us and had a great time, even though all of us were crook as dogs! We laughed about it and I guess that’s what will make the trip a lasting memory.

It’s always interesting to me that the things that I might be concerned about are never the things that come up as challenges. I’m really glad I didn’t let my reservations about the fishing trip stop me. I would never have had the opportunity to see this because I usually avoid getting up at 4am:

Sunrise through the mouth of the Burrum River. It’s a hard life in Woodgate. Oh, how I struggle. NOT!

 

What if the opposite of your fears transpired?

Feed my Frankenstein

I went to see Alice Cooper at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre the other night. I’m not a huge rock music fan, but I loved Alice Cooper when I was a teenager, especially the song Poison. I had the single on tape and listened to it over and over again on my little black Sanyo tape player; my prized possession back in the day. I don’t miss tapes, but that doesn’t change the fact that I think iTunes sucks balls.

Anyway, because I’m a tightarse I drove down to Brisbane and back home again straight after the gig. It’s a four hour trip each way. It’s just such a giant pain organising accomodation and it’s so freakin’ expensive for what it is. I couldn’t face the idea of having to weave my way out of Brisbane the next day, so driving home was the best option. Being a tightarse has consequences of course and the most obvious one in this situation is being tired the next day. There are other consequences too, but more about that in a minute.

This post refers to the Frankenstein that is my insatiable apeitite for learning (the title of this post is an Alice Cooper song about sexual appetite), leading me to embark on a year-long quest for learning how to do things I’d never done before. One of them is tap dancing.

I’ve had four tap dancing lessons and I still haven’t learned how to do anything apart from marching forwards and marching backwards (which everyone can already do without lessons). The teacher and the other ladies in the class spend most of the lessons talking about work (they are all teachers) and about their kids. The remainder of the lessons are spent focused on the ladies who can already dance, which I get because there’s five of them and I’m the only beginner, but that doesn’t change the fact that I paid $110 for the “term” We spend about a total of five – six minutes actually dancing in an hour long lesson, which doesn’t normally start until ten minutes past when it’s meant to. It always finishes exactly when it’s meant to, though.  At the lesson yesterday I really started to get pissed off.

I originally thought I might be too stupid to dance because I could never get anything right and couldn’t follow any of the complicated instructions the instructor gave me, but it turns out the reason for that is because she’s not actually teaching me anything, which I wouldn’t have realised had I not met Adam last week. Adam was there for a meeting after the dance class and I got talking to him as I was leaving. He told me about clogging lessons, which I’d never heard of, so I looked it up online, contacted the teacher and arranged to go along to a lesson last Saturday.

I was a bit worried it would be the same as the tap dancing class, but it was the polar opposite; everyone was friendly, the teacher explained every single thing she did, told us all what each move was called, repeated each step and built up to a simple routine that all of us could do easily by the end of the lesson, which all cost a total of $8 for an entire hour of dancing – not talking. The lesson started on time and finished on time, with another group commencing immediatley after the group I was in finished. There were about fifteen people in my group and more than twenty-five in the second group. One lady even had a baby strapped to her front as she danced!

During the week I spent a fair bit of time on YouTube looking at beginner’s tap dancing routines. They were all easy to follow, the instructors announced what the steps were called, how to count beats to the music and they all went over the importance of the ankle and knee positions, which is something I’d never heard of in the tap dancing classes.

Being a tight arse makes me want to go back to the tap dancing classes to get my value for money, but it doesn’t take away the fact that I’m pissed off about not learning anything in the classes. What I’m actually pissed off about, if I’m really honest, is that I duped myself out of the money I’ve paid up front (I’m sure it won’t be refunded if I quit and I accept that), so I’m actually pissed off at myself, not the teacher. I can see the tap dancing classes aren’t working for me, so I’m losing more than the money I’ve paid up front by trying to get what I’ve paid for by continuing to go to the classes; I’m losing my time, which is worse than losing money because it’s a piece of my life that I will never get back and there’s no way to put a price on that. Even though I know this, it’s really hard to let that money go. I feel like I’ve been ripped off, but the only person who has ripped me off is myself.

Still, if I never went to the tap dancing classes I would never have met Adam and found out about the clogging. I would never have met Dot at the clogging class, who told me about square dancing classes (I loved square dancing when I was a kid) once a week for $5. I would never have bought my tap dancing shoes, which I can use for clogging and I would never have discovered all the cool tap routines on the internet. I also would have never had the opportunity to draw the stupid pictures that I’ve put in this post. That in itself would have been a great loss to humanity!

So, I’m pulling the pin on the tap dancing classes. It’s hard to decide that and I want to run the story that tells me it might get better next week. But, like the cool guy I’m married to said, “if you haven’t learnt anything in four weeks of lessons, do you really think you’re going to learn anything in the remaining six?”

Learning isn’t always addition, it can be subtraction too

Don’t let the sunk cost fallacy hold you back

 

 

 

Cords, Cubes and the Death of Knives

I think I’m finally getting somewhere with this whole sucking thing. I’ve been practicing the banjo and I can actually play the entire dueling banjo song all the way through AND most of it actually sounds like the song from the movie, but in super slo-mo.

I have no idea what I’m doing, so I’m pretty much just making it all up as I go along. This is what I’m dealing with:

I= index R=ring M=middle

I had no idea how to play a cord, so I had to draw the way it looks so that I could understand it. It’s so bloody confusing because I couldn’t find instructions anywhere on which finger goes on which string on which fret, so I just had to work it out myself. I don’t know if this is “right”, but I’m kind of assuming that there must be no “right” otherwise it would be more obvious.

The tab (the sheet music) is just as confusing and I had to make all these notations on it so I knew which finger to use when I played the note. Again, I don’t know if I’m doing it “right”, but who cares. It’s not like I’m trying to get accepted into the Peabody Institute.

Click here to see what banjo tab for Dueling Banjos looks like. I don’t know what the bars along the bottom of each note mean, but I’m assuming they’ve got something to do with the speed the note has to be played at, which is something I learned in primary school like 35 years ago.

Even though it’s sort of coming together I still can’t imagine ever being able to play it like this.

The throwing knives I’ve been working on since the start of the year have had to be retired for a while. Two of the knives suffered a fatality the last time I used them, and it wasn’t like I threw them hard or anything. I’m also thinking that the instructional book I’ve got might be a bit shitty for learning from scratch, which is a pretty common thing so far. Instructions and teachers are never really that great for people who have no idea how to do something.

Two out of the three from the set are broken.

I’ve been working on solving a Rubik’s cube too. The instructions for that aren’t actually too bad, but I keep getting stuffed up when it comes to solving the top face. I’ve had it out once, so all I had to do was solve the pieces on the outside of the upperside, but I got confused about which was clockwise and which was anticlockwise. Unlike the banjo, the woodworking and the tap dancing I’m pretty confident I’ll get there in the end.

Solved bottom face (white) and bottom and middle layers. Click here for  the YouTube video I’ve been learning from.

One thing that hasn’t been that hard so far is the graffiti. I’m going to graffiti up the side of my house, so I’ve been playing around with what I’m going to draw. This is the start of it:

The two rectangles in the middle are the windows. I’m going for a climate change theme (but it might get changed) that will be overlayed with a story. It’s probably not going to be “real” graffiti because I won’t be using spraypaint. I don’t know how to use it properly and it’s also really expensive. I thought it a good idea to practice on paper before I commit anything to the wall.

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence – Abigail Adams

 

Sucking really Sucks!

I had my first ever tap dancing lesson yesterday. I was really excited about it because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I had new shoes, so of course, that in itself is very exciting and I was dying to try them out:

I was disappointed with the first lesson and I had to fight hard not to get pissed off at myself (I couldn’t follow what everyone else was doing), at the teacher (she didn’t explain things very well [at all really] to begin with) and at the other people in the group (they’d all been dancing together for more than a year and all pretty much ignored me). To be really honest, it was actually hard not to cry because I felt so stupid and like I didn’t belong. The whole entire lesson the teacher and the other ladies talked about their kids or the kids they were teaching (some of them must have been teachers) and because I don’t have kids (or a job) it was like I wasn’t even there because there was no way for me to participate in the conversation. At one point I almost said, “Oh, yeah, my friend’s daughter does that too.” But I stopped myself because it would have drawn attention to how strange it was to invoke a friend’s child when they were all talking about their own.

When I felt like I wanted to cry, I said to myself, “no, fuck you. I’m doing this. It doesn’t matter about any of that other shit. I’m doing it.” This is the same inner mongrel that rises up and gets me through stuff when it’s hard. I wanted to play the brain injury card in my mind. It’s story I tell myself about why it’s hard for me to learn new stuff: I have a brain injury and that’s why I can’t get pattern-based activities (like dancing), but this time, I tried something new and told myself that there would be no brain injury card and that I would act like a “normal” person and just learn without telling myself little stories about why things are difficult. I also made a promise that I wouldn’t reveal to the teacher or the class that I had a brain injury. It’s certainly a fact that I have a brain injury and as a result, face challenges that non-brain injured people don’t, but revealing that I’m brain injured has never helped me in the past, so I decided that it’s pointless revealing that aspect of my life to anyone anymore.

I guess every approach to learning something new is going to have its limitations. If I learn at home on my own, I’m limited because it takes a long time to work out how to do stuff, and even then, I don’t know if I’m doing it right. If I learn in a group, especially a group that’s already formed, like the tap dancing group, it’s hard to fit in because groups have a dynamic and once a group is formed, it’s difficult for it to absorb new members, especially if the common ground is something that is not shared by the new member (in this case it seemed to be kids).

After feeling like I stuck out like a sore thumb in the dance class I got to feel like I was on display as I walked back to my car. A group of about 12 bearded, black t-shirted, rum can toting dudes were hanging out in front of a house across the street from where I’d parked. All of them leaning on cars, they stopped chatting and stared right at me, one guy elbowing the nearest bloke and pointing at me with his bearded chin. I got in the car, gave them a huge smile and waved at them as I drove off. None of them waved back. I went and got a pizza and ate the whole thing without feeling one shred of guilt because when you burn a bazillion calories everyday you can pretty much eat whatever the hell you like and still have legs for days.

It’s really very hard to suck at stuff, like so hard. I never really considered how shitty it might make me feel when I decided to commit to a year of sucking. I just told myself a little story of how it’s going to be awesome to learn all this new stuff, and oh, imagine all the new and wonderful friends I will make! Happy days afoot.

The way to manage this is to keep returning to things I know I’m good at or at least I’m comfortable with because to suck 100% of the time, would just, well, you know, suck! I’m 100% in control of my own body and I feel good about that and happy about all the work I’ve done and still do to make sure that I’m mentally and physcially fit and healthy: counting calories, running, cycling, walking, swimming, skipping, hard style dance, hiking, reading, writing, cooking and just generally being creative.  This is what some of that looks like:

A day out of my calorie book. I aim for 1700 calories a day, so this one is a bit over at 1935, but I allow myself this as it’s still in deficit (anything below 2000).

The blackboard where I track my weight lifting sessions. I don’t like weightlifting, but I do it because I like the results, and I’m also comfortable with it. If I didn’t record it on this blackboard, I’d never have kept at it. I rub it off everytime it fills up (like now) and start again with heavier weights. To keep the hatred at bay I never try to change the sets and reps. It’s always two sets, one of six reps and the second of four reps. The abs along the bottom have two sets of ten rep each, so 60 reps in total for each session, plus a one minute plank -ugh 😦

One way I keep my brain healthy: reading and writing. I know I’m good at these things because I’ve been doing them since I was about 3 or 4 years old.

So, in the face of sucking I look at what I’ve been able to achieve so far in my life and use that as a way to get through things when they seem hard. Recording everything I do is a great way to track my progress. Sometimes it feels like progress isn’t happening, but when everything is recorded, you can see that you’re getting somewhere and it means you’re less likely to give up, especially when stuff is new and you feel like you suck because new things are nearly always HARD, and just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s going to be hard forever.

Sucking is finite: Unleash your inner mongrel