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Well they say that moving house is on the top 5 most stressful things you can do in life but ah … yeah, I’m finding moving to be deeply stressful, anxiety-filled and so on. A good friend of mine called Bullshit on my blog of late, and he’s right. I’m only talking surface feelings and whilst they are true and honest, they’re not all of it. Not by a long shot. I got a lot going on. And I still feel quite self conscious [1] about expressing that all to the fullness that I used to do.

So moving house is stressful. It’s a hoarder’s nightmare really. And now the truth about why I was mainlining so many episodes of those shows is out! I promised myself after the last time I moved house, which was so deeply traumatic and stressful that I haven’t been able to even contemplate it til now, that I would slowly go through all my possessions and declutter. So that next time I moved, it would be less stressful. And for periods of time, I did do that. But I had the luxury of space and as long as I couldn’t see things cause they were packed away, I was happy.

But now… now I am moving again and I have to look at things. And I am upset as to why I have so much stuff; why I need to hold onto so much stuff; and why I can’t seem to just part with it now. The other thing is, when you’re living in a place, you have the luxury of not having to deal with something if you don’t want to. You can just put it away for later. And later, you know, you’ll look at it and deal with it. When you move, that “later” becomes “right now”, whether you like it or not.

I imagine this experience is on some spectrum of what it would be like to go into a diagnosed hoarder’s house – the degree of hoarding such that they sleep on the floor by the front door because they physically cannot get further inside their house due to “stuff” – and telling them they have to move. Now! How I feel seems somewhat akin to  the anxiety they experienced at having to face up to what is in their home and make decisions about what they can trash, donate or giveaway. But I’m a typical Pisces – always swimming in opposite directions at the same time. I want to both keep things and be ruthless and throw it all away and have clear spaces, no clutter. And so, my “later” is “now”. And if I had less stuff, this moving would be less prolonged.

Two examples of stressful situations for me this weekend.

(more…)



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June 4   Burnout

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I expected burnout to hit end of April. It’s just the way I am – my business model, as Tansy would put it. I work better under pressure and that’s when I tend to excel, and I give everything I’ve got and then, after that, I’ve got nothing. I usually get sick going into a convention, lose my voice by day 2 or 3 and come home and nurse a bad flu or something for a week or 2. After Natcon in Adelaide, I swear I had Swine Flu. It’s the way I’ve always been, for as long as I can remember.

So it was really weird when I didn’t get sick at the con or in the days after – usually burnout hits just as the pressure finally is off. I wished I’d had a couple of extra days holiday after the convention but I didn’t have the leave to take (I’m still hoping to somehow get to World Fantasy this year and I really really want to have leave to take over Christmas.) As much as I need the time off now, I know I  can’t afford to trade that for time off at Christmas. And the really weird thing is, my long service leave entitlement is kinda just round the corner. It feels weird to have been with this agency this long but, I’m sorta hanging out for it and hoping to make it that far. I have plans for that time, and am hoping I get to have it. We’ll see.

So, what I wasn’t really expecting was this kind of slow burnout rather than the crash and burn. The crash and burn I know how to handle. Take to my bed with the Gilmore Girls and some hot chocolate and just … chill the hell out. And then I’m good. Back to it. This though … this is weird. It feels like a malaise or an apathy or a … a complete lack of energy and a lack in making myself find the energy. I’m still working full time. I’m still working pretty full time on the press – juggling the promotion and marketing of the recent books, readying book 3 for the printer and starting to get stuck into book 4 of the Twelve Planets. And I’m still far behind on the whole TPP to do list to even contemplate thinking the last couple of late nighters I pulled this week have brought me up to speed.

But … I just can’t get enthused. Or energised. Or moving. I haven’t exercised since before Swancon. I’m eating a lot of sugar and chocolate, craving the buzz, I guess. I’m not being super careful with my dos and don’ts for food allergies. I still haven’t managed to make inroads into the gritting my jaw thing. And I have the puppy – so, puppies don’t sleep through the night. I’m not sure I knew that!

Today I got to work, and (societal norms mean that often for me in order to be at work in the times expected, I don’t wake up until I’ve sat at my desk for half an hour or an hour) realised that I felt vile. The first person I spoke to was when I was ordering my coffee and I sounded like I had a head cold. I told her I felt foul this morning and she asked me if i had a headache, that I sounded off this morning. After sitting at my desk for a while, I realised I felt sick and was feeling sicker. I know I can’t work as hard as I was before and expect the physical and mental robustness. I’m burned out. But at the same time, I don’t get the option of … not doing so.

Eventually, my workmates talked me into going home, without take home work, and I did. After a couple of hours of almost no work and a lot of reality TV, I started to feel a little more normal. I’m hoping to get a lot of downtime this long weekend. Of course, I’m also hoping to get more packing and moving done and I’m not currently living in that location so, these things seem at odds. But we’ll see.

The really awful thing is I’ve lost my crafting mojo. I haven’t really worked on any projects since before the con. Normally I find sewing a really good craft for when I am doing fine tuned thinking like line editing and knitting better for project development and reading. But right now, I have no will or interest to do either. In the first place, my hands were really really sore when the change of weather happened and I laid off anything too much (though my mother says knitting kept my grandmother’s fingers limber). But like the rest, above, I just haven’t felt the energy to craft, like I don’t have the creativity in me right now. Burned out and unable to take the stimulation of colours and textures and patterns. Though, at the same time, I’m also doing a lot of project planning, business vision and direction and development. So in some ways, I feel highly creative in that area and not needing the craft. I miss crafting though. I have a sock I am knitting that I pick up and do a row here and there but I really miss the intensive crafting. And worse, I’ve replaced that time with recreation reading. And I’m really scared that it’s a one or the other type scenario.



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I started the day with such energy and about 5 blogposts which I’ve been meaning to flesh out all week on the boil. And then I ended up taking that energy and reading a good chunk of Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing (one of the books we’ll be discussing on the upcoming spoilerific Joanna Russ episode on Galactic Suburbia). Reading this book has been a bit uncomfortable. Obviously there are elements of it that I was already aware and attuned to but other aspects have had me questioning a few things about my own experience and also seeing a few people, and their reactions and responses to me in certain arenas, in a different light. I also did some reading for Last Short Story. And like 5 or 6 loads of laundry. And lots and lots of cleaning up after puppy.

And some rearranging of things at C’s place. I am moving in with C. He actually asked me at the beginning of the year and we agreed that it was better timing after Swancon. I actually didn’t realise just how much Swancon was going to take out of me. It’s taking so much longer than I thought it would to get the emotional and mental energy back up to tackle things, to get up to speed on publishing, to be capable of socialising and a bunch of other things too. So the moving thing. Not really what I have energy for. And, as they say, one of the most stressful things you do in life. Yay. But it’s getting there slowly (not really, I feel like I have moved hardly anything). Most of Twelfth Planet Press is down here and in one room, more like a warehouse than an office but able to function and run things. Why do I have so many other (personal) books? And stuff. I have a lot of stuff. Still, the one carload at a time thing is starting to make me cry. I have to get a mover for the large items of furniture anyway so I am starting to lean towards packing boxes and having them brought down at the same time. Now just to actually leverage space in C’s house for me. Too little storage!

So I have much work still to be done this weekend. I feel very behind on the Twelve Planets. And ASif! And I want to get some traction on Last Short Story. And now that I have sorted my next two interviews for Galactic Chat, I have reading to do in preparation of those. And And And. You know how it goes.



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Yesterday I got a phonecall from reception informing me that I had “received an urgent parcel” and could I please come down and collect it right away? Reception is a fair walk across the campus here and I spent the time wondering what in the hell I’d received that could possibly be urgent? I hadn’t any proofs from printers coming, I couldn’t possibly be being served for anything, could I? Maybe, just maybe, somebody sent me flowers? Though really? Why would they do that to work? I freaked out, just a little, cause I’m a bit sensitive at the moment. But I headed down and behind the reception desk, I did spy some flowers. And then I told them who I was and the flowers were indeed for me! And the “urgency” was that they would otherwise have snaffled them home for themselves! I think they loved being in on the conspiracy. And to add to it I said, “I have no idea who they could be from!”

Which in fairness, was kinda true in the moment. I’ve been sent flowers before – lovely friends and aunts who knew I was feeling down, or when I was sick in hospital, and wanted to show me how much they love me. And receiving flowers is always a special treat! But I’ve never been with anyone who sent me flowers before. And as I was walking away with my beautiful bunch of flowers, I opened the card and found the most romantic and meaningful words inside. Of course C sent me flowers! He knew how sad I’d been the night before and how I’ve been feeling. Of course he was thinking about me and wanted to tell me how much he loves me. (That I actually get to have love in my life still surprises me) And his card made me melt. We’d had a meaningful conversation the night before and the four words he wrote spoke back to that. And reminded me that I am loved, by a great man who sees me, really sees me, and loves me still.

I’ve had a really rough month. And months before that I spose. Speaking to a lot of people who have gone before me, I understand that it takes months to recover from running a convention. I’m at least glad that the nightmares have finally ended. I’m very slowly recovering back to something resembling who I was two years ago before I started out on this particular journey. Though I have learned a lot along the way – most of it not pleasant, or if not that, then hard lessons learned the hard way. Those of course are the ones that stick the best but still, why do I always have to choose the hard way? But now as I start to get some distance, and hopefully some perspective, I’m thinking a lot about all that happened, wanting to glean what I can, learn from it and make the pain worthwhile. Because it was painful. And a lot of hard work. And it can’t be for nothing.

I think possibly the single most important thing I’ve learned is that the only thing you can control is your reaction. And this alone is a very very powerful tool. When you’re the public face of an entity, be that a convention or a publishing house, then how you behave represents that entity. That means that no matter how much you want to shout and scream or argue, those may not be the most productive ways to resolve or fix a situation.

I learned a very important skill these last two years, and I owe this one to my friend Amanda, that the best way to respond is to not respond in the moment. To go away and cool off and think about it and to come back and always always be polite and diplomatic. No matter how you were addressed or what was said about or to you. (I think I drove her a bit over the edge for a good six months before I got the hang of this.) I can’t count the number of times that my initial response would have been one out of defense or justification or matching in rude/terse/blaming/inflammatory/critical tone but a cooling off day later became a polite response and or offer to help or fix, which _then_ moved the whole issue positively further along.

I learned that much more can be achieved by giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, by trying to resolve an issue in a generous way and by choosing not to respond in kind even if the “in kind” was not itself so. I learned that I need to have the final word on everything and that actually lots of things don’t need or deserve a response. That in the past I have done so _in order_ to have the last word. And doing so achieves very little. Most people can see the elephant in the room. I don’t need to point to it and call it so aloud. And not needing to have the last word helps reduce the email inbox _a lot_ (who knew?). Wins for the sake of winning aren’t really worth the energy of the fight. And I also learned that not everything can be resolved. Sometimes there are no solutions, there is no compromise and some things are irredeemable.

And I learned who my friends are. These are the people who I want to be like when I grow up. That they weren’t always who I thought was a very painful and hurtful process. Of course. But that’s life. But the flipside to that is that I discovered who my friends are and how truly awesome a group of people they are. These are the people who push me, inspire me, energise me, celebrate and cry with me and fuel my creativity. They are why I do what I do and are the how I do what I do too. Because no one could do all the things I’m involved with alone! And every day I am blown away by the amount of support I receive – the people why buy and read the work I publish, the people who lend a hand or offer advice and the people who just are there, smiling at me in the rain.

This month has been truly mentally grueling. There have been days of great struggle for me. There have been days when I truly questioned why I was here, why I do what I do, why it was ok to be attacked like an intangible idea rather than a person with feelings and why, after all was said and done, no apology seemed necessary for my hurt, distress and harm. This month has had me thinking a lot about bullying and victimisation. And where the line lies between these two. That if the only thing I can control is my reaction, then … how do I learn to control my reaction?

Because the truth is, with all this grappling with why do I do this anyway?, I realized/remembered why I do. I love science fiction. I love reading it, I love finding new talent, I love being confronted by new or uncomfortable ideas, I love being stimulated to think about things deeply, I love working with writers on new projects, I love the synergy and creation and the coming together of a vision. I LOVE publishing. And I love the privilege of talking about it and working on it with the brilliant, talented and inspiring people I get to work with and hang out with every single day. I love every part of publishing from the conception of the idea, to the development of the project, to the production of the work and the marketing and promotion of the finished product. I love keeping up with what everyone else is producing and from that being inspired to work on my own next project. The answer to where do I find the time to do all this is simply that – I love it. My soul feeds off it. And I grow every single day by being a part of it and by contributing. I love getting to be involved. And the more I am, the more I want to be. And the more I learn, the more I take with me to everything I do, not just science fiction but my life at large.

This month I had to dig deep and backpedal hard against the pull of the abyss. There were moments where I wasn’t sure who was going to win. Really really rock bottom moments. But in that struggle I forced myself to look for the light, and I found a lot of it, shining all around me. Thank you to those of you who turned on a light. It’s meant a lot to me.



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… this was me answering my dentist’s question today as to why I have been so stressed.

I was supposed to be there for a filling but I had that whole earache drama the other week which we had to deal with first. I spent the whole day dreading going this afternoon on account of the “impacted tooth” diagnosis from my GP. I actually didn’t think it was but thought it could be an issue leading to a root canal that I am trying to avoid. Either way, I was terrified of having a root canal or another tooth removed. He took one look at it and was like, nope, it’s not a tooth thing at all, it’s a muscle thing. Turns out, my jaw is tight due to clenching from stress/anxiety and it’s gotten so bad, it’s caused the earache.

So, instead of having a horrible procedure, I got a 15 minute jaw massage, a prescription of hot pack, yoga, talking to a friend and a script for Valium. And two more appointments for fillings later.

I have to admit, I do love my dentist. I’d been so dreading all of this that I forgot how nice he is. Which is why I see him. And he gave me a very stern talking to about being stressed out and how Type A, high strung worriers end up dying young. And then he told me about his brother who died a year older than I am now and how that made him realise what’s important in life. It was all a bit grim but yeah, he’s right. About all that stuff and the sugar too (I don’t wanna talk about that now). I know most of my current stress is remnant Swancon stuff. The nightmares have almost stopped. Though I did have the stress dream I have of shopping in a general, up market department store (I have no idea why that’s stressful). But still, it’s not just Swancon and I know that.

I’ve referred in passing to the reassessment I’m currently doing about my life and commitments. Pretty much most of it is up for grabs at the moment and is being asked to justify relevance to me to stay in my life. I’ve set myself the next year to do nothing, to destress and to make major lifestyle changes to facilitate that. But that has moved to a slight reinterpretation of “do nothing that I don’t want to do”. 2011 has felt very much so far like a year where I am constantly in situations that force me to confront that which I have been trying to ignore or procrastinate or sweep under the carpet. Ordinarily in my everyday life, I would prefer to go with the flow and not make waves. But this year, no. I don’t seem to be able to get away with such things, be it seeing a movie that I really don’t want to see or something more important than that. It’s been rough for me because I actually would prefer to do something I don’t want if it makes the other person happy. (In the past I’ve made some really self destructive choices in life because of this need to please.) But in being confronted with the fact that I don’t really want to do X, and having to say so for a variety of reasons and often this year, I’ve also discovered that beyond the uncomfortable revelation conversation is this other thing – the joy of not having to do something you don’t want or rather, doing the thing that you do want.  And the more this happens this year, and the more I realise that you don’t actually regret not doing things you didn’t want to do or not spending time with people you didn’t want to spend time with, the more vigilant I am being about first checking how I feel about things and then honestly responding in kind. It’s been very freeing.

So yes, more of that. More decluttering in my life. More spending time on the things that I want to do. More moving away from negativity and towards positivity. And more joy and happiness. And less stress. So the theory goes.

And I guess a return to yoga.



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May 16   Less is more

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My current obsession is catching up on Survivor Redemption (last week it was Fringe and Mike and Molly). I think this, the 22nd season of Survivor, is close to the best season yet. One of my criticisms of the early seasons was after the first run through where Richard Hatch laid out how you played the game to win, the game pretty much was just played that way. Over and over again. And it got boring. But then they reinvented the game, in a way, when interesting characters came along and through in some more game changers (immunity idols) and showed that the game could be played differently – no longer an alliance of four would guarantee you through to the final four.

Anyway, I’m still quite far behind but what I’m observing about social politics is much along on the lines of what I’ve observed generally in the last month – that saying less says more.

And I’d expand on that but then, that would be more, when really, less is more.



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May 15   At Weekend’s end

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And I don’t have much to say. Isn’t that utterly fantastic? I actually have a smile on my face. And I’ve been laughing a lot this evening. How utterly divine to start to feel like me again.

Friday night we were supposed to meet at my place and then head down to C’s. We ended up procrastinating such that we decided to go out for dinner with my parents’ first. They were going Italian (and not Chinese – I know!) and it was some place that they couldn’t give directions to meet them, we had to go with. I was almost expecting a secret knock or password on arrival. Dinner was lovely and it was nice to catch up with my parents. C has been sick all week so he was a bit quiet. We went back to their place for coffee and then just decided to sleep at my place and be done.

That meant heading down to C’s in two cars the next day. And getting up earlier than I would like on the weekend. But I grabbed me a lovely cup of coffee from my fave place and turned on the RTR Saturday jazz and totally enjoyed the drive down. I’ve been getting into RTR Radio finally. Just like how it took me lots of tries to like Triple J in the beginning, I’ve really struggled to connect with RTR. And then a couple of weekends ago, C had it on in his car and it was the Saturday morning Jazz and I loved it and have been pretty much tuned into them since.

And then I did this weird thing whilst C was out most of the mid day at rugby. I read. A lot. Of short stories. And I enjoyed it. I’ve actually done this for most of the weekend in preference to anything else, including television. It’s really really weird. And I’ve really enjoyed it. I found my first 5 story for the year – it made me cry. Mondy has already blogged it but the F&SF issue for March/April features a story called “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu is one of my picks for the year. LOVED IT. Yay! I love loving reading shorts again. I’m also enjoying reading Engineering Infinity and an anthology with a climate change theme called Welcome to the Glasshouse.

Saturday night we hung out with C’s parents and tried a new place down in R’ham called Mash. I think it’s trying to be like Little Creatures.

Today we headed up to the Barrack St Jetty to have brunch with some old workmates of mine at a place called Sassy’s on the Swan. The breakfast was very good. And it was so so so good to hang out with G and A and their partners. I miss not working with them anymore. They help make the world make sense. Sooooo good to see them. And to have time to sit and idly eat breakfast on a Sunday morning.

And you’ll never guess what I spent the afternoon doing. Yup. Reading.

Very happy.

 



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It’s been a very surreal space having worked so hard and so intensely with so many others for some time and then … it’s all done. We have some wrapping up and some reflection and all that jazz but that’s not for now. Now is for recovery. And not doing things.

So it’s not really surprising that I have no idea what one does when one does not do things. I’ve had to actively remind myself that I am not doing things now. Often. And that I should not have a daily to do list or a daily quota of any kind that needs meeting. And that it’s ok, mandatory, in fact, to actively NOT do things on whole days. Because, this will make me feel better (soon I hope! I’m still having Swancon nightmares).

So, what DO you do under such cirmcumstances.

Well. I’ve reorganised the TPP stock. Seriously. I am someone who constantly sets random milestones or goals or triggers for action, places along the way for marking progress and personal reward. And one of the things I like to see is a decline in the number of stock TPP holds (duh). And so, I’m forever rearranging and reorganising all the books in their boxes. If two boxes are each half full, why, combining them would remove an empty box from the house = progress! That kind of thing. But what with shuffling books in and out of boxes and also taking stock to Worldcon and Swancon and back, everything was kind of all over the place and I no longer knew what was in each box or what books were where.

So, reorganisation was in order! Also a labelling system. And sure,  I admit, this (see Exhibit A, to the left) could have been overkill but it’s pretty glorious to be able to figure out what books are where.  And the shuffling of books between boxes can continue.

 

I’ve also been reading. I can hardly believe it –  I thought it would be so much harder to get myself back there. It turns out that 1) I love reading and 2) when I have the time, I love to, and can, read. I’ve nearly read another book in a week – so two in the last fortnight after possibly none in the whole year beforehand. And I’ve gotten back onto the Last Short Story saddle. Today I read an issue of Asimovs, the most recent issue of Electric Velocipede and half of a SF anthology. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be reading again. And enjoying reading again. It might be that I don’t get to do it every day when things ramp back up again (they will ramp up again, I spose, much as I’ve promised myself a year of no additional commitments at all – a promise far more strict than The Bet) but even a couple of days a week would keep me happy.

 

 

 



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As I write this, I’ve just made a doctor’s appointment for the raging earache I’ve had all weekend long and I’m trying to figure out whether I go to work first or call in sick or what. Due to stubbornness, I want to see *my* doctor who is an hour and a half away and work is en route.

That said, I had an utterly fabulous weekend. It was probably the best weekend I’ve had in a very very long time – I wanted to write “in at least a year” but that thought made me sad. I didn’t do very much and I didn’t get a lot done but I had a really great time (there’s probably something to learn in that).

I admit that I’ve been somewhat of a grumble bum this last fortnight and probably quite miserable to be around. It took me an hour and a half to get to C’s place after work on Friday and it was more of the same. I wanted to know how long dinner would take and got teased about sounding like a 1950s husband. C wanted to know if I wanted my slippers and a beer, and actually, that sounded quite good (and I don’t drink beer). C popped out to get some Little Creatures and we had one each whilst watching Masterchef and eating a delicious minestrone soup that he cooked (and I hate minestrone soup – are you sensing a theme here yet?). And maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the knowledge that I had the next two days off from commitments but I finally managed to lighten the hell up, giggle and be a bit silly. And we had the loveliest evening just hanging out and watching TV and reading and just being us, together. It was such a not effort thing but was really special to me. Maybe that’s the thing, after so long with so many constant commitments and demands on my time, it was so glorious to have none and just be with C.

Saturday I popped passed Tehani’s place to pick up boxes of books (OMG I am forever packing and unpacking boxes of books in and out of my car!). And we had a lovely cuppa and chat. And it was nice to catch up with minimal (ha!) business to run through. I popped past my house and then onto my parents where I had coffee and helped my mum to baste the quilt she’s working on. And it was really lovely to sit in their patio and drink a coffee and catch up with her. So relaxing and so much like I was getting back to the pure basics of who I am.

Saturday night, we did takeaway after the rugby game and just hung out. And again, it was glorious!

Sunday was Mother’s day and we do a family breakfast for our mum and it’s lovely that our group is expanding and expanding aka my niece is hilarious! I was able to critique my hollandaise sauce and be properly dissatisfied with it. Thank you Masterchef. I was very happy to have finished off two pairs of socks I have been knitting in various meetings and behind Twelfth Planet Press tables for a while and give them both to my Mum! Her feet get sore in the cold weather. So, when it gets cold here again, we can hope, she will be prepared!

Then we went PUPPY SHOPPING! Oh yes we did!! We’ve known we want to adopt a puppy for a while and we know the kind of puppy we want but the problem has been not wanting to get this kind of dog from a pet store or puppy farm. I’d done some research but couldn’t find any breeders to deal with directly. Because my mother is awesome, she actually found an ethical pet store that specialises in the kind of dog we are looking for – another Bichon or a Moodle (Maltese/poodle). Ok, I admit I only wanted a Moodle since I went there and discovered the name. It’s hilarious. We went to check them out on Sunday and we played with a couple of oh so cute puppies! We’re not quite ready or set up for taking one home just yet but it’s great to know where we can go when we are ready.

I headed off for coffee with Jonathan and Marianne for the afternoon. Soooooo good. I love sitting in their formal lounge in and amongst all the BOOKS. And it’s so rejuvinating and healing to just be amongst friends who know you. We talked about the industry and podcasts and all the boring things that noone else would be interested in.

And then it was too soon time for me to leave. I picked up C’s mum and headed to his brother’s for C’s mum’s Mother’s Day – C cooked dinner. Twas very lovely and nice to spend time with the quieter members of his family and get to know them better.

And that was my weekend. Very little “productive work” done. But made me so happy. And centred and grounded me a lot.

 

 



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