“Whether we’re overcoming adversity, surviving trauma, or dealing with stress and anxiety, having a sense of purpose, meaning and perspective in our lives allows us to develop understanding and move forward.”                                                                                   The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (p. 74)

On Monday morning, I attended my Healthy Cooking on a Budget class at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. Today’s class was much smaller than usual probably due to the wet weather outside. Despite my usual levels of social anxiety and nerves, I was actually feeling a lot more productive and prepared today compared to last week. I was determined to get more involved and having encouragement from Kevin and Jodie certainly helped me a lot.

Today we made some profiteroles and some gougere with the choux pastry as a base. Most of the work involved using a saucepan to combine ingredients and a wooden spoon to stir them vigorously together. It was tricky at times because I’m generally not a fast stirrer and I had to consciously try to increase my speed. At least I had Kevin that I could alternate tasks with. We had to make a seperate chocolate ganache mixture as well as a chocolate filling for the choux pastry.

We also made a savoury alternative by combining bacon pieces, onion, chopped parsley, grated cheese and mustard with the choux pastry mixture. I was a bit rusty with the piping bag as I haven’t done it in so long but the puffs turned out pretty well in the oven. We dipped each of the puffs in the chocolate ganache and then filled each one with the chocolate filling.

On Monday night, I attended an RPM class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. I was feeling restless, drained and exhausted all day from lack of sleep and allowing people to drag me down over social media. So I really needed this class just to clear my head and hopefully boost my positive energy levels back up. Tonight’s class was run by instructor Claire who was really fired up, loud and motivating.

We cycled along to release number 60 which featured tracks including Rhianna’s Diamonds, One Republic’s If I Lose Myself, Rudimental’s Not Giving In and Andy Grammer’s Miss Me. There were a few sprint sections, some intense interval training and easy ride parts. It wasn’t my best or fastest RPM performance but I really put a lot of effort in especially during the last few tracks. My glutes, hips and groin were all starting to feel it so clearly I was still working hard in tonight’s class. http://www.totallylesmills.com/site…

On Tuesday morning, I went to my Flow Yoga class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. I was still feeling a bit sore from yesterday but thankfully yoga is really good for joint mobility and releasing tension so I needed this class today. Instructor Michelle guided us through various poses including Flowing Sequences (Downward Facing Dog, Knee to Nose, Crescent Lunge), Balancing (Eagle pose, Stork pose, Aeroplane pose, Warrior 3) and Inversions (Shoulder Stand, Fish pose).

Michelle spoke about the power of listening, both to yourself and others. This helps to improve your mindfulness skills, mental concentration and quieting the mind. Our meditation today focused on paying attention to the different sounds inside and outside of the group fitness room (the music, Michelle’s voice, your breath, conversations, environmental noises). http://soundmeditation.com/portfoli…

On Wednesday morning, I had my Strength Training session with Luke Davey at Breakaway Fitness in Berwick. I’ve honestly come a long way in the six months I’ve been training with Luke this year. I’ve struggled to find a sense of belonging and acceptance at UFT PLAYgrounds. I’ve struggled with how I’ve felt about myself. I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, fears, loneliness and overthinking. And now I’ve pushed myself into a much more positive headspace. The physical and mental struggle has definitely been worth it.

Of course that doesn’t mean my mental illness has instantly banished. It just means that I’m able to cope with it better and use strategies to get on top of it. I’m making more of an effort to say hello and break the ice with some of the other trainers. I’m making more of an effort to connect better with Luke during my sessions. I’m learning to be okay with silence, with not having much to say, with making mistakes, with not knowing what I’m doing and most importantly, with being myself.

WARM-UP…Today I started my session by doing 20 Scorpion stretches, 2 rounds of pretzel stretches on each side of the body and 3 rounds of 8 reps single arm kettle bell lifts with leg balance. This was probably the most difficult in terms of co-ordination, body position and keeping my balance but I still managed to finish them.

DEVELOPMENT…Today I did 5 rounds of 8 deadlifts at 70kg. During the warm-up run, I was starting to feel soreness and pinching through my lower back. Past Michael would have suffered and put up with it for fear of rejection. But I knew I had to speak up about it. This was the “potential for injury” kind of pain and thankfully Luke took it seriously. It certainly not something I would lie about nor was it me playing the “poor me” card.

So I ended up doing some foam rolling and additional stretches into my lower back and glutes using the rubber ball and my own body weight. This helped loosen up the tightness in my muscles and when I resumed doing the deadlifts, my lower back felt much better. Initially my form and technique was a little off and I was doing the reps too quickly. However, with some conscious awareness, I managed to improve my deadlifts and make them more controlled. It’s all practice and I’m still proud of my efforts today.

I finished my session off by doing some more foam rolling and a few yoga stretches including Downward Facing Dog and Cobra pose, holding each of these for strength and endurance. https://www.facebook.com/breakawayf…

On Thursday night, I went to my Water Workout class at YMCA Casey RACE in Cranbourne. Arriving a few minutes early, I decided to jump in the spa and use the jets to relieve the tension and soreness in my lower back (plus perve on a few guys because why not :P) before starting the class. Tonight’s class was facilitated by instructor Mary who had a very witty and sarcastic sense of humour.

We did the usual combination of underwater exercises and movements including pendulum, rock n’ roll, jogging, digging and pushing away the water, ski slopes, star jumps and tuck jumps. We also used the dumb bells to do some doggy paddling both forwards and backwards. I’m slowly gaining confidence in this area of swimming and I managed to keep my head above water and kicking my legs fast for power. It felt really good about myself. https://fitness.edu.au/the-fitness-…

On Friday morning, I had my Strength Training session with Luke Davey at Breakaway Fitness in Berwick. My session today was all about having the courage and belief in myself to speak up without fear. I wanted to update my current fitness goals to incorporate some new movements including Snatches and Muscle Ups/Pull Ups. I also wanted to develop and improve upon other movements including Pushups and Box Jumps. Thankfully Luke was very receptive to my suggestions and changing up my program a bit in the future.

WARM-UP…Today’s warm up exercises included my usual Y-stretch into the upper body and shoulders, lying down on the bench with arms extended out behind me. I also did 3 rounds of 10 single arm dumb bell rows at 25kg. This was pretty tough for me particularly when I got to the 8th rep or so. I was fatiguing quickly and struggled to lift the dumb bell all the way up to my armpit. But as always, I did my best and rested when necessary.

DEVELOPMENT…Today I did a dumb bell bench press exercise with two 10kg weights. Getting the movement and technique down was probably the most difficult part but I did improve over time. I’m learning not to get myself easily distracted by external noises as well. Just focus on what you’re doing and stay in the present moment.

WORKOUT…Today’s workout was another really tough one but I decided that I was up for the challenge. I had to do three rounds of the following: 15 cal on the assault bike, 15 ring rows, 15 box jumps and 15 push ups. The last two exercises were the most difficult for me. I do have some anxiety going into the box jumps but at least Luke made the height realistic and achievable. I basically just pretended that my shoes were like rockets and I exploded up onto the box. My fear of tripping over and potentially hurting myself quickly disintegrated. This is exactly how you build confidence and work towards improvement.

The push ups were also really hard but only because my arm muscles were burning a lot from the other exercises. But I do feel like I am getting better at them. In time, I’ll be able to work up to a full push up position but for now, doing them on my knees is more than enough for me. I ended up completing the three rounds in 13 minutes and 40 seconds.

Later that day, I attended the Morning Melodies social function at Waltzing Matilda Hotel in Springvale. Today’s entertainer was Sandie Dodd who played tribute to Dolly Parton. She was dressed up in a 60’s styled blonde wig, a glittering red dress and matching red studded stilettos. She was extremely funny and even pulled out some dance moves and a Dolly-esque Southern accent. She performed many of Dolly’s classic country hits including Silver Threads and Golden Needles, To Daddy, Coat of Many Colours, Here You Come Again, Joellene, Ya’ll Come and 9 to 5. https://www.reverbnation.com/sandie…

On Friday night, I attended the first Full Moon meditation class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. The staff had spaced out blue and black yoga mats to fill the entire group fitness room with a tealight candle, questionnaire and small purple inspiration card placed down at each mat. Everyone who attended could bring their own blankets, pillows, jumpers and whatever else they needed to make themselves warm and comfortable.

The guided meditation was facilitated by instructor Michelle who also teaches yoga and pilates classes. Part of it was a progressive muscle relaxation, releasing tension, negative emotions and toxins from various areas of the body. The other part was more of a visualisation. The imagery consisted of a Japanese Garden and a temple which we mentally explored during the meditation. I always seem to feel lighter after meditating, especially when it’s done in a group environment.

After tonight, the Full Moon meditation classes will be running every month at Casey Arc and every second Friday at Casey Race. I truly hope that it takes off and brings a lot of members together. http://www.caseyarc.ymca.org.au/eve…

“I’ve gotta stop my mind, working overtime, it’s driving me insane. It will not let me live. Always so negative. It’s become my enemy. And none of these thoughts are real. So why is it that I feel so cut up and so bad? I need to take control ‘cause my mind is on a roll and it isn’t listening to me.” Jem – Save Me (2004)

“Don’t be embarrassed, don’t be afraid. Don’t let your dreams slip away. It’s determination and using your gift. Everybody has a gift. Never give up, never let it die. Trust your instincts and most importantly. You’ve got nothing to lose. So just go for it.”                                        Jem – It’s Amazing (2008)

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“Thankfully, compassion also spreads quickly. When we’re kind to ourselves, we create a reservoir of compassion that we can extend to others. Our children learn how to be self-compassionate by watching us, and the people around us feel free to be authentic and connected.” The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (p. 61)

Over the weekend, my family decided to adopt the cat we were looking at the Australian Animal Protection Society in Keysborough. Her name is Lotus and she is 2 years old, has a black & white coat, is very shy and affectionate. Being a rescue cat, it’s required a lot of time, patience and adjustment bringing her home considering all the psychological issues she would have endured since birth. But she is adjusting quite well, sleeping in the corner of the toilet and slowly exploring the hallway, laundry, living room and my bedroom.

On Monday morning, I went to my Healthy Cooking on a Budget class at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. Today we made a Tortilla de Patatas (Potato Omelette), a Paella (Spanish rice) and some Empanadas (Stuffed pastry). These dishes all have a Spanish/Latin American flavour to them both in terms of spices and ingredients. I was feeling a little worn out and unmotivated after my stressful weekend so I really struggled to feel useful in today’s class. However I tried to push through it.

Today I worked with Kevin making a shortcrust pastry mixture by combining flour, unsalted butter chopped up into small pieces and some iced water. I also helped out by peeling some brushed potatoes for the omelette. Honestly I’m hopeless when it comes to peeling potatoes. It takes me so long just to finish one. But I didn’t give up. I think part of it is my nervousness about accidentally cutting myself with the peeler (Self doubt issues, who would have thought?). But hey at least I tried.

I think the other problem was that there were too many cooks in the kitchen…literally. So I spent a lot of time standing around awkwardly and trying to find something to do. I’m the kind of person who needs structure, step by step instructions and to be delegated a task. Once that happens, I’m fine. But otherwise I’m like a fish out of water. But besides that, I really enjoyed this morning’s class. I learned so much and helped prepare a dish that I’ve never tried before. http://www.ballaballa.com.au/progra…

On Monday night, I attended a Body Balance class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. I generally don’t do fitness classes really late at night but I made an exception considering how unmotivated I was feeling today. The good thing about Body Balance is it both energises and relaxes the body, releasing stress, tension and soreness. The instructor seemed really lovely and laid back in her approach. Essentially just do what you can. I still struggle with the Pilates parts of these classes as it really hurts my lower back but I did what I could.

Tonight the exercises we did include: Tai-Chi Warm Up (Forward fold into Mountain Pose), Sun Salutations (Downward Facing Dog, Low Lunge, Baby Cobra), Standing Strength and Balance (Aeroplane, Warrior 2, Chair Pose), Pilates (Scorpion, Dragonfly, Bridge Pose), Hamstring Stretches (Reverse Triangle, Happy Baby) and Relaxation (Japanese Garden). https://www.lesmills.com/workouts/f…

On Tuesday night, I went to my Body Combat class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. Tonight’s class was challenging to say the least. I felt like I was killing it during the first four tracks, focusing on my technique and putting a lot of power behind my kicks and punches. But after track five and six, the fatigue set in big time. One workout involved lunge pulses and quick shifts between squats and lunges. I had to force myself to stop and rest a few times especially with the annoying lingering cough creeping back up.

But I tried not to be too hard on myself tonight. Many of the other people in the class were struggling as well and I was sweating like a soaking wet towel, which meant I was working really hard. I had my usual catch up conversation with Cinamon Guerin as I recovered on the seat in the hallway. It feels good to have that sense of social connection at Casey Arc even if it’s just with one person and Cinamon is very easy to get along with. https://www.lesmills.com/workouts/f…

On Wednesday morning, I had my Strength Training session with Luke Davey at Breakaway Fitness in Berwick. The advantage of waking up early is that it gives you time to recover from sleep inertia, the experience of drowsiness or grogginess immediately felt after waking up. It also gives me more time to get organised so I’m not rushing out the door and getting myself anxious about running late. I spent some time reading through my fitness journal, where I’ve written notes about my goals, progress with my training program, positive affirmations, rational thoughts, reminders and tips for conversation starters.

I have to say that I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with Luke now. I’m more relaxed even when we both have nothing to say but I’m also making a conscious effort to speak up more and ask him questions about his life. Of course, there are still doubts that crop up on occasion but I’m learning to let them go and not let them bother me. It’s a constant work in progress for me. Sometimes my brain has a habit of lying to me (Welcome to Mental Illness 101) but it is getting easiest to focus on the positives and what I’m doing in my session.

WARM-UP…Today I started by doing some wide shoulder stretches on the bench before progressing into my usual 3 rounds of 15 resistance band pull-aparts and 3 rounds of 10 single arm dumbbell rows. I also did some around the worlds with a wooden stick, which is basically moving the stick over and behind your body with your arms extended out and moving the stick around your body in a diagonal motion.

DEVELOPMENT…Today I did 5 rounds of 8 reps bench press at 35kg. I was really focusing on improving my technique, movement of the bar and activation of my muscles. It certainly not easy remembering all these things but I felt like I made gradual improvement and only really struggled when I got up to my 6th or 7th rep. I’m still learning to lock-out my arms before I rack up the bar and it’s certainly getting there.

WORK-OUT…Today’s workout was actually pretty challenging for me, both physically and mentally. I had to do a 3km sprint on the rowing machine in under 13 minutes. It seemed like an impossible achievement especially when I got going but I gave it 110% effort. The thing you have to remember about me is my mental struggle. I’m easily distracted both by my mind and what’s physically in front of me. However, I tried hard to use my positive mantras to push me through to the finish line (Remember to breathe, I am not a failure, I am good enough, I do deserve to be here, I will finish this workout).

I had a major mental shift during that workout. See the thing is that deep down, I didn’t really give a shit whether I finished the workout in under 13 minutes. I’m not going to base my self-worth on a number or a time or a record because that’s not how I roll. Of course if I do hit that benchmark, then that’s awesome. But if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. In that moment, I felt that it was really important to internally congratulate myself for smashing the workout, regardless of what time I got. I literally collapsed when I finished, making a sweat angel as Denee Lalouette pulled me up and I made my way over to the bench to recover.

I finished my session by doing 3 rounds of 10 YTW shoulder stretches on the bench. Unfortunately, my brain decided to begin overthinking as Luke began his next session with his 10am clients. I have to admit that I did feel a little blown off but I’m sure that wasn’t his intention. Instead, I just tried hard to focus on getting the stretches done, as tough and painful as they were. I was a little slow finishing today but that’s okay. I just smashed a tough workout on the rowing machine so it’s understandable. https://www.facebook.com/breakawayf…

On Thursday morning, Mum and I went to the Morning Melodies social function at Trios Sports Club in Cranbourne. We sat down at a round table with 8 other people, mostly residents from the Casey Hunt Club Lifestyle Village. I’ve often contemplated the concept of being an “old soul”, which essentially means feeling like I don’t fit the mold of those around me. But I also take it to mean having a younger or older soul inside my body. Basically I’ve never felt my biological age and I don’t think I ever will.

Hence why associating with older people and/or younger people doesn’t bother me at all. I actually feel more accepted surrounded by people at a senior age hence why I enjoy attending these types of events. Today’s performer was Col Perkins who was wearing a radiant white suit and a bright purple shirt. He very much is an entertainer, making over-exaggerated kissing noises and rocking out with some Elvis-like leg shaking.

This show was mostly a tribute to British pop musician Cliff Richard, singing plenty of classic hits including Summer Holiday, Please Don’t Tease, Gee Whiz It’s You, Don’t Talk to Him, The Minute You’re Gone, Congratulations and Somewhere Over The Rainbow. He also played several songs from varying musicians who were also friends with Cliff including Elvis Presley (It’s Now or Never), Johnny O’Keefe (She’s My Baby) and the late Glen Campbell (Rhinestone Cowboy).

On Friday morning, I had my Strength Training session with Luke Davey at Breakaway Fitness in Berwick. Once again, I made an early arrival to UFT and decided to read The Confidence Gap by Dr. Russ Harris, specifically the NAME technique which helps in dealing with fear, anxiety, stress and negative feelings. I’m feeling much better mentally this week and I’m learning to not take things as personally such as Why isn’t this person speaking to me? Why am I being ignored/excluded/blown off in this conversation? There’s always an alternative explanation that doesn’t involve me.

My relationship with Luke has also moved into a much more positive space as well. I’m still opening up to him about what’s going on inside my head but I’m learning to say it in a calm, reasonable and constructive way. And it’s really good to see that Luke is really receptive to what I have to say. He’s engaging more in my sessions and he’s making more effort. This indicates that yes he does care about me as a person and as a client. Sometimes I just need verbal confirmation rather than making assumptions and being consumed by irrational thought.

WARM-UP…I started today’s session by doing some flowing yoga poses (Threading the Needle, Pigeon pose) on both sides of the body in order to loosen and open up the hips and groin area. Next I did 20 reps of Scorpion pose, 10 reps on each side of the body. And lastly, I did 3 rounds of 90 second weighted squat holds.

DEVELOPMENT…Today I worked on my weighted back squats, doing 5 rounds of 8 reps at 55kg. I’m finding that it’s actually getting a lot easier compared to when I first starting doing back squats. My technique and squat depth has improved considerably. I’m able to get closer to the ground whilst keeping my chest lifted and the fatigue doesn’t set in until around the 6th rep or so. It’s definitely a big achievement when you see yourself improving.

WORKOUT…Today’s workout involved a 7 minute AMRAP of the following exercises: 10 wall ball situps, 15 ring rows and 20 kettle bell swings. The ring rows was hands down the most challenging of the three movements. I was fatiguing very quickly and had to rest, shake it out and restart after a few reps. But I was determined to push through the struggle and even re-adjust my position to make it a bit more achievable. But overall, I did really well and I managed to complete 2 full rounds.

On Friday night, I attended Mandi Herauville’s Drinks & Nibbles event at The Yard Strength & Fitness in Pakenham. It was a small gathering and a very casual affair with a handful of clients, personal trainers, athletes and coaches sitting around in the kitchenette/dining area. Of course my levels of social anxiety and introvertedness were quite high, being in a group of people I didn’t know that well but I made the decision to stick it out for at least an hour. And I also reminded myself of the fact that I made the effort to come out on a really cold and wet night to support Mandi’s gym.

The Yard has really come a long way especially in the last few months with all the gym equipment being set up and the murals being painted on the walls. The most recent addition to the space is the weight lifting rigs and benches. The 6 week Bootcamp program has been a great success and although I’ve only attended a couple of sessions casually, I really enjoyed them and I may consider making more of a commitment to the program later in the year when I’m more financially stable. https://www.facebook.com/TheYardStr…

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CRASH POP PUNK PARTY @ The Rockstar Bar, August 2017

Tonight was my second time attending a gig at the Rockstar Bar in Frankston. This evening, the venue ran a special one-off event called the “Crash Pop Punk Party” featuring a handful of local pop-punk bands. CRASH is intended to become a regular event in the vein of BANG!, YOUR LOCAL and RIOT! to hopefully bring more people down to the peninsula area. I sincerely hope that it does take off as I found tonight to be a big success.

I had a really enjoyable night hanging out with a few of the band members as well as being in my own company. I’m still finding making conversation with new people to be a challenge. It may seem like I’m brushing them off or coming off as disinterested but the reality is that I struggle to know what to say sometimes. It’s just such a habitual thing to avoid eye contact and give short, sharp answers to questions. It takes time to build trust.

However, it was humbling having people introducing themselves to me and giving me compliments about my band promotion and weight loss. When it comes to improving my social skills and breaking out of my comfort zone, I will never ever stop trying. Finding a sense of belonging with others is a lifelong journey and I feel blessed to be a part of the local music community.

ONCE WERE LOST…So I’ve seen this five piece, Melbourne-based pop-punk band a couple of times before. They have a highly energetic stage presence and plenty of catchy songs to bounce around to. Bassist Liam was really rocking out with the crowd near the front of the stage and was very entertaining to watch. The band played several tracks from their EP “Smiling Politely” including Radio Killer and Faded plus a cover of Hanson’s classic hit Mmm Bop. https://oncewerelost.bandcamp.com/a…

DISTRACTED BY PINK…Tonight was my first time checking out this Alternative/Pop-Punk band and they all put on a very solid performance. I recently heard them on 3MDR’s program  Not Quite Midnight where they played a bunch of acoustic songs and did an interview. Vocalist Andrew’s vocal style reminded me a lot of UK indie pop bands like Oasis and Arctic Monkeys whilst blending in traditional pop-punk melodies. The band played several songs including their latest single Hypocrite, Cheated and a cover of Green Day’s Basket Case. https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/h…

AVENUES END…This three piece Alternative Melodic Rock band offered something different compared to the other bands on the lineup. The two main frontmen, Ryan and Matt, rocked black and white dinner suit attire and alternated between lead vocals which worked really well. Musically, the band is really engaging and passionate with layered atmospheric tones and punchy guitar riffs. They played several new songs including The Tide, Ripping Out The Stones and In Bloom. https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/c…

RESIDE…This was the band I was most looking forward to seeing play tonight. A four piece Alternative/Rock/Emo band from Melbourne, the boys had a wild, spasmodic and dynamic stage presence throughout their set. The vocal duties were shared evenly between Liam and Sal with Ariel chiming in on backing vocals occasionally. They truly put on an incredible performance and the crowd really got involved with hand claps and some sing-a-long wails. The band played several tracks including their singles We’re Not Monsters (Yet) and Late Night Driving plus a cover of Basement’s Whole. https://reside.bandcamp.com/

BIRDHOUSE…Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to stick around for this Indie Rock/Pop-Punk band but make sure you check out their EP “I’ve Got Something To Tell You”. https://birdhouseofficialmusic.bandcamp.com/…

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“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”                                                                                    The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (p. 39)

On Monday morning, I went to my Healthy Cooking on a Budget class at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. There were a few people away today which wasn’t surprising considering how wet it was outside and so I ended up working by myself. However, it didn’t bother me too much so I was able to maintain my focus on the task and not get caught up in my usual worries. In fact, I was trying to fully embrace my shyness today because it wasn’t bothering anyone else in the kitchen.

Today we ended up making pizza, pizza fritta and a sweet calzone. Making the pizza dough was actually quite enjoyable and very easy to do. Simply combine flour, yeast and sugar with warm water and olive oil until the mixture forms a sticky ball. Then you place it into a bowl covered with glad wrap and leave it in a warm place to rest and rise. Next we all prepared the toppings including capsicums, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. We also made up a pizza sauce by placing brown onions, tomato paste, passata sauce, salt, pepper and basil into a saucepan with water.

Once the pizza dough has risen, you simply spread a layer of tomato sauce and then add whichever toppings you’d like to the pizza base and bake for twenty minutes. The thing I really love about our cooking teacher Jodie is that she’s really hands on, patient, compassionate, forgiving and easy to get along with. She is basically the polar opposite of all those harsh and nasty TV celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre White.

If I had to deal with their personalities, I would crumble in seconds. I’m not very receptive to being yelled at and criticised by other people for basically being human. The good thing is that everyone is in the same boat, leaning the absolute basics about cooking so mistakes should be expected. http://www.ballaballa.com.au/progra…

On Monday night, I went to a Bootcamp session with Mandi Herauville at The Yard Strength & Fitness in Pakenham. It takes a lot to get me motivated on Mondays especially after a busy weekend but I just push through the laziness, get off my ass and do it because I know that it’ll be worth it. This is my second time doing a Bootcamp workout at Mandi’s gym and once again it was really enjoyable. There was a really big turnout too despite the rainy weather outside with roughly 10 other clients

We started the session by playing a couple of games to warm-up. The first one involved playing a variation of chasy where we had to run around and try to untie each other’s shoelaces. The second was about activating the core muscles in a cat-cow like positive whilst the other person was pushing and pulling them. Essentially resistance training whilst not moving much at all.

Next we did 5 rounds of 10 medicine ball squats to overhead throws. This exercise was more about the technique than the weight of the medicine ball we were throwing up, though we did gradually increase the weight after a couple of rounds. It kept me really focused and in control. It kinda reminded me of getting ready to throw a netball into the goal ring.

The workout involved splitting up into teams of 3 and doing three different circuits. The first one included squats, high knee lifts and glute bridge leg lifts. The second one included rolling get ups, tuck jumps, sit ups and a 50m run. And the third one included push ups, mountain climbers, box dips and a 100m run. On paper it seems very overwhelming but when you divide the reps between each of us, it was actually quite manageable.

We ended the session by doing a few yoga stretches on the blue foam mats to cool down after the workout. I met Mandi’s puppy Audrey who is absolutely adorable and had the pleasure of giving her a cuddle before I left. I’ve noticed that whenever I’m in a large group of people, I become even quieter than normal. In the past, this would bother me a lot but tonight I was feeling okay about it. Everyone accepted me regardless of how much I spoke or didn’t speak. It’s reminders like these that I need, to embrace the person that I am. https://www.facebook.com/TheYardStr…

On Tuesday afternoon, I caught up with my friend Mandi Herauville (Long time no see :P) for coffee at Nomadic Berwick. As expected, Mandi was running late but that’s okay because I was enjoying the music and having a browse through the menu. It was my first time visiting Nomadic and I’ve been meaning to come here considering how many times I’ve seen the ad play at Village Cinemas with that iconic boar on the sign.

Everytime I have a one on one conversation with Mandi, my head becomes that much clearer and I’m also about to just relax and let everything go. I can display my authentic self to her (thank you Brene Brown!) because she understands me on a mental and emotional level. Some people will never get what’s going on deep inside of me and that’s just the way it is. I’m a very empathetic person and so I can pick up on other people’s emotions and moods also well as understand what they’re going through.

Mandi is both brutally honest and very compassionate and I need both of these qualities. Sometimes wake up calls are necessary evils but so are general reminders about the positive things that I possess within me. I am too hard on myself, get caught up in my own thoughts and worry too much about shit I can’t control. But these things can always be worked on and I’m slowly moving towards creating more happiness in my life.

Later that afternoon, I drove down to The Hunt Club for a Full Body Chinese Massage at Top 1 Therapy in Cranbourne East. This place is fast becoming one of my favourite massage salons. For $39, they go all out with hot stones, oils and warm towels and do a thorough job of releasing stress and tension from almost every part of my body. It’s also a great opportunity to work on my mindfulness skills, directing my attention to all the external sounds inside and outside of the shop.

Some people love conversing with their massage therapist but I’m not one of them. Thankfully the Asian therapists at Top 1 only ask a few questions and then remain silent during the massage. I’d rather just enjoy it without having to worry about making conversation especially when they don’t really know me and vice vesa. And I’m not saying that to be rude either. I’m incredibly grateful for how skilled and dedicated they are hence why I’ll always give them a high recommendation. http://www.top1therapy.com/

On Thursday night, I attended a Pilates Mat class at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. So I haven’t done a pilates class for probably a couple of months and tonight, I was very much thrown into the deep end. Our fitness instructor Anita didn’t mess around, she made us work really hard. Most of the poses involved core activation and switching on the various muscle groups and it didn’t take long for me to feel the burn.

We did a mixture of standing and seated poses including Single Leg Raises with Double Pulse, Straight Leg Lowering, Crunches, Double D and Bow & Arrow. As tough as Anita was, she was also quite sarcastic and made sure that everyone’s bodies were aligned in the correct position. We all had a good laugh throughout the class which is always really important. Exercise should always be enjoyable no matter what class it is. https://www.fitnessfirst.com.au/fin…

On Friday morning, I had my Strength Training session with Luke Davey at Breakaway Fitness in Berwick. It’s been a fairly rough couple of weeks for me, particularly last Friday when I was on the verge of making a really foolish decision…leaving Luke as my personal trainer. But self-reflection and hindsight are both wonderful things. Looking back, I was clouded by my fears and insecurities with Luke being a mirror (I don’t belong here at UFT. He thinks I’m boring. I’m not good enough. Have I done something wrong? I can’t handle this awkward silence).

Airing how I was feeling inside via social media whilst crying in the car clearly wasn’t a wise decision. Many of the things I wrote last week were so irrational anyway. I had no clarity at all and I basically pushed myself to a cliff edge, about to make what I thought was “the right decision”. But in actuality, I was running away from the problem like I always do. It wasn’t so much being able to connect and click with Luke as my PT but rather how I felt about myself.

Thankfully, this week I was able to re-group mentally and prepare to give both myself and Luke another shot at this. Change starts from within and I really needed to make some pro-active choices to make this work. Things such as waking up half an hour earlier and leaving for my training session 15 minutes earlier so that I wouldn’t have to stress out over the morning peak hour traffic on Clyde Road.

I also decided to look into some helpful tips and advice on how to improve my conversational skills and feel more confident in social situations. I flooded my mini-journal with some of these points so I could refer back to them during my training session. I was determined to make more of an effort with Luke, not just with the training but building a rappore with him. Asking questions about his life, making eye contact, engaging, being present…all of these things really helped.

I didn’t do all this as a social experiment either but rather to practice, develop and improve my social skills which have clearly been lacking in the past couple of weeks. But also because I genuinely do care about Luke. I want him to be successful as a PT, coach and an athlete. I felt like that effort was reciprocated back to me as he asked many questions about my life. Now I feel like we’re in a better place, that he does care about me and wants the best for me. It’s just that my mental illness and emotions got in the way. But now I’m seriously working on it. https://www.facebook.com/breakawayf…

WARM-UP…Today I started by doing some scorpion stretches on the mat by bending each leg over the opposite side of my body before doing some back stretches using a foam roller and the bar overhead. It was actually had making conversation during this as the discomfort was pretty intense and I really had to breathe into it. Finally I did 3 rounds of 12 kettle bell dead lifts.

DEVELOPMENT…I saw today’s deadlifts as a chance to redeem myself. I walked in with a positive mindset and a fierce “I can do this” attitude. I did 4 rounds of 1 rep at 100kg plus a final rep at 105kg which is a personal best for me. I felt really good about my form and technique despite some apparent leg wobbling during the lift. But otherwise, I smashed it today and felt really good about my performance.

Later that day, Mum and I decided to start looking to adopt a cat at the Australian Animal Protection Society in Keysborough. Of course, seeing as there were many cats to choose from, this was going to be really difficult to make a decision. However, I did have a few preferences in mind…female, young, low maintenance, indoor/outdoor and placid. Having an immediate bond with the cat was also very important.

In the end, I narrowed down my selections to two cats named Lotus and Pepper. I was able to hold and pat each of the cats to see if there was any connection there. So far I’m leaning towards Lotus who has a black and white coat, is female and 2 years old. She practically leaped up to the front of the caged door when I walked past and really enjoyed my company so I saw this as a really good sign. http://www.aaps.org.au/Adoptions/lo…

“Don’t leave me here with all these critical voices. Cause they do their best to bring me down. When I’m alone with all these negative voices. I will need your help to turn them down.” Alanis Morissette – Spiral (2012)

“Thank you for seeing me. I feel so less lonely. Thank you for guiding me. I hear your bide, you empathy. Ha-a this intimacy ha, ah, ah, ah. There were some days when the trusting was the last of me. You’re quiet too much, you see too less. Except you’re generous, see? To love myself enough, to let you help me.” Alanis Morissette – Empathy (2012)

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REAL FRIENDS (USA) w/ Columbus, Harbours & Stuck Out @ Arrow on Swanston, August 2017

“I know that change is difficult, but when it’s all said and done, this will be a real positive.” Quote by Steven Dillon

This morning, I had what would become my last Strength Training session with Luke Davey at Breakaway Fitness in Berwick. Everything was falling apart for me mentally and emotionally. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I’d only had about 4 hours of sleep and was rushing through peak hour traffic on Clyde Road to make it to my session on time. I walked in feeling depressed and empty though I was hopeful I could turn my mood around.

Sadly, this wasn’t to be. The awkwardness between Luke and I was growing to unmanageable levels. I was avoiding eye contact and barely spoke a word during the first half of the session. But the pressure ultimately got to me and I tried hard to open up about how I was feeling inside, mostly based upon the irrational thoughts that were now flooding my mind (Do I really belong here at UFT Playgrounds? Does Luke think I’m a boring person? Does Luke even like me? Why the hell can’t I speak up and engage in conversation? Why don’t we click anymore? Is there something wrong with me?).

Despite feeling emotional and worthless, I somehow managed to finish the session. When I got back to my car, I ended up bursting into tears, knowing that deep down I’d reached a point of no return. Honestly, I expected way too much from Luke and I let my mental illness and emotions get in the way of our client-personal trainer relationship. I really fucked things up and I knew it. I was trying too hard to be Luke’s friend and pushed through the professional boundaries in the process. And guess who ended up getting hurt? Me.

So now I had two options: I could either drag myself through the motions and continue training with Luke or I could gently find a way to take a break from him and move on. As painful as it was, I really had to do what’s best for me and for my mental health. Change has always been such a hard fucking concept for me but it’s a necessary one. If I’m not happy where I am, I need to do something about it. I also have no control over how other people will react. It’s time to be brave, be bold, suck it up and let it go.

The Real Friends all ages show was exactly what I needed tonight in order to take my mind off the events of today. The decision to part ways with my personal trainer was far from an easy one. I kept hitting the replay button over everything that happened both during the session and online, wondering what could I have done differently? I just wasn’t prepared for this, not yet. I wanted things to work out. I was hoping things would get better. But they didn’t.

When I arrived at the venue, my mind was still heavily clouded by negative thoughts. Looking around, there was hardly anyone there that I knew besides a few of the band members and photographers. But somehow I managed to try and relax, break the ice with a few people and allow the music to drown my toxic thoughts and feelings out. I’m not a bad person, just a deeply flawed and misunderstood one. I’m human, I make mistakes and I own up to them.

“I kept everything inside and even though I tried, it all fell apart. What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when I tried so hard. I tried so hard. And got so far. But in the end. It doesn’t even matter. I had to fall to lose it all. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter.” Linkin Park – In The End (2000)

STUCK OUT…The last time I check out this Melbourne-based Alternative Pop-Punk band was last year sometime at the Reverence Hotel. Immediately, the vibes in the room were positive ones with the crowd quickly huddling together at the front of the stage. There was lots of finger pointing and sing-a-longs with the band delivering a very solid performance. The boys played several songs including Headstrong, Statelines and Evergreen. https://stuckoutband.bandcamp.com/

HARBOURS…Funnily enough, I last caught this Melbourne-based Alternative Emo-Grunge band at the same venue for last year’s Invasion Fest. This band always manages to put on an impressive show, encouraging the crowd to get involved. Vocalist Tory spoke about his experience with suicidal thoughts and stressed the point that “It’s okay not to be okay.” Considering how I’ve been feeling recently, these were words that resonated with me deeply. The band played several songs including Flicker and Fade, Take Me Under, Nothing Stays The Same, Pulling Teeth and Room Without a View. https://harboursaus.bandcamp.com/

COLUMBUS…It’s probably been over a year since I last saw this Brisbane-based Alternative Punk-Rock band which would have been at the Evelyn Hotel. This three-piece band was absolutely amazing, particularly the passionate vocals from Alex and Ben which sync very well together. The energy from the crowd was also really buzzing and hectic with plenty of mic grabs at the front. The band played a mixture of old and new songs including Downsides of Being Honest, Daffodil, Say What You Want and Learn to Swim. https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/s…

REAL FRIENDS…What an appropriately titled band. I need more “real friends” in my life. I remember seeing this Illinois-based Pop-Punk band play at the Evelyn Hotel a while back, delivering plenty of feel-good vibes. And tonight was no different. That sense of local music community spirit was in the room, connecting everyone together with great catchy tunes. Check out their latest album “The Home Inside My Head” here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/t…

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On Monday morning, I went to my Healthy Cooking on a Budget class at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. I spent the past week recovering from the flu and a nasty chest infection which meant I had to cancel and cut back on a lot of things, cooking being one of them. Whilst I’m still not quite 100% healthy yet, I felt well enough to attend today. Plus I really missed human interaction and engaging in pleasurable activities, learning new skills and making exciting meals.

When it comes to my mental illness, I firmly believe that exposure therapy is really an effective form of treatment. I’m slowly putting myself back out there in social environments. I worked with Kevin again today and felt a bit more comfortable in his presence. Today we made some rice paper rolls and sushi rolls. Preparing Asian vegetables 101…this was clearly foreign territory for me but I was willing to give it a go.

After washing the dirt off the stems and the leaves of the bok choy, I cut the ends off and started finely chopping it up into small pieces. The carrots, cucumber, capsicum and cabbage are also chopped into thin slices. Next we soaked a sheet of rice paper in a bowl of cold water just enough to wet it and then began layering the vegetables in a neat row across the middle of the rice paper sheet. Then you simply fold the edges inwards and roll it up.

The process with the sushi roll is quite similar except you start by boiling the rice and spreading it out across a nori sheet. Then you place the vegetables on top of the rice in the middle and using the sushi mat as a guide, roll the nori up tightly. You can then slice the sushi roll up into sections and serve with soy sauce. http://www.ballaballa.com.au/progra…

On Monday night, I attended my Foundation Meditation class at Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning, The Peninsula in Frankston South. It was really telling when I walked into the room and only saw five chairs with three people seated. Either a lot of people came down with the flu like myself or Angie has scared them off with her deep philosophical theories. I can understand that though because whilst I am curious, I’m also a skeptic.

Tonight we discussed the concept of The Tree of Humanity. This is basically a visual representation of our world history. Starting with the Golden Age at the base of the tree, this is when the first souls came from the Soul World in their most powerful and pure states. There was no negative karma. The first “man” and “woman” were born (see Adam and Eve). And since the Earth was yet to tilt on an axis, the climate was Spring-like all the time.

Next we have the Silver Age. This was not quite as perfect as the Golden Age. There was still no negative karma but there was a significant increase in population size. Everyone was in a soul conscious state. During the Copper Age, soul consciousness turned into body consciousness. This was the beginning of negative karma and the start of recorded history. It was also the birth of religions including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Hindu.

The Iron Age is the time we are currently living in. This is where we have the greatest darkness on Earth. Science and medicine are used to prolong life expectancy in an artificial way. And religions take on a different form including sports games, being at the gym. The Confluence Age overlaps both the Iron Age and the Golden Age. It also joins the souls up to the Supreme Soul. Finally, it provides the roots of the tree, giving it a firm foundation and the power to change consciousness. http://brahmakumaris.org.au/ways-to…

On Tuesday night, I went to my Body Combat class with Cinamon Guerin at YMCA Casey ARC in Narre Warren. Considering I haven’t been to a combat class in three weeks and haven’t exercised all of last week due to being sick, I really hard to pull the reins in and lower my expectations. As expected, the fatigue hit quicker than normal and I found myself having to pull back and consciously remind myself to breathe during the workout.

The part I really struggled with involved doing a kick combo with a side step. I just got myself uncoordinated and lost a few times but that’s okay. I was trying and doing my best which is all that matters. I never aim for perfection but I do try really hard no matter how fatigued I’m feeling. Cinamon was positive and encouraging as always. The thing I really admire about her is that she’s able to laugh at herself if she makes a mistake, proving that fitness instructors are human too. https://www.lesmills.com/workouts/f…

On Wednesday morning, I had my Strength Training session with Luke Davey at Breakaway Fitness in Berwick. In a lot of ways, I saw today’s session as hitting the reset button and creating a more positive space for myself. In order to do that, I had to lower my expectations and be kinder to myself. That meant being comfortable in the silence and not being hard on myself whenever I’m not understanding what Luke is asking of me and if we don’t have much to talk about. That’s the true nature of acceptance. Being okay with what is.

WARM UP…Today I warmed up the muscles in my upper arms and shoulders by using a couple of different resistance straps. The first position was a bit tricky to get into. Placing the loop of the strap underneath the sole of my foot, I then had to wrap my arm behind me and lift my elbow over my head whilst raising my back foot and then pressing it down. But once I got it, it felt really good.

DEVELOPMENT…Once again I did my bench press workout, doing 5 rounds of 1 rep at 50kg. I was feeling much better about my performance today mainly because my thoughts and emotions weren’t getting in the way. My head was a lot clearer and so I could focus on what I was doing. I was trying hard to get my technique right, activating the various muscle groups and keeping that bar straight. My mantra today was…Struggle = Progress = Success.

I’m learning to see struggle as a strength rather than a weakness. It means I’m trying really hard to achieve my goals and succeed. My lifting technique certainly wasn’t perfect but it didn’t matter. I fucking did it, that’s what matters. And Luke was spotting me the entire time so I was in safe hands and I was able to relax more. I used the resting time effectively by concentrating on my breath and practicing muscle activation to prepare for each lift.

We ended the session by doing 3 rounds of 10 single arm dumbbell rows at 20kg. This is where I was starting to sweat and fatigue a bit but again I didn’t let it bother me today. Just focus on the movement, keeping that elbow locked in close to my body. Counting reps isn’t exactly my strong point though I did decide to get a bit creative with it. I imagined a Sesame Street inspired image of muppets holding a number of a blackboard for each rep I did. Hey, it works for me.

Luke told me that this exercise really helps with the development of my “lats” aka latissimi dorsi, which are the muscles located to the side of the upper back next to the arm. After my last session with Luke, I feel like things are slowly getting back on track for me. I’m learning to relax more and let go of worrying about what Luke’s thinking about me. I’m learning to take one session at a time and try not to overthink about what’s happening around me. I’m learning to find balance in my life rather than cramming too many things into one basket and burning myself out as a result. https://www.facebook.com/breakawayf…

On Thursday morning, I went to a Gentle Hatha Flow yoga class at Just Be Yoga and Meditation in Beaconsfield. I can’t believe that it’s been four months since I’ve been to this yoga studio. Part of it has been financial difficulties but also spreading my wings and trying out different places to do yoga in. I have no regrets or guilt about this despite the fact that I’ve been loyal to Just Be for about 6 years or so. I feel like the door will always remain open for me, no matter how frequently I attend classes here.

I have to admit that I really did miss the studio and Dell Brown as my yoga teacher. Today was all about finding connection with myself. Michelle talked about a concept called Pratyahara aka Sensory Withdrawal, which is basically turning your awareness inward by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath during the practice. This helps to shift your focus away from distracting thoughts and towards being mindful in each yoga pose.  https://yogainternational.com/artic…

We did a series of flowing sequences, balances and stretches including: Seated spinal twists, Seated side stretches, Downward facing dog, Cobra pose, Arm and Leg Balance, Cat-Cow pose, Tree pose, Low lunge, Standing Forward Fold, Half lift and Mountain pose. We ended the close by doing some supported Shoulder Stands using a blanket and a bolster into the wall. I’ve never really felt comfortable doing inversions like this but doing variations with props certainly makes them a lot easier and better for me. https://www.doyouyoga.com/top-5-hea…

“We gotta be bold. We gotta be brave. We gotta be free. We gotta get loud. Making that change. You gotta believe (woah). We’ll look deep inside. And we’ll rise up and shine. We can be bold. We can be brave. Let everyone see. It starts with you and me.” You and Me from the TV Movie Descendants 2 (2017)

“Tell me something, tell me anything. This distance grows in silence but the pain is deafening. So what are you thinking, where has your head been. Follow your tangled string and come back home to me.” Far Away Stables – Phase Shift (2017)

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It’s been 6 years since Leslie Feist’s last studio album “Metals” and she was clearly in no hurry about dropping her latest one called “Pleasure”. The Canadian-born singer songwriter has stripped back the layers both musically and lyrical, this time crafting her most raw, sparse and personal album to date.

If you’re looking for catchy indie-pop hits like “1 2 3 4” and “My Moon My Man”, you won’t find them here. Title track and opening song “Pleasure” sees Feist at her most upbeat with some fierce guitar riffs and yelled vocals in the vein of PJ Harvey. Elsewhere, she is much more subdued, laid-back and softly spoken like on “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You”.

The two biggest highlights for me are “Any Party” and “A Man is Not His Song” which both feature gang-vocals in the background and some quirky samples thrown in. Lead single “Century” is a 6 minute epic featuring sporadic beats, weird guitar tunings and 60’s-inspired psychedelia. To top it off, she even ropes in UK Britpop legend Jarvis Cocker for an unexpected and otherworldly spoken outro.

“Pleasure” is one of those albums that requires a lot of patience and repeated listens in order to reveal the hidden nuances buried beneath the minimalist percussion, static studio noises and Feist’s heart on her sleeve approach to songwriting. It’s nowhere near as accessible as “The Reminder” but it’s still worthy of a listen.

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