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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

For me, one of the unfortunate side effects of anxiety fuelled neurosis, aside from, say, mentally planning a camping trip down to the single food item details – 8 months in advance, is that my high speed mental anguish is often accompanied by an almost physical paralysis. Meaning that while my mind is busy inventing and solving inane problems to the point of lunacy, my actual doing self is rendered somewhat inert.

So it comes as no surprise that while at the op-shop the other day, a particular title caught my eye:

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

At a time when the self help phenomena is providing the blueprint for our modern lives, it made perfect sense for me to consult the wisdom of Stephen Covey on how I might incorporate some utility into my life, because if the cover was anything to go by, there was only one place this would take me: straight to Success.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Right away, I was told that this would lead to Private Victory, and after having just suffered a brutal loss trying to conquer a Satay sauce, I desperately needed a win. I was paying close attention. All I needed to do was “stand away from myself”. After a few futile attempts of standing in the corner, and then dashing to the centre of the room in a bid to leave myself behind, the penny dropped. Covey meant that I should stand in front of the mirror, and then take some steps backwards. I immediately did this, and felt better right away. I guess this was some kind of trick exercise, forcing me to take initiative and thereby master Habit 1.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

At first this sounds like some kind of sagacious riddle uttered by an old wizard tapping the tips of his fingers together and smiling cryptically, but it’s actually just a straightforward matter of Personal Leadership (and having a good imagination). It’s a bit like the everlasting wisdom found in the Field of Dreams movie; “if you build it, they will come”. In my case, I just pictured myself standing atop of a mountain making the victory symbol with one hand, and punching the air with the other. Now it’s only a matter of sitting back and waiting for Success to happen.

Habit 3: Put First things First

Not to be confused with putting first things last. The essence of this habit is actually derived from the seminal ‘Common Denominator of Success’, which found that, “successful people have the habit of doing things failures don’t like to do”. I’m not sure if it was typo to not capitalise “failures” as it was clearly being used as a noun, but regardless, I got the irony of the message; to be successful you have to clean the toilet.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

This is Covey’s way of saying that the old adage ‘its my way, or the highway” has become redundant, and that we need to learn how to drive together to a “higher plane”. At first I thought this was advocating illicit drug use, but then I realised he was merely advocating mutually beneficial arrangements, much like the sexual act of 69’ing.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

Here Covey tells us that, “all the well meaning advice in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if we are not even addressing the real problem”. And while I have no idea how it is that a hill of beans has come to represent some kind of achievement, I did at least recall some torturous moments from my teenage years, where I would yell dramatically at my father “why don’t you understand me?” only to be greeted with doe eyed confusion. I see now, that had I taken in account his profound deafness, things might not have been so bewildering.

Habit 6: Synergize

I didn’t even need to read this one given that I once participated in a Contact Improvisation class. After experiencing the sensation of fifteen people coming together in a seamless, withering mass of human body contact in the name of ‘dancing’, I feel I have the kind of grasp on the concept of the ‘sum of the parts being greater than the whole’ that I am only too happy to let it reside unexplored in my subconscious. Forever.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

This one is pure practicality, reminding me that if I am to behead the likes of Stephen Covey, I best prepare my tools.

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I have come to look on the Christmas period with bewildered amusement.

The lead up to The Big Day itself is so charged and crazed that the air is thick with a kind of mass hysteria and there is a maniacal “pushing of cheer” (if drug dealers were pushing their product with this kind of frenzy, there would be a military intervention).

Its not just that its omnipresent – carols playing at almost subliminal levels in every shopping centre, decorations plastered all over houses, and the closure of every important medical and bureaucratic establishment in sight, suggesting that thou shall not be sick and needy in the festive season– it is that there is a kind of forcefulness behind it all, like it is something, that we Simply. Must. Enjoy.

And then for all the monsoon-esq months of build up, The Big Day arrives, and it’s really Just. Not. That. Exciting…

It is quite possibly one of the biggest anti-climaxes on earth, and it is no wonder people spend the day a bit confused and glum. They feel deflated, but are unable to put their finger on the fact that they have been cheated on the promised delivery of ecstasy (in my generation this is what is commonly known as a big, fat come down).

But not only is it not all that exciting, it is in actual fact very, very stressful. And while some breeds amongst, say paramedics and politicians, tend to confuse the two, its safe to say most of us don’t enjoy the stress.

I actually thought I was going to make it through relatively unscathed this year, then my family started imploding all around me and I suddenly found myself paying more mind to the ‘how to survive Christmas’ articles that were popping up all over the place.

It seems gone are the days we keep dysfunction in the closet, and like tobacco company’s coming out from the secrecy of the dark, we too are making feeble attempts to contain a killer beast with some warning labels.

Mia Freedman’s approach was humour. She ran an advice column on the ‘Five Stresses of Christmas’ with a biting dig of ‘Playing Happy Families’ coming in at number two on her list. In the same mag, Sarah Wilson went for a more spiritual approach, saying that her aim this year was to ‘lower the bar’, and rather than seek happiness she would settle for cultivating some good old Buddhist cheer. But Woman’s Weekly took the cake, featuring a professional psychologist outlining the ‘seven key festive flashpoints’ in a section of the mag titled ‘survival tactics’.

But my overwhelming reaction to these guides was, in a nutshell, ‘what the fuck?!’

If we are now publicly admitting that we need professional help to get through Christmas, then wouldn’t we be better off abandoning the whole silly charade altogether instead of arming people with survival guides?!

Or at the very least having them feature some true to form survival tactics, like, “baton down the hatches!”, “get down low and go-go-go”, “if you cant hack the heat – get out of the country”. Useful things like that?

For my own part, I‘ve decided to go with my therapist’s generous advice for dealing with family dysfunction this Christmas: pretend they are someone else’s family.

And in response to the fever pitch of sickening and shallow consumption, I brought all my gifts secondhand, and then attached moral and righteous, ‘ethical’ Santa tags that read:

“Australians spend more than 1.5billion dollars on goods and items at Christmas, using 38billion litres of water. You would have to leave your garden hose running for 324 years to use that much water” and “125000 tonnes of plastic packaging – equal to the weight of 50000 polar bears – will end up in the bin after Christmas”.

I toned it down, not wanting to create to much of a fuss or a downer, I mean, who wants to eat trucks loads of food, wash it down with gallons of booze, be surrounded by piles of spanking new goods (not from me), and mountains of trash – and hear about how we currently consume 30% more natural resources than the world’s ecosystem can replenish, or that the Western world spends more on luxury goods than it would cost to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals?

I mean, what a way to kill the spirit of the day. I’d rather leave that to the divorce hanging over my brother’s head, the separation that’s causing behavioural problems in the children, my sisters extreme anxiety, my father inability to be pleasant and my mothers stress going off the radar.

Sounding a bit too bitter?

Come for a day in the life of our family and see if you cant be.

Merry Christmas!

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A blog was always going to be a bit of an interesting option for me, the semi- computer literate, social networking nobody that until recently hadn’t even read a blog. But like all young hopefuls, I just turned to Google for answers and guidance. I read all sorts of advice and top-10-tips for starting blogs, and when they bellowed loudly that you must have a topic, you must know what you are talking about, I just shrugged my shoulders and thought, easy, I’ll be talking about me.

But I was wrong. It’s not easy. Because the world of blog is not all it seems.

Its not self indulgent self publishing. It’s reading and research and lots of fluffing and puffing and ass kissing and prancing, and its serious social networking and self promotion.

And sure, maybe its only those things if you have a certain agenda, like having someone who is not your boyfriend read your blog. But being young and impressionable, I tend to get caught up in agendas that are not necessarily mine. And in being conflicted in nature, I tend to say agendas are not mine when perhaps, on some level, there are.

And so I began to fret and feel the pressure of it all, because this is one of my finely honed responses to life – feel the weight of it.

I found myself checking and rechecking, like someone with a compulsive twitch, to see if anyone, anywhere, had left any comments. And it soon became clear that somewhere along the way my desire to document the life and times of me would only have any value if it was being consumed by others.

So when my boyfriend explained that the whole premise is built on this ‘networking’ idea and that I should comment on other people’s blogs, I busily set off into the blogsphere.

I followed links here there and everywhere and felt like I had walked the virtual world fifty times over. I had 20 screens open, watery eyes, and a kind of shell shocked exhaustion that could be liken to flying straight into Mexico for 2 days, before hitting the Amazon, flying out to New York, then rural American, then back to suburban Australia. You would no sooner adjust to the tone and language and nuances of one country before you clicked yourself away into another dimension. The world is a big place, and on the internet you can travel around it far, far too quickly.

The cacophony of differing voices swallows you whole, and your spinning around trying to find an exit, trying to turn the volume down. Or at least find someone you actually want to genuinely talk to.

But like a young kid trying to learn the ropes of a new school playground, I hung back and watched. (Oh, and I joined twitter. I have one follower).

Some people wrote sickeningly sycophantic fan mail comments, some stayed in character constantly, never failing to crack a witticism, others seemed genuinely interested and full of praise – all of them were diligent. And not just the commentators. The bloggers were quick to reply back to each and every comment with humble thanks and praise in return. When I mentioned on one site that this was my first visit, I soon found a personal email in my inbox thanking me for stopping by.

I even somewhat serendipitously, but not for good, stumbled on a blog entry from a ‘popular’ blogger about the evolution and agonies of this blogging world. A more eloquent account from the perspective of someone who knows what they are talking about on the crisis of writing for yourself but putting it in a public domain, riding the treacherous wave of rising and falling self esteem, obsessing over stats and traffic, and oh-my-god-the-stress-and-weight-of-it-all, and shit that was great timing reading that one. She had 15543 billion comments, yet she still found time to respond to my ‘holy shit that’s encouraging’ remarks with a little motherly reassurance.

It was like customer service in overdrive. I am shit at customer service. I have been fired from countless jobs, walked out on just as many and had letters of complaint written about me. How was I ever going to get my head around this virtual world of marketing, client based relations and social networking?!

So after a long and detailed week long conversation with myself, I decided, unconvincingly and after much deliberation, that, its not supposed to matter, and I should get back to the task at hand of documenting myself.

But not for the general public, or my unfound virtual friends, but for the future anthropologist that unearths cyberspace and seeks to find answers to our failed existence. Because its not all just ass-wiping mums, wisecracking wise guys, and overly earnest care bears. There are anxiety ridden, sometimes insecure and mostly neurotic, uncertain people out there too, and they, more than anyone, are more likely to hold the key to our downfall.

So I figure I best get back to it so that they might know of my view from the gutter, cuz like that old wino said, not all of us are looking at the stars, some of us are staring at all that pigeon shit and worrying what the hell to do about it.

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