On being mad.

I used to think that personal development was something I worked on only in my career. But this year has taught me that developing yourself is a lifelong commitment, like working on a relationship. I mean, I see enough memes and pious bloody self love quotes on Instagram to have known that already, but it didn’t sink in quite as well as the pics of Rihanna’s ( . ) ( . )

Self-medicating with alcohol or time with friends has been my way of coping in life so far. Self-reflection is something I’ve avoided, because what’s going on in my brain was a festering can of worms. But anxiety and depression have a way of exploding that can, so that worms are flung over your life at speed. And you’re forced to inspect them.

Cognitive behavioural therapy as a result of my diagnosis dragged my reluctant head out of my arse to look at the issues I have, and have had for a long time. And figure out more helpful ways to think. Like understanding how I want to control things, leading to a feeling of panic when that isn’t possible. That I have way too low boundaries (sorry everyone I’ve told an inappropriate story about my personal life to… so yeah, everyone I’ve ever met), which means I don’t protect myself from people who don’t necessarily care about me. And my habit of bending over backwards at the beginning of relationships – hence my pretending to be a mature teetotal librarian at 18 when dating an older man, and in another relationship being *so* totally chill I didn’t need to be called his girlfriend for 10 months.

(sorry everyone I’ve told an inappropriate story about my personal life to… so yeah, everyone I’ve ever met)

Fuck though, that stuff is hard to put into practice. Being angry and inappropriate is part of my identity. It’s most of what I find funny about myself. It took me a while, but eventually I figured out what bits of me flying off the handle were harmful, and a reaction to resenting a lack of control, and which were for comic effect and/or justified.

“I’m going to start meditating and doing yoga and be a fucking zen MASTER, bitches!” I screamed into friends’ faces. Clearly that will never be me, but having panic attacks over who’s president of another country no longer happens. So I’m at least 5% zen.

My therapy highlight was probably hearing “Amazing Hannah, I’m so proud of you,” when I revealed that I’d dumped the guy I’d been seeing by text. “You put the least amount of energy possible into that, and it’s what the situation deserved.” (Caveat: please do not break up with your spouse or partner of several years this way. The guy in question was a bit of a twat and had only been in my life a few months. Therapist man was correct, it was the appropriate amount of effort.) Also, I figured out he was a twat about 4 years earlier than my average – go me!

All this self-reflection and mental homework means I haven’t achieved that much else this year. Plus, you know, being depressed and anxious is pretty time consuming in itself. I’ve managed to do the work I need to be paid my wage, lift weights a few times a week, and see my friends and family. I’ve achieved a reduction in the crazy scale™ from 15 to 3. And that’s ok. It’s only August. My focus for the rest of the year, now I’m sane again, is to get my career moving forward again, rather than treading water. To lift MOAR weights. Actually, to lift my body weight up over a bar, which is harder than it looks! And to end the year happy. With all the pondering of the last eight months, I now know what that takes, so I may have a better chance of achieving that last goal than doing a pull up…

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How My Little Ponies helped me get a job.

I’ve been in my marketing job at VPN service provider Hide My Ass! for nearly a year now, and sometimes I forget the ridiculousness of how I got this job in the first place. And I’ve never written about it! I’ve spent the past 11 months creating campaigns, landing pages, rehauling our entire email marketing strategy, and learning, learning, learning. So forgive me for forgetting to tell you about the amazingly ridiculous way in which I actually got here.

Back in April 2014, I was looking for a job in a start-up. I’d left my old company Redgate (where I’d spent 7 brilliantly fun years), and was coming to the end of a 6 month contract at a company that was a lot more corporate. It was great experience for my CV, but more than that, it made me realise I need that innovative, flexible and exciting start-uppy atmosphere! Hence the specific search.

In my search, I stumbled across this ad, requesting a shark wrangler. The dry wit, surrealism and personification of a (nearly) inanimate object struck a chord. If you’ve encountered Princess Tallulah, you’ll understand. (Although obviously PT is real and if you say otherwise I will hit you).

ANYWAY, I thought me and this random company seemed like a match made in heaven, so I rattled out this email in a matter of minutes, explaining what Princess Tallulah and I could offer:

Email application

     

Along with my CV and this lovely picture of PT hard at work:

PT  

I got a call within about 20 minutes from their internal recruiter, and we had a slightly hysterical conversation where I cried with laughter for a bit (I think I managed to rein in the snort at that stage), and then he was like ‘So as you attached your CV, can I assume you’re interested in a role? Because we have a marketing role coming up, we’ve just not advertised it yet’.

WELL IF THAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU BELIEVE IN FATE, WHAT WILL?   Long story short, I interviewed, talked about cheese, said I liked Nerf guns and gave them some real stats from my career (the ones in the email were slightly exaggerated, you see), and I got a job as Marketing Executive!  

And I can honestly say this feels like the best career move I’ve ever made. I loved Redgate with the cult-like fervour only that weird place can generate, but the amount I’ve learnt here, how creative I’m allowed to be (more on that in another post), and how confident I’ve become is testament to the fact that this is the place for me right now.

The importance of working somewhere that aligns with your personality, values and attitude is the difference between a job and a fulfilling career.

So, sorry, I’m one of those annoying people who loves their job.

Rescuing horses is such a fulfilling business…

Horse Tales – Part 2

After the seventh attempt to get her to walk up the ramp onto the trailer, the will to rescue this mangy old nag was quickly slipping away, as was the control over my temper.

Standing in the rain in the car park of the Manchester Arms using every trick my friend Si and I knew to get a horse that wasn’t even mine to load onto a trailer wasn’t my idea of a fantastic Saturday afternoon.

Harley didn’t seem to understand that I was trying to save her from freezing/starving to death under the neglectful care of her owner. Either that, or she thought it was hilarious to be an awkward bitch.

We tried putting some straw down to cover the ramp; horses aren’t the cleverest of animals and are easily duped. Apparently not this one though. She’s cleverer than she looks, contrary to the myth about Thoroughbreds being the bimbos of the horse world.

We tried looping a lunge line round her bony arse to persuade her to walk forwards. That resulted in her spinning round, knocking Si over and getting her legs tangled in the lunge line in the process.

We tried everything. And you know what; I can’t even remember what worked in the end. I think she just got bored of mocking us and getting wet and decided to put herself on the trailer in her, what I was soon to learn was typical, contrary fashion.

I felt very pleased with myself, in a holier-than-thou and virtuous way. I had SAVED this poor, defenceless animal. She would have DIED that winter were it not for me.

Little did I know I’d regularly be wishing death upon her for the next five years.

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Look at that innocent face.

The (first) time I wanted to murder a pony

Horse Tales – Part 1

The first time I felt like killing Harley was the day I first tried to catch her. Although she was perfectly happy to plod over when she was being fed, the tell-tale flash of headcollar from behind my back told her that something TERRIBLE would happen if she came near me. For headcollars equate to being beaten with sticks wrapped in barbed wire, being electrocuted, or being subjected to Chinese Water Torture. OH THE HORROR!

I just wanted to give her a brush and take her for a little trot round the field.

I soon learnt that there was no fooling this horse. Many others had gone before me, and many others had failed. So after I’d wasted a quarter of an hour, I stopped trying to hide the headcollar behind my back and pretending that I was just going to feed her. I had to use more devious tactics to bring this mare round.

I started to fuss over the other horses, giving them scratches and treats. I didn’t look in her direction as I was no longer interested in her. In fact, she bored me.

Drama queens don’t like getting ignored, so I soon got her attention. When she looked a bit interested in what I was doing, I chased her away. I don’t want you. Go away, boring pony. Nope, I want this other horse over here.

Not revolutionary; anyone who’s a bit into Monty Roberts knows the Join Up technique that he’s famous for. But this was the first time I’d tried it and I didn’t really know what I was doing. So it was a bit of a long shot.

After ten minutes I had her cantering round me on roughly a 20 metre circle. After ten more minutes, she started to look over at me, wanting to come in. I flicked the rope to keep her away. I got her to change to trot using my voice, then back up to canter, then right down to walk. And so on, for about twenty minutes.

Eventually, she began to relax and started stretching down. Thank God! I thought she never would. I softened my body language and she gradually slowed to a walk and came in towards me. I took a step towards her. She stayed put. I reached out and touched her neck. All was good. Breathing slowly, staying calm, I got the lead rope out and slid it gently over her neck. Slowly, I untangled the headcollar, got the noseband out and started to slide it over her nose…

And she fucked off across the field so fast you’d think her tail was on fire.

 

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The time I saw loads of naked models

Getting models undressed on your day off sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I thought so too, which is why I agreed to help my recruiter friend out and play around backstage at the Snow Queen runway show at Grand Arcade on 26th October.

On the morning of the show I was giddy as a racehorse at the starting gates – I had no idea what to expect, didn’t know what to wear, and I was pretty nervous that I’d totally fuck it up, enraging a cocaine-fuelled, anorexic model in the process.

The task of giving a model some stuff to wear, helping her get in and out of it and ready for the next scene in the show isn’t exactly cerebral. But actually –  it’s not as easy as you’d think, as I found out when I got my model’s fiddly buckled shoes on before I’d given her the tights she was supposed to be wearing. She left the changing area bare legged and I was left shamefaced.

The model herself was one of the most gorgeous things I’d ever seen. So I was pretty sure she was going to be a right bitch and I braced myself to get a phone lobbed at my head.  Actually, the only thing that hit my head was a bony elbow as I scrabbled round on the floor while clothes were being flung on. That was followed by profuse and sincere apologies rather than ‘get out of my fucking way, minion’, as I’d expected. I’m pretty sure she ate actual food as well. There was talk of Sag aloo. Yeah, I know!

Furthermore, I didn’t witness any cocaine sniffing, puking up of food, or drama queen hissy fits. A little disappointing, but a lot more pleasant than expected.

It was definitely fun. But I can’t see me leaving my comfy desk job with free lunches to run around after women that make me feel like an obese dwarf.  So you can relax, Red Gate.

PS: The male models were well hot.

Oh Flores…

Flores is the kind gorgeous that grabs hold of you tightly, Lonely Planet proclaims.

But as we trudged away from the fifth dingy hotel, still yet to find a room in Labuan Bajo, the ‘next big thing’ in Nusa Tengarra didn’t seem as charming as promised, with its corrugated iron roofed shacks and dour hotel staff who seemed affronted that we’d wish to sully their establishment with our presence.

It took leaving Labuan Bajo on a car tour to see what the guide books were so excited about.

Driving along impossibly steep and winding roads, corrugated iron roofed huts were suddenly quaint, surrounded as they were by palm trees and stunning mountain views.
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See?

Anyway, there are rocky streams emerging from the jungle, reminiscent of Bali’s countryside. Except these ones are lacking the obligatory pile of debris lying next to it.

The stunning jungle landscapes, volcanoes and coastline make up for the vertebrae-shattering drive along still-developing roads.

It nearly makes up for the people in the towns and cities, who seem begrudgingly reliant on tourists. Friendliness is only found in the countryside, and the male population haven’t yet heard that cat calling and leering isn’t OK any more. Walking down the street felt intimidating and I was extremely glad I was travelling with a couple of other people, as doing Flores on your own wouldn’t be fun.

Seeing the sun rise over Gunung Kelimutu was fun, however:

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And posing with a Komodo dragon was also fun (if slightly terrifying):

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So, I’m glad I’ve seen Flores as it’s truly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. And I got to see dragons and a hobbit, which is kind of cool, right?

Those Christians are right, yoga is evil.

In my previous post, I alluded to the amount of yoga I’ve been attempting since arriving in Indonesia. Some of those experiences are just too special to keep to myself.

Particularly the Flying Yoga class. The idea is that you work in pairs or groups and suspend each other in mid-air using your amazing yoga poses and strength. If you possess any, that is.

But before we got to that part, we had to warm up.

The first task was to introduce ourselves, by saying our name – and revealing which animal we’d be and why. Never one to take such things too seriously, I said in a dippy-sounding voice, that I’d be a unicorn, because they’re ‘magical’.

Next, the Brazilian guy co-leading the class (reminiscent of Salvadore of Couples Retreat) whipped out a ukulele.

He then started singing chants to us, which he explained were to encourage the spirit to enter us. We were to join in. I was slightly concerned as I’m not sure I want some strange spirit entering me, and the fact that  I was desperately trying to hold onto the laughter that was threatening to explode out of my big gob meant that my chanting was limited. So I don’t think I was spiritually violated. Phew.

Once the naughty spirit had penetrated everyone else, we started the bonding exercises. The first of which was to hug the stranger – I mean new-found-BFF – next to us for around 30 seconds.

I’m British. I don’t even hug my mother for that long.

After more warm ups involving invasion of my personal space, I felt not only violated, but concerned that I’d stumbled into a commune, and would be asked to contribute my financial assets, and take place in the compulsory orgy that evening.

Luckily (or disappointingly), my paranoid fantasies were not realised and we just did some yoga. It was a bit boring really.

Even so, I declined to be put on the mailing list. I’ve read about grooming.

Not sure I’m cut out for this

Well this really is overdue, isn’t it? Oops. I’ve just been so busy since I came to Indonesia. Seriously, I’m exhausted.

Lying on the beach (Bali, Gili Islands, right now…), doing meditative yoga (Ubud), and eating fresh seafood (everywhere) really takes it out of you.

Every few days I’ve had to have a massage just to rid myself of the tension that comes with being on the road.

Anyway, must dash. Someone just brought some fresh juice over to me. No rest for the wicked and all that.

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Bali, you’ve got a tough act to follow.

I’ve just arrived in Bali after spending 1 1/2 weeks in Sarawak. I literally had to force myself to leave, or I’d have left myself no time to explore Indonesia. There were still things I wanted to do and I felt so at home there it was hard to tear myself away.

Looking back, I realise I didn’t really know what to expect from Kuching (the city in Sarawak that I based myself in), so it would have been difficult to be disappointed. But in actual fact, it was better than I could have envisaged.

As well as trying a myriad of new things (kayaking, caving, jungle trekking, bee larvae), staying in Kuching has given me an insight into Sarawak culture that I’ve never had as a tourist before.
This is down to the guys at Singgahsana Lodge, where I stayed. When the brother and sister-in-law of one of the receptionists asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner on my first night, I was pretty sure it was out of pity, as I was sitting at the bar on my own like one of those sad old men you avoid in the pub. But then when they invited me to join them and a bunch of friends at Damai beach the following night, I relented and decided I didn’t care if it was pity driving their generosity.

And so, I was introduced into their group of friends, along with Leah, a German tour guide/intern who’d moved to Kuching a couple of weeks earlier.

Through my new Malaysian friends, I learnt things about Sarawak and Malaysia that I’d never have found out on my own.

Like the fact that, according to one government official, wearing v-neck tops indicates that a guy is gay. And if a girl hangs out with other girls a lot, she’s probably a lesbian.

Or that your rates for loans are determined by your ethnic group. (Seriously).

Politics aside, I also found out that they really like to eat innards. That they love to drink. And that a Chinese/Sarawak barbecue is possibly the greatest eating event you can attend. Seriously – they had sweet and sour chicken, pork belly and SUSHI – all home made – amongst the more conventional barbecue fare.

So Bali had better be pretty fucking amazing, or I’m going back.

The Singgahsana Gang