Year of Zero – Half Yearly Review

Time for the half-yearly review already??? It’s hard to believe that I am halfway through my Year of Zero. 2020 has, so far, been a very challenging year for the planet and its peoples.  After fires and floods, we faced disease and now there are riots and civil unrest brought about by racism. What’s next? A second wave? An economic downturn for certain, after that who knows!

When I published my first quarter review back in March, the Coronavirus had just hit Australia and we were entering a period of lock-downs. Now, three months later things are returning to normal, or the new normal some of us are hoping for.

I have not been as focused on my savings goals as I would like to have been these last few months. There have been some legitimate distractions. I haven’t strayed too far, but I do feel like I have lost some traction.

Some of the slide has come about because I was not prepared (or able) to go from place to place to do my grocery shopping. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible which meant reverting to shopping in one place and that one place was Woollies. I had been trying to avoid Woolworths in favour of using smaller more independent outlets.

Despite this lack of focus, I have saved money simply because it was not possible to go anywhere anyway! So here is my self-report in the declared categories for the three months from April – June.

The itemised half-yearly review:

1. No overseas travel

Nope! None! I couldn’t if I had wanted to! Given the current ban on travel, I might not be travelling next year either!

Score: 10/10

2. No extended travel within Australia

Once again, easily achieved! The furthest I have been from my home in the last three months is 90 km into Sydney to drop my Grandson off, 3 times. Otherwise, I have stayed in sunny Wollongong. I was booked to go on a cruise to nowhere to celebrate a friend’s 50th, but I pulled out due to work commitments and then it was cancelled anyway.

Score 10/10

3. No new stuff.

I haven’t done so well in this area. I bought several items which did not fit into the categories I had set myself. (Essential, secondhand and only replacing broken or worn out items)

I bought some brand new items. (GASP!!)

  • Firstly, a plastic bread slicing guide. Apart from the fact that it was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be, it seemed like a reasonable purchase.  I have been doing lots of iso-baking (as has the rest of the world) but I can’t cut bread to save myself. I guess I could have just practised cutting the bread more carefully.
  • I designed a souvenir coffee mug, just for the fun of it.
  • A new book – on reducing kitchen waste
  • I paid for some custom made key rings to use as gifts.
  • And of course, I bought a few NEW things for my Grandson! (eg Lego)
coffee cup
You have to admit that’s pretty funny!

The items that did fit in the restricted category were,

  • A replacement iron after my old one shorted out the electricity. I had to call an electrician but thankfully I was able to re-set it myself after about an hour of unplugging everything and plugging it all back in one item at a time.
  • Some winter clothes to make up for the things I got rid of as part of another massive wardrobe cull.
  • A replacement phone case and screen protector,
  • Expensive socks,
  • A new booster seat for my grandson, he’s outgrown the old one and I need to keep him safe.
  • Fabric to make tea cosies.

Score: 4/10

4. Reduction in Expenditure on Groceries

This is the area that took the biggest hit. Returning to Woolies and the inability to use cash* meant that I did not keep such a tight reign on grocery expenditure. I went over my budget 4 out of 8 fortnights in this time period. On the other hand, for almost a full month, I was living out of my pantry and freezer and only bought a few fresh items. Perhaps with the swings and roundabouts, I broke even.

Score 5/10 

* most retailers were insisting on contactless payments.

5. Side Hustle Happenings

Not much happened here. The photography business, OCE generated no income and no apparent interest. I did sell a few of my postcards and A (single) tea cosy through Etsy but taking into account the cost of materials, I am still running at a loss there. The courses I had scheduled for the local Community College were cancelled. I pitched a few story ideas but had no luck. To be perfectly honest I don’t think this side of things will get off the ground till I am done with the day job.

Score: 5/10

6. Only sign up for free courses

I did for a free TAFE NSW course and completed it in a couple of days. I also signed up for three more courses through Future Learn. I finished 2 of them. One on Disaster Preparation was not relevant to Australian conditions so I didn’t bother completing it. The nutrition course was disappointing as it was quite outdated and I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. The third course on science writing was good but again not something I hadn’t already covered in a paid course a few years ago.

I did pay for an online gym membership BUT this was because I could not go to the gym. My gym provided a 60-day free trial to Les Mills on Demand, in lieu of access and after this expired, I paid for another 30 days as they were still not open. (They reopened on the 22nd June).  I have actually made a net gain here. ($40 so don’t get too excited!) The online classes were good and I enjoyed them, but being at the actual gym is better.

Score 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

Not possible. COVID restrictions meant you could not do this sort of stuff. I did sell one of the kombucha kits to someone at work.

Score: 1/10

8. Concentrate on free activities

This was easy!!! I couldn’t do much else! My trivia buddies and I tried a few virtual quiz nights, but everything else was cancelled. I did splurge on hiring and/or buying movies for the Hugh Grant Film Festival.  In total this was around $60 and I am counting these as experiences.

Score 7/10

9. Rewrite my 60 for 60 goal

My 60 for 60 list is a work in progress. I did do a big jigsaw. That’s one more ‘free’ item ticked off. When I look through the list now, many items seem irrelevant. Perhaps it’s time to admit the list was ill-conceived and start a new one altogether?

Score: 0/10

10. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

No new wins and no losses to report. I am doing OK here. I am continuing to reduce the amount of packaged food I buy and I am making more things from scratch. I have got better at bread making and have abandoned the automated breadmaker for fully hand prepared bread which tastes good! I have found an excellent recipe for focaccia. My freezer is well stocked with baked goods. I have been literally clearing out my fridge before I go shopping again and have only had to toss some food scraps that would not fit in the worm farm. I have switched tea bag tea for loose leaf tea.

My zero-waste kit did not get a work out as I did not eat anywhere that required them. I took lunch to work every day, ate at home every night up until 4 June when I went on my first ‘going out adventure’ to the pub!

Score: 6/10

11. Year of Zero Booze

By the time this is published it will be 184 days since I have had any alcohol. This has become a no effort resolution. I have switched kombucha for herbal tea as the weather has cooled down, and since I have not been out, its been easy to avoid social situations where drinking is the norm. I have genuinely enjoyed a few zero alcohol beers. A friend gave me some zero alcohol wine, which they had bought accidentally. It seems a waste of calories. I’d rather do without.

Score: 10/10 

So once again my total score on the very arbitrary scale is 67%. I didn’t even try to manufacture that! It just happened!

I am on track to make my year-end savings target but only just!  In previous years, travel has been by far my biggest expense and this is where I’ll make my biggest savings.  The remaining items are just tinkering around the edges, but still, with diligence, the savings will add up to few thousand dollars over the year.

Goals for next quarter.

  1. To return to a more focused approach to grocery shopping, once everything is reopened.
  2. Buy NOTHING that does not fit the criteria.
  3. Sell a few items. I have an idea, that may be too challenging, to raise $1000 in a month by selling some “stuff”. I’ll think about it….I will make it an action step and first make an inventory of sell-able items and get them onto the local buy-swap-sell site.
  4. Do the side hustle thing! Really really!
  5. Win the lottery!

 

The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen – Book Review

As my Year of Zero approaches it’s halfway point, I must confess that I have bought a book! Yes, a brand new one! Not even second hand! It’s a bit of a Catch 22 really. I said I was not going to buy anything new but then this book will help me with one of my other goals, which is to be more of an eco-warrior princess. The book The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen, by Lindsay Miles was published this month by Hardie Grant. It is a common-sense, no-nonsense guide on how to cut down  or maybe even eliminate kitchen waste. (depending on how warrior-like you choose to be!)

I have been following Lindsay’s blog, Treading My Own Path, for a few months now and I found her advice there very sound and helpful, so thought the book would be a good way to help  keep me on track to achieve my “be less wasteful” goals.

Lindsay approaches the less waste issue with a huge dollop of realism. She is not into naming and shaming. She sets out her philosophy in her introduction:

“ [the] purpose [of this book] is to give you ideas and tools to make changes and feel positive about the things you can do and not guilty about the things you can’t do”.

Less Fuss No WasteThe 223-page softcover book is full of practical ideas. It is divided into five chapters. There are lovely pastel illustrations throughout and plenty of charts and tables to make things easy to understand.

Part 1 gives a recount of our modern industrial food system and why it is no longer sustainable. (If it ever was) Supermarkets are full of abundant and relatively cheap food which is available all year round. Fruits like cherries which were once only available at Christmas time are now shipped in thousands of kilometres from the Northern Hemisphere. Hardly sustainable! While there is a lot of food, our choices are limited to those species ‘selected’ for their high yields, durability and size not unfortunately for their flavour.

The next three chapters look at separate categories where the consumer can take planet-positive actions.

Part 2 looks at how to reduce or remove packaging and plastic, Part 3 introduces carbon-friendly food choices and finally, Part 4 shows how you can reduce your food waste by careful storage, and using as much of your food as possible. This incidentally will save you money as well.

The final section Part 5: Getting started in your (less waste no fuss) kitchen, gives the reader ideas on how to plan meals, how to avoid single-use items and simple recipes for things you can make yourself.

Lindsay does not suggest that you start with an all or nothing approach but rather tackle what you feel most comfortable with first. That may be as simple as remembering to take your own bags to the supermarket or buying from a bulk food store. As you master one thing you can move on to include something a little more robust like reducing your intake of animal foods or buying only plastic-free produce from the farmer’s market.

Lindsay categorises potential actions by ”fuss level” from Fuss Level + to Fuss Level +++.

For instance, if you want to concentrate on reducing plastic packaging, a Fuss + option would be to “Take a stand: pick one grocery item that only comes packaged in plastic and stop buying it altogether.” The Fuss +++ version would be to make the item, like crackers for example, from scratch.

It’s an easy, enjoyable read that I’d recommend dipping in and out of as often as you like. It’s a reference book rather than a novel. Keep it handy in your kitchen. Lindsay’s writing style is unpretentious, friendly and encouraging.

My goal is to make more from scratch and reduce the amount of food I throw out. To this end, I am planning my meals more carefully, sticking to a list and buying what I can in bulk. I’ll definitely be trying out some of Lindsay’s cracker recipes! My biggest stumbling block is reducing the amount of plastic packaging I have, even though I am making a conscious effort to reduce it. It’s everywhere! My next action will be to try a home delivered fruit and vegetable box. This should reduce my packaging a bit.

Go to Lindsay’s website to see where you can order your copy.

 

 

Planning your best life Part 2 – My Plan

View in a car's rear view mirroe

I was chatting with someone at work the other day about the Corona Lockdown and how comfortable I had felt with having a socially and legally acceptable excuse for staying at home.

I said to my  colleague, “I know I am not shy and I am pretty outgoing, but deep down I am really an introvert”

He said, “I know you are, you have too many self-improvement goals not to be an introvert!”

He explained further, perhaps in response to the look on my face which was somewhere between horror and amusement,  “I mean you find your sense of being and energy from within you not outside of you. You set your own goals and don’t rely on others.”

That made me feel better. In the seconds between his first and second statements, I was in my usual way, dissecting what he had said and imagining that I must be presenting to the world as some crazy list driven old lady rabbiting on to anyone who’ll listen!

But hey! I am a list driven person! I need external accountability. I need apps like Habitbul to tell me how many days I haven’t eaten sugar for, or how many days I have been without alcohol. I am the sort of person who starts “eating better” on the first of the month. If it’s a Monday, that’s particularly portentous! I tell people I am having a Year of Zero. Telling anyone who has access to the internet, (via this blog), to hold me accountable. You all become my accountability partners!

Strategic planning meets ikigai.

It should not surprise you then, that I have a written plan for my future. Plan is perhaps a bit generous, as it is not a sequential step by step map, but rather a framework of intentions. A reminder to myself of what I want to do and achieve in the time I have left. It is based loosely on the model for ikigai and my school’s strategic plan!

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that translates as “your reason for getting out of bed in the morning”.

To be happy and thriving, your life pursuits need to be harmonious. Your values, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can make money from should combine to make an elegant and mathematical Venn diagram.  Your mission, passion, vocation and profession can combine to give you a longer life.

This diagram from Thrive Global, illustrates the concept.

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 17.45.50

 

NSW public schools must have a three-year strategic plan with three strategic directions. These strategic plans are published and must be reported on at regular intervals. The strategic directions are then broken into activities or projects which determine what the school is going to be focusing on for the next three years. (I copied these plans from a random high school)

 

My Framework for the future

I like the idea of having an overarching framework and combining the elegance of ikigai, with the logic of the school plan, worked for me. The interdependence of the different aspects of projects is something not illustrated in the strategic plan.

My framework has three spheres

  1. Health and Wellbeing
  2. The day job
  3. Creative maker.

 

strategic directions update October 2018_Page_1

strategic directions update October 2018_Page_2

 

In each of these spheres, there are some projects which I consider to be important for this time in my life. When I retire, the “Day Job” circle will have to be adapted.

This framework gives me some direction and helps me stay focused. I re-read it every couple of months and do a mental check of how I am travelling. Do I need to reconsider or refine my Projects? Are they still relevant? On the other hand, the framework is not an ironclad promise, but a guide.

I think without it I would be lost and chasing after every shiny thing that comes my way.

I think it is helpful to sit down and take stock of what you are doing, where you have been and where you are going. This is especially important after a big change in life circumstances like divorce or even after something like this Pandemic.

What is important to you? How can you make it your focus? What do you have to start doing and importantly what do you have to stop doing to make it happen?

Yes, I do make lists. Yes, I do have self-improvement projects. They give me a map to follow but also allow me to look for new paths. I am happy for you to share my framework, but make sure you fill in your own blanks.  Find you own ikigai!

Planning your best life.

Do you want to live your best life? What does that even mean? Have you ever felt that if you did everything you were supposed to do, to keep yourself fit and healthy, you would run out of time? Is it even possible to fit it all into a standard 24 hour day?

Screenshot 2019-10-25 21.39.39
Got any plans for July yet?

All those things like daily exercise, adequate sleep, cooking healthy food from scratch from the organic produce you bought plastic-free from the local farmers’ market, saving the planet by not wasting stuff, feeding your worm farm, and staying in contact with your friends and family!

All these potentially optional activities overlay the fact that many of us actually have to go out and earn a living for a significant portion of the day, as well as the time taken to commute.

For those of you with families and children, you have to add on yet another layer of complexity as you juggle the mental load of managing family life.  Like shopping, washing, housework, organising kids and their activities etc etc. etc….

Is there a silver lining in the Global Pandemic?

No wonder so many people have found a silver lining in the “Great Global Quarantine of 2020”. The wide scale and permitted (nay encouraged and lawful) rolling back of activities and the fact that you have a very good excuse for not running around frantically, has given us that breathing space to see another way.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the change in the Corona Zeitgeist as people began to realise there was a quieter, slower (dare I say it more meaningful) life to be had.

But how can we maintain a slower pace of living in the long term? We do have to get back to work eventually.  Soccer training, ballet lessons, and book club will be back on sooner than we want it to be. (By the time this is published, normal may well have returned!)

You need to plan for slow living if you want it! I don’t just mean planning your activities but sitting down and thinking about who you want to be in 20 years time.

Empty Calendar
No events! The P&C meeting was cancelled too!

 

Setting your lifestyle climate.

Perhaps we need to look more at our lifestyle-climate rather than always being focused on the current lifestyle-weather? Climate and weather are different ways of looking at our physical environment. One is long term, the other, short term. We are familiar with using these terms when we are talking about the temperature outside and whether it is raining or not.

“Though they are closely related, weather and climate aren’t the same thing. Climate is what you expect. Weather is what actually happens.” 

For many of us, we have crammed so many things into our daily life we are experiencing shit-storms every day! The weather is crap! Just like the global climate change that is causing our planet to heat up, the expectations of modern life have caused our own lives to warm up to intolerable levels. We beat ourselves up by comparing ourselves to others.

The lockdown has shown us we can move to someplace with a better climate! Where things are not so busy.  Where things are not so hectic, and where you don’t have to yell at your kids to get ready for piano lessons!

We let so much of our lives just happen without thinking about it. In general, we set short term goals, if any. We worry more about the weather, and less about the climate.

It’s time to balance our lifestyle-climate so we can manage the life-style weather. We need to map out what we expect and want from our lives more deliberately and only do those things that make the daily weather manageable.

Look at the big picture

I am advocating taking a bigger picture view of your life. To make a calculated plan. Not just go from day to day and pile stuff on. To accommodate the things you think are important and to not put too much pressure on yourself when you end up having pizza from the box in front of Netflix because you can’t be arsed cooking lentils again!

For instance, if you decide that exercise is an important part of your lifestyle-climate, look at it long term.  Perhaps you don’t get a chance to exercise every day but if you look back over the year and see that you exercised more days then you didn’t, then that’s a win.

If you managed to cook healthy meals for 80%  of the 365 days – that’s a win!

Avoided plastic and waste most days?  That’s a win!

Kids involved in one activity? That’s a win!

Made a plan? That’s a big win!

P1070642Jordan Montana
Your plan need not be rigid, but should not be so flexible it blows away with the first breeze. It needs to be anchored by strong roots.

Next week, I will share my lifestyle plan. You may be surprised to know, I do have one! (sic). I sometimes need reminding to stick to it!

 

Is dandruff seasonal? 

During the summer months, I don’t have an issue with dandruff but in the winter I have to be more careful about wearing black. I wondered is dandruff seasonal?

I asked Katrina, my hairdresser, about it and her answer was yes and no.  It isn’t seasonal as such, it has more to do with the temperature of the water we use to wash our hair.

According to Katrina, “Dandruff is just dry skin like anywhere else on your body but the hair traps the flakes and it can’t get away. In the winter, we use hotter water and this dries the skin more so you end up with more dandruff.”

People with oilier hair and hence less dry skin have less dandruff but are likely to use hotter water and wash their hair more frequently. Hormones can also affect the amount of dandruff a person has.  People with thick hair also tend to get more dandruff for two reasons – extra hair traps more flakes and there is also less airflow around the scalp.

To help with this type of dandruff you can try massaging your scalp. Massage stimulates the skin and increases blood flow and the secretion of natural oils which will moisturise your scalp. Using cooler water will also help.

For some people, dandruff is more than just dry skin. More serious forms of dandruff are caused by fungal infections, psoriasis or dermatitis. To deal with these issues you will need to use medicated shampoos. These shampoos can strip the colour from your hair so Katrina recommends you use them every second wash.

There are plenty of fancy treatments around but more natural ones include massaging small amounts of tea-tree oil or coconut oil into your scalp to improve hydration.

Here are a few websites that give you some ideas of how to deal with dandruff.

Nine home remedies to get rid of dandruff https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-treat-dandruff

If you’d prefer a more medical approach have a look at the video and information provided by the American Academy of Dermatology.

 

PS I warned you the Sunday Post was going to be a lucky dip of ideas!

Do Gratitude Diaries Work?

Do gratitude diaries work? I am going to start by putting it out there right now!  In my opinion, it’s a resounding YES!

A gratitude diary or a three good things journal really helped me get out of a slump post-divorce. Actually, post-post-divorce.  That period of time when the euphoria of actually being out of a toxic relationship and into the world as a free and independent person has worn off and the realisation that you are a free person and you have to work out who you are and how you’ll navigate the world without that other person even if they were toxic.

I came across the idea in Martin Seligman’s Flourish. I was sceptical so did some light research and discovered it was a persistent theme in the realm of positive psychology. There are many proponents of the idea. There are apps that help you record your statements of gratitude. You can buy lovely diaries and notebooks. Or like me, you can use one of the many notebooks you already have lying around because you have a tiny stationery fetish!

Essentially a Gratitude Diary (or three good things) is simply a way of recording the positive aspects of your daily life.  At a set time, usually just before you go to bed, you write down or record in some other way; at least three good things or things that you are grateful for that have happened that day.

From personal experience, I know that when you are in the depths of depression or sadness the three good things are hard to come by. It might be as trivial as I found matching socks; I enjoyed a cup of tea or more importantly, I drank my whole cup of tea before it went cold! As you get into it and persist, the snippets of goodness are easier to write, in fact, you begin to store them up during the day and rush to write them down. They may not be profound, you may have not saved the world but a little switch in your brain has flipped from sad to happier. You begin to notice the good things. Coupled with a deliberate focus of random acts of kindness it is very powerful.

Is it all hocus pocus and a phony treatment? It would seem not!

In a metastudy published in 2011 which compared traditional treatments to things like the gratitude diary, Layous et al * found a number of interesting conclusions

 

  • Medication and therapy don’t always cut the mustard

Medication for the treatment of depression can be a bit hit and miss. Not everyone who has depressive illnesses seeks treatment. Treatments such as psychotherapy can be VERY costly, especially in places where there is no universal health system and therefore simply not available to many sectors of our society.  On top of that, these treatments have been shown to be effective in only 60 – 70% of cases. Of these, 80% of the response to medication can be accounted for by placebo effects.

  • It takes a long time to get results: 

It can take up to 4 – 8 weeks for the antidepressants to kick in. People are in therapy for years! That’s a long time waiting to get happy or even a little bit happier.

  • The side effects can be brutal. 

Side effects of the medication include a reduction in libido, weight gain, insomnia and moon face (caused by retention of fluids) to name a few. These things are unlikely to make you feel any better!

  • A pharmacological approach does not teach you any new tricks to help you on a behavioural level. 

What was causing you to be depressed in the first place? Cognitive approaches help people stay away from negative thought patterns. This is something medication does not do. On the other hand, “positive activity interventions” (PAIs) can help people flourish and allow them to move them beyond “not feeling depressed to a point of flourishing”. One of the reasons for this is that the person feels in control. They did it, not the drugs.

Positive Activity Interventions

PAI’s include activities such as writing letters of gratitude, counting one’s blessings, practising optimism and performing acts of kindness. Gratitude diaries fit into the counting one’s blessing category.

The benefits of PAIs are:

  1. They are cheap!
  2. They are easy to do.
  3. They’re self-administered and give the person a sense of agency and empowerment over their own treatment.
  4. They work just as effectively as traditional treatments. The magnitude of effect for PAIs was determined to be 0.30 and for psychotherapy, it was 0.31.
  5. Their effects are long-lasting. A gratitude diary can lead to an improvement in mood and well-being for up to 6 months after completion.
  6. They work quickly, with decreases in depressive symptoms in less than a week. In a limited study, after only 15 days, depression scores were reduced by 16.7 points and 94% of participants felt some relief.

The PAI’s are thought to work by changing the neural and reward pathways in the brain. The study also suggested that PAIs are not likely to be as effective in cases of severe depression or those who had a very strong bias against these sorts of treatment. If you think it won’t work, it won’t! This is no different to the placebo affect for drug therapy.

So if you are open to the idea, and want something to work cheaply and quickly you might want to try a  gratitude diary and other PAIs. I have reviewed Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book The How of Happiness in a previous post which gives examples of many other PAI’s.

You might want to read both the post and her book.

This approach certainly worked for me and in times when I feel a bit low I go back to it for a few days to truly count my blessings!


This post obviously does not constitute proper medical advice. If you are depressed and thinking of hurting yourself please reach out for help NOW. Call a suicide support agency in your country or state. In Australia, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

* Layous,K; Chancellor, J; Lyubomirsky, S; Wang, L; Doraiswamy M. Delivering Happiness: Translating Positive Psychology Intervention Research for Treating Major and Minor Depressive Disorders. The Journal Of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Vol 17, 8 (2011) pp1 – 9.

Can I live a life without alcohol?

I have just completed Day 100 of my alcohol-free year. It is the second time I have reached this milestone in the last 12 months. I decided to quit alcohol in the 100 days before Christmas,  2019. I did it for a few reasons. Firstly for my health, secondly to see if I could, and thirdly because I have been becoming more and more concerned about my complicated relationship with alcohol.

I have always been a drinker. I come from a family of drinkers. At some stages in my life, I have been a very heavy drinker. People who know me in real life will know that I am usually one of the first at the bar.  I would usually have a glass of wine (or three) when I got home from work and while cooking dinner. I’d have a few drinks on Tuesday night when I went out with friends to pub trivia and a “few” more on the weekend. Some weekends I’d have two glasses and other weekends, two bottles. The only other time I have had an extended “dry” period was when I was pregnant.

 

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Home-brewed kombucha, cheap but not nasty!

That original 100-day stint was not as difficult as I thought it would be. The first three weeks back in September 2019 were challenging from a habit-breaking point of view. I swapped wine for (homemade) kombucha, soda water with lemon or just plain water. My friends (eventually) stopped questioning my no alcohol stance and I was able to sip on soda water or non-alcoholic beer without being hassled when I went out.

 

 

 

It was my intention to return to “normal” after Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Day 99, I was riddled with anxiety. Not because I was craving for alcohol, but rather that I didn’t want to start up bad habits again.  I had felt more energetic, had less joint pain, was sleeping better and was saving money. I had declared very loudly to my family that I was doing “A 100-day challenge” and joked about enjoying my first drink with them over Christmas lunch. I had bought a very nice bottle of wine which was sitting in the cupboard in readiness.

When D-day arrived I was torn. I had done the work, moved over the hump of looking for wine when I was cooking or socialising and I was doing just fine!

I did have a few glasses of wine at Christmas time but I did not enjoy them with the same gusto as in the past.  I had discovered in those 100 days, that I could have just as much fun without it. I started my next ‘challenge’ enthusiastically on the 30th of December and included it as part of my Year of Zero. This time I  planned for a year-long abstinence.

As a society, we tolerate and even celebrate drunkenness and “party” behaviour. For me, like most people, alcohol meant “fun”. You wouldn’t be going out if you didn’t have a drink or two. Too often though, two leads to three, three leads to four and after that who’s counting ? I have had more hangovers than I can count and many mornings where I have woken with that dreaded feeling of not knowing what I may have said or done. I know I have caused some people distress. I also know I am not alone in this socially endorsed way of using (or abusing) alcohol. It’s almost un-Australian not to drink! Still while I remain a functioning adult and don’t miss work or my responsibilities or break the law, it’s deemed “OK”.

I couldn’t help thinking there was a  story to tell to others about my experience and it would seem I am not the only one thinking along the same lines. In January 2020, I came across two stories by Flip Prior in  ABC Life about her year without alcohol.  She wrote

“Because excessive alcohol consumption is so normalised for many of us in Australia, no-one had ever said anything to me about the way I was drinking or raised it as an issue, even though for me it felt like a problem to fix.”

Snap that’s a match, Flip! I wanted to solve my problem of overusing alcohol. It was never my intention to not drink again, but rather give it a break to prove to myself I could. I guess in the back of my mind I was trying to prove to myself that I was not an alcoholic.

Let’s be frank. Alcohol is bad for you! Seriously bad! Physically, emotionally, financially! You don’t have to look far to see that.

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Moderation is not one of my strong suits. It tends to be all or nothing!

Flip wraps up her story with a sentiment I  wholeheartedly agree with.

[After a year of not drinking] “You’ve done all that work, you’ve got rid of all those triggers and associations and your brain no longer equates fun with alcohol — why would you want to go back to drinking poison? It makes no sense.

Will I drink again? I don’t know. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I am not going to say I’ll never have alcohol again, I am not ready to do that.

I’ll let you know in January 2021.

(PS: by the time this post is actually published it will be 122 days)

 

EDITED TO ADD: These video are great! Four short (fun) videos in the affect of alcohol. 

To-do list or ta-da list?

A to-do list is helpful, right?

Have you got a really long to-do list of all the things you should be doing in this Age of Corona? Now you are not commuting every day because you’re working from home or your place of work has closed down, you’ve got heaps more time! Right? You might have more time because you are not going out to the movies or drinks with friends and EVERYTHING in your calendar has been cancelled? Right? You should be using this time productively, right?

Empty Calendar
No events! The P&C meeting was cancelled too!

Is this to-do list making you feel guilty as you sit in front of the TV and watch one more episode of the latest binge-worthy show? Just one more and THEN I‘ll go to bed! Promise!

I started off ISO with this big to-do list. It ran to three A5 pages. I wrote it before the lockdown started in an effort to avoid getting to the end of this and thinking “oh darn that’s right! I should have done….XYZ.” XYZ being whatever the really important thing that I could have been doing but didn’t get done! I also have to keep in mind my overarching year-long plan – the Year of Zero.

The list became a yoke across my shoulders. A burden to bear. One that didn’t allow for the contingencies and emergencies of daily life. It didn’t allow for the weather. It didn’t allow for my mood.

From to-do to ta-da!

So I put that list aside for reference and created a new one. I have simplified and broadened it considerably. Now my list has only four things on it. It is flexible, adaptable and infinitely adjustable.

Here is my daily to-do list:

  1. Learn something.
  2. Create something.
  3. Organise something.
  4. Move everything! (as in exercise)

So for instance today,

  1. What did I learn? I watched a lecture about sustainability and learnt that if we returned to a 1970’s level of consumption (of goods and energy), we could work 80% less.  The 1970s wasn’t too bad, we just didn’t have as much STUFF. The lecture does not suggest we return to 1970s technology (or fashion!) just the level of stuff we accumulate. It’s the first of 12 in a series from The Great Courses which I accessed for free through Kanopy. Kanopy is a video streaming service which I get for free with my library membership. Lots of public libraries offer it. Check to see if yours does.
  2. What did I create? Well, this post for my Sunday Post series for a start! I also finished off some of the tea cosies I started the other day.
  3. What did I organise? I am working on a document called “Death Admin” which has information for my family if/when I die. This was triggered by a podcast  (The Pineapple Project) I listened to recently.  I am getting together the information and documents I need for that.
  4. Did I move? Yes! Before breakfast, I did a 30-minute online exercise class which has been provided by my (closed) gym. Later today I will do a Zoom session with my sister, the personal trainer. While I was watching the lecture in Point 1 above I stood up and stepped from side to side and did squats and all sorts of in-place moves so I wasn’t sitting on my bum for another 30 minutes!

My to-do list is now a ta-da list! I can shrink or expand the items to suit the day, the mood and the life that gets in the way!

Smoke and mirrors maybe, but it’s making a difference to how I feel!

36 Impacts of the Coronavirus on My Life.

The Coronavirus continues to have serious impacts on our world.  Personally, I am counting my chickens! It has had a significant impact on my life already:

  1. I haven’t been able to see my best buddy, my little Grandson for 4 weeks.
  2. I haven’t met any of my friends for 3 weeks, except the ones who also happen to be co-workers.
  3. I haven’t been able to go to the gym.
  4. I haven’t been able to buy toilet paper,
  5. I haven’t been able to teach my class.
  6. There have been no students at my school. However, as a member of the School’s Senior Executive, I have been attending every day.
  7. My regular Monday meeting and training night for the group I volunteer for is cancelled.
  8. Every event in my calendar has been cancelled.
  9. I won’t be travelling anywhere these school holidays. ( hang on I wasn’t planning on it anyway!)

Whinge whinge whinge!

I have nothing to whine about. I am grateful that I am healthy. My family is healthy, although distanced. I am thankful I am isolated in the age of the internet (although that is a double-edged sword.) I am grateful for the economic privilege I have. I live in a developed country.

So let’s start that list again!

  1. I haven’t been able to see my best buddy, my little Grandson for 3 weeks. I need to keep him safe, he needs to keep me safe. Given the nature of my job, I am too risky for him to be around. Given his age, he is too risky for me to be around.
  2. I haven’t met any of my friends for 3 weeks, except the ones who also happen to be co-workers or on Zoom.
  3. I haven’t been able to go to the gym. But my home gym in the garage is rocking to the Zoom classes my sister, a personal trainer, is running! Check out her classes at Village Fitness
  4. I haven’t been able to buy toilet paper. I don’t actually need any due to a lucky coincidence I’ll explain in a little while.
  5. I haven’t been able to teach my class. But they are still learning online.
  6. There have been no students at my school although it is “open” for the children of essential workers. However, as a member of the School’s Senior Executive, I have been attending every day. I get to go out! I’m also supporting essential workers to stay at work.
  7. My regular Monday meeting and training night for the group I volunteer for is cancelled. But we are still attending emergencies.
  8. Every event in my calendar has been cancelled. I can relax!

    Empty Calendar
    No events! The P&C meeting was cancelled too!
  9. I won’t be travelling anywhere these school holidays. Hang on, I wasn’t planning on it anyway! It’s the Year of Zero!
  10. I am doing my bit by being socially responsible.
  11. I am going to stay at home.
  12. I am going to keep my distance when I go out for essential items.
  13. I am going to wash my hands frequently.
  14. I am going moisturise said washed hands every time I wash them!
  15. I am going to dust behind the lounge. I am going to dust the top of the pelmets on my windows. I am going to dust behind the TV.
  16. I am going to do at least one jigsaw puzzle, but not the friggin Mona Lisa one which had too many plain black bits! I couldn’t even finish the border! Or the desert one which had too many plain red dirt bits!IMG_4797
  17. I am going to write every day at my “best” time! Not when I am tired and overwrought from a busy day. Incidentally, that’s early in the morning.
  18. I am going to enjoy the clear blue sky when I go for a walk. It has been so clear and so blue.

    IMG_4794
    Walking on the sand. I didn’t make it home before that storm hit!
  19. I am going to enjoy some crafternoons. Love that word! How long has it been in the lexicon?
  20. I am going to make that family cookbook I have been promising to do.
  21. I am going to carefully ration the year’s worth of toilet paper I bought in January. (Feeling a little bit smug here.) As part of my Year of Zero, I did a big shop and bought a year’s supply of essential, non-perishables so that I would only have to worry about buying fresh food when I went shopping. I didn’t stock up on sanitizer at that time though!
  22. I am going to figure out how we can get Jacinda Ardern to be Prime Minister of the World. Seriously we need a Jacinda!
  23. I am going to slow cook.
  24. I am going to watch and laugh at Pluto.
  25. I am going to learn online.
  26. I am going to sew.
  27. I am going to create new stories and finish the half-finished ones.
  28. I am going to up my no waste efforts.
  29. I am going to enjoy good teapot tea every day because I have time!
  30. I am going to work on my side hustle.
  31. I am going to do everything with interesting podcasts in my ears.
  32. I am going to figure out how to do compositing on Photoshop.
  33. I am going to sort out my digital storage. (Wait up, I don’t think we’ll be in isolation long enough for that one!)
  34. I am going be grateful that my family and I are safe, and so far, healthy.
  35. I am going to hope that everyone else stays as safe as they can. And that people don’t behave like jerks and go out!
  36. I will hopefully be able to see my little buddy soon, after 14 days of “real” isolation.

 

STAY SAFE! STAY AT HOME, WASH YOUR HANDS.