On Monday morning, Mum and I went down to Westfield Fountain Gate Shopping Centre to get our annual Santa photos done. This year’s theme was The Smurfs and so the whole wonderland leading up to Santa’s throne was decked out with inflatable Mushroom houses, large trees with LED fairy lighting and the Smurfs themselves doing various activities including painting, baking and smelling a flower.
Thankfully it was very quiet at the time so we didn’t have to wait very long at all to get the photos done. I wasn’t really in the best headspace this morning with various mental and emotional issues going on but I maintained the best composure I could and “smiled for the camera”. Though I was even feeling self-conscious about that as well as I couldn’t get my pose right at all.
Santa: What do you want for Christmas Michael? Me: Happiness. Self-confidence. A life purpose. A sense of belonging with others. A direction in life. And to find love.
Doing some early Christmas shopping with Mum did help me take my mind off things a little. I do love looking in $2 shops and homewares stores for Christmas related cards, stickers, ornaments and gift ideas as it’s only five weeks until Christmas. I honestly don’t feel organised at all this year but I’m sure it’ll all come together eventually.
On Monday night, I did my second Weight Lifting class with Abhishek Ashokkumar at The Yard Strength & Fitness in Pakenham. I’ve spent the last week seriously thinking about what I’m doing in terms of my fitness goals and where I want to be training. I’ve been very reluctant about committing myself to Abhi and Silverback Training Co. mainly because of my own insecurities, trust issues and past hurts.
There’s also the usual fears when it comes to group social situations. Not fitting in. Not speaking up enough. Being laughed at or embarrassed. Being the odd one out. Competition and comparing myself to others. Favouritism. Feeling sidelined and socially excluded. But there comes a point in time where you have to go “Fuck it. I’m done with my anxiety holding me back. I’ve gotta give this a chance. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Tonight’s session was actually a WOD (Workout of the Day) to celebrate Emma and Claire going away together on holiday. Basically, we had to partner up and pick a card from a standard deck of playing cards. Each card was designated a certain movement or exercise that we had to perform during the workout (Spade: Cleans. Diamonds: Squats. Clubs: Stiff-leg Deadlifts. Hearts: Wall Climb. Face: 100 skips + 10 rep movement. Ace: 4 x tyre flips. Joker: 20m rope pull).
If we couldn’t complete the required reps or finish the movement, the penalty was running with our partners to the end of the street and back. We each had to alternate in picking up a card so we could recover in between movements. It was a really tough workout, especially the 100 skips and the wall climbs but at the same time, I actually enjoyed it due to the sense of team spirit within the group. Nobody felt left out and we all encouraged each other to get through the 50 minute workout.
I’m only two sessions in and already I’m feeling quite positive about being a part of this group. I felt a lot more comfortable and less anxious than last week. Getting to know people takes time. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. It’s one of those things that it takes me a while to warm up to a new group and be able to let my guard down, let them in and be myself. One step at a time.
On Tuesday night, I headed down to YMCA Casey RACE for a Swim, Spa and Sauna session. Of course being a 31 degree day, the pool was packed tonight and I was lucky to find a parking spot. I was going to do a Water Workout class but didn’t really feel up to it with the heat draining me of energy today. Instead, I decided to spend an hour doing recovery, doing some gentle exercise and swim practice.
I really surprised myself by swimming in the slow lane for the first time ever. I alternated between breast stroke and doggy paddle as these are the styles I’m strongest at and got myself comfortable enough to swim the length of the pool. I’ve honestly achieved a lot in the last 12 months in terms of my confidence in the water. I always had a fear of “the deep end” but now I’ve managed to smash through that fear. Next goal on the list is to try a Deep Water Running class. https://www.caseyrace.ymca.org.au/a…
On Thursday afternoon, I had my counselling session with Ruth at Piece Together Counselling in Narre Warren. Today I talked about how life and external pressures from work have been bringing me down lately. I’ve had moments where I haven’t felt appreciated or heard by others and that got me really frustrated and upset. The recent Spring heatwave has also been a major factor in influencing my moods as high temperatures make me feel drained, worn out and unmotivated. Overthinking and being too hard on myself are still things that are works in progress in my life.
Then there’s the fact that it’s almost 4 weeks until Christmas and I’ve yet to get myself organised for it. But I’m learning to not succumb to the pressure society places on us to rush down to the store, spend big and find those “perfect” gifts. I don’t care for the materialistic aspects of Christmas anymore. All I care about is spending time with the people I care about and that’s it. I guess I just haven’t been prepared for it and it’s really caught me off guard this year. I’m going to give myself permission to have an easy-going Christmas this year.
I also talked about how much behaviour from childhood has influenced and contributed towards my recent diagnosis of Mild High Functioning Autism. I was very much a loner during kindergarten and primary school, always keeping to myself and engaging in quiet, creative activities such as reading, writing, painting and drawing. Recesses and lunchtimes were obviously very difficult for me. I was purposefully getting into trouble because I hated the idea of being alone and having no friends to play with. Hence why I often engaged in attention-seeking behaviour, to get other people to notice me and not feel invisible anymore.
On Friday morning, I attended my Pilates Mat class with Suzie Lowater at YMCA Casey RACE in Cranbourne East. Today’s class was very different to what I’m used to with most poses and movements being done using a large gym ball as a prop. It certainly increased the degree of difficulty slightly especially in terms of balance and stability but I just did what I could to embrace. I’m also learning to be more aware of my core activation during each pose.
On Friday afternoon, I headed off to my first ever yoga retreat at Tall Trees Camping in Moggs Creek. To be honest, I was feeling pretty nervous about this weekend as it’s the first time I’ve ever done this on my own. I’ve also never met any of the teachers or students attending this retreat and I’ll be participating in activities I’ve never tried before including life coaching sessions, facials and hand treatments, camping for the first time in 10 years.
It’s all pretty daunting for me but at the same time getting out of my comfort zone has been one of my major goals this year and I think that this will be a great opportunity for me to do just that. Plus I think that there will be more positives than negatives from this experience. The retreat was organised by Bianca Lovrecic who is a qualified yoga teacher at Just Be Yoga and Meditation and Patricia Chiuariu who is a qualified life coach for Champion In Progress Mentoring and Coaching.
Unfortunately, it didn’t start off too well with my car getting overheated and breaking down just before the Burnley Tunnel. It was really nerve-racking especially as the traffic was banking up and I needed to find a way to pull over to the emergency service lane. After getting onto the RACV and having my car towed to the Todd Road service centre, it was a long 1.5 wait for another tow truck to arrive so I could get my car home again. My radiator had a hole in it and was leaking out coolant so there was no way I could drive it safely in that condition.
Fortunately, Mum allowed me to borrow her car in order to still make it to the yoga retreat. It was a very long and tremendously monotonous 2.5 hour drive with a thunderstorm, lightening and a few showers along the way. After I got over the West Gate Bridge, my anxiety levels lowered a bit but I found I had to concentrate harder than normal to stay alert driving along on the Princes Freeway and later the Great Ocean Road.
The last part was actually quite scary as I had to drive along some dirt roads with pot holes and no street lights at all. Eventually, I found the entrance gate to Tall Trees Camping and managed to find a couple of the girls in the common area as well as Bianca and Patricia who helped me to locate my tent and gave me a brief guided tour before I collapsed into bed. I was so lucky to have this tent all to myself as the other tents were twin share.
Getting up at 6am for my Hatha Yoga Flow classes was tough on 4-5 hours sleep but I made the effort to do it. It was really lovely to be awakened by the sounds of birds chirping and laughing to one another. I was truly in nature now. The breakfasts and lunches were all catered for by Little Feast in Aireys Inlet and the food was absolutely amazing. I was trying so many different things that I’d never eaten before like chia pudding, bircher muesli, bean salad, mocha balls and salted caramel fudges.
We also did two life coaching sessions with Patricia from Champion In Progress Mentoring and Coaching over the weekend in a group setting. We worked our way gradually through the program workbook which included setting intentions, goal setting, the wheel of life, absolute no and yes lists, immediate actions, building awareness, strengths and values, mindfulness reflections, control and making choices. Overall, I found it very insightful and productive in thinking about what’s really important to me in my life.
In the afternoons, we did some facials and hand treatments with Bianca who is also a consultant from Mary Kay. I honestly had mixed feelings about these sessions as I’ve never used these products before and didn’t want to be roped into buying anything. But thankfully Bianca was laid-back and didn’t pressure any of us to participate or order any products. I also wrongly assumed that this was going to be more of a spa date thing but oh well.
On Saturday night, the group went out for dinner at Little Feast Aireys. I could feel myself really get out of my comfort zone here especially when the conversation turned to the topic of animal violence and dealing with aggressive dogs. I seriously wanted to go for the exit but forced myself to stay out of politeness. Thankfully, the subject quickly changed and the dinner was worth staying for. Grilled barramundi with cauliflower, beans, brocolini, beetroot, beans and spinach plus an apple and raspberry crumble for dessert. Yummo!
I think the biggest concern for me about attending this yoga retreat was being able to fit in socially with this all female group. Not that being in only guy is necessary a bad thing but it made it hard to click with the others. The topics of conversation such as babies, teaching, families, husbands, corporate business and healthy super foods were also really tough to relate to and I was sitting on the sidelines just listening most of the time. The fact that I’m also introverted, shy, reserved and socially awkward also presents many challenges for me.
But I didn’t let any of this stop me from enjoying my experience. There were a few times where I decided to sit in the tent by myself to essentially recharge the batteries and I just needed a break from the group sometimes. I also found it difficult to adapt to some of the ladies’ personalities and sense of humour. But overall, I did feel welcome, accepted and included. People did ask me about my life, did try to get to know me and did acknowledge my existence through eye contact and general greetings in passing.
Despite the social challenges this yoga retreat presented, I still really enjoyed my experience this weekend. I was grateful for just being there. For having my own tent and my own space. For all the food that got catered to us. For all the bathroom facilities. For the weather. For the yoga classes and life coaching sessions. I confronted and ticked off a lot of “firsts” from my list during this weekend alone and I’m really proud of myself for doing it.
On the drive back home, I decided to visit the Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet. Of course being a Sunday afternoon, the area was packed with tourists and couples but that didn’t bother me. I went for a half-hour strong along the coastal walking trail leading up to the Lighthouse itself and then walked down to the lookout points to see some gorgeous views of the rocky cliffs and roaring ocean waves down below.
FUN FACT: The Split Point Lighthouse was made famous by the popular 90’s Australian television show Round The Twist.
“Let’s take a chance on a happy ending. (Let’s) turn the page and stop pretending. The past can stop a heart from mending. It’s time to let go ’cause baby you know. Some things are better best forgotten.” STEPS – Better Best Forgotten (1998)
“What you can’t see can’t hurt you they say. But I’ve been blind too many times before. Never see it coming your way. Shadows and secrets hide. Give me the bright lights of the dance floor. To shine inside this broken heart of mine. The way you move I’m forgetting all the ghosts in my mind.” STEPS – Scared Of The Dark (2017)