Monday, March 11, 2013

Now that 7 year olds aren't good enough

This week the internet-world has become a bit obsessed with the story of a mother discovering a hand-written list of dieting must-do's on her 7 year old daughter's bedroom floor. (Read the full story at mamamia)

FFS! I mean honestly, it's a God damned travesty that in our world 7 year olds are subjected to worrying about how they look. 7 year olds should be worried about important 7 year old things like what's in their lunch box that they can trade or who is, in fact, "up" in their game of tag and exactly how many fairies there are at the bottom of an average garden in suburbia. 7 year olds should not fret about how others see them and, more shameful still, it is society (read: US PEOPLE - YOU AND ME) that is putting these ridiculous notions in their heads that they're ALREADY not good enough. Imagine that we are creating a generation of children who will boast having body issues and eating disorders for longer than they will have been able to write their own name. It's a disgrace. We've got it all upside down and we need to shake this globe up and set things right!

I remember when I was a kid and I first started thinking that I didn't look "right". I was probably about 11 and, having been a superstar member of the Wallumbilla swimming club (see my first ever post on this blog for more hilarity/mental scarring resulting from being a childhood swimmer!), I had spent most of my young life half-clothed wearing a swimming costume. And I can't say what it was exactly that started the ball rolling; maybe it was seeing older girls huddle at the end of the pool, arms shamefully crossed over their stomachs, maybe it was my mum phasing out the obligatory "after training choc wedge ice-cream" (the nerve!), maybe it was watching too much Press Gang and Beverly Hills 90210 with Kelly and Brenda spending weeks on end in crop tops and cut-off denim shorts. Whatever the catalyst, slowly but surely it dawned on me - I did not look right. My thighs were too big and thick and my tummy definitely had rolls when I sat down. Sure, I swam fast and I was super strong, but that didn't matter - what mattered was that all of a sudden I had wear a towel or shorts from the change rooms to the side of the pool and had to somehow find a way to stuff the little armpit roll into the chest piece of my swimmers (you KNOW the inexplicable roll I'm talking about). What mattered now was NOT what whether I won a race, but how I would manage to lift myself from the pool and make it to my towel without anyone seeing me.  This emergent panic also spread through my peers, probably on the back of the childhood plague known as "boys germs" and, personally, I had received the message loud and clear - Danielle, you can be as talented as all get-out, but girl that's not enough.

And you know, this message, it plagues people their whole lives. Even now, in my early 30's, I find myself having to give myself a mental slap because I am convinced that I'm not enough - for new friends, new bosses, new boyfriends or new adventures. People often say things like "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and for years I was convinced that that was just something people say to reassure fat people, second only to "you've just got such a pretty face". But why is it "beauty" that I aspire to? There are so many qualities that we, as a society, should be valuing before looks. Why aren't we saying "brilliance is in the eye of the beholder" or "general fucking awesomeness is in the eye of the beholder"? Yes. Probably because it sounds ridiculous... there's no such thing as a bad idea here friends! You get my point, I hope.

I might add, at this point, that I'm all for healthy bodies. But health isn't measured by how "hot" you look - we all know that logically, but a little voice deep down often convinces us otherwise and sets the bar a whole lot higher than being healthy and happy. Of course, your insecurity might not be about weight either - we all know there's a smorgasbord of issues out there to choose from! Unfortunately, it's a rare thing for someone to genuinely believe that what they have and who they are is brilliant and is enough. And if you're one of those people, I say "congratulations - please teach us all, young and old, how to believe the way you do".

Time to spread some positive vibes friends,
Dani xxx

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Hamburglar is probably just anxious

I think there are 2 brilliant things about getting older - you get better at knowing yourself and you get better at sex. I'd like to just address one of these things today, and since I'm typing this at work, I'll leave sex to the side for now (googling "sex" whilst sitting in a room full of Khmer co-workers is a bit creepy, right?). Anyway, thanks to this merry ride that life is taking me on, in recent times (and by recent, I mean the last fortnight) I've really started to get to know myself. Thanks to some stress, pressure, a bit of criticism and a liberal dose of isolation in rural Cambodia, I've come to recognise that there are certain traits/habits I have that I'm certain, now I think about it, I've had for years. But before you log off, fear not - I'm not going to bore you with some boring clap trap about an existential breakthrough I've had whilst meditating and the subsequent perspective-altering truths that I now know to be universal. No. This will probably not even give your mind a quick rub, let alone blow it. But what I am going to tell you about is real. The tips I will give you are practical. And the results will, hopefully, be achievable for both of us.

Here's what I have come to realise - I get anxious. I get so anxious, that I will spend hours distracted and totally consumed by a negative thought that I have convinced myself is a truth. I will want to speak and weep and write and fight (that's a big one for me, the fighting) and circle this negative thought for so long that I will not even realise I'm doing it. I'll stop working. I'll call my boyfriend incessantly until it becomes tantamount to stalking because I just want some comfort DAMN IT! I'll Facebook and read trashy celebrity news online and watch hours of ripped TV shows in an effort to completely distract myself. And then, when I've thoroughly exhausted myself, I will recover from this downward spiral by either shopping or eating. And now that I'm in Cambodia and no God-forsaken online clothing store will deliver here, guess which one I will chose?

So, as I say, I think I've been practising this routine for years. I once had a partner with a nasty gambling habit and I recall spending hours walking the streets at night looking for him, completely oblivious to the fact that I was never going to find him, but certain in my anxious state that he must be out here and that what I was doing was entirely sensible. It was ridiculous but I couldn't stop myself. But now, dear friends, now I know why. And in knowing why, I now have the power to do something about it - I can now, at the ripe age of 32 (ish), I can now tame this beast. And I can do it before it forces any more crazy acts or bacon cheeseburgers down my gullet. (and no, that's not me abdicating responsibility - the beast is still me, and I know that. I just need to figure out how to deal with this part of me. I know it's not "other". I get it! I was being poetic. Sheesh tough crowd)

I've found some great websites with wonderful tips (see links at the bottom of the page) and I've selected my favourite strategies from these sites that I think will work for me and chucked them up here. You might have to dig around for your own tools (come now, let's not be lazy).

  • Learn about Anxiety - read through a few sites and you may quickly recognise yourself within the pages. Learn more about what anxiety can do to the body and mind - this will lay the foundation for you understanding and putting into practice the strategies. 
  • Breathe - every site will tell you to do this. Slow, long breaths are a physical intervention that will help you get your mind back on track. It's like coming up for air when you're drowning - you need to breath when you're emotionally struggling too. Deliberately stop what you're doing (read: worrying about) and spend 2 minutes with your eyes closed breathing. It. Will. Bloody. Help. 
  • Challenge your negative thoughts - basically, you've got to find a way to say "stop" to the negativity before it goes OTT. You may chose to actually say the word "stop", spend 2 minutes breathing and then begin some real talk with yourself. There are some great example thought challenge questions that will help you get back to realistic thinking on AnxietyBC.
  • Laugh - it helps you keep at bay and/or recover from anxiety and it helps you look younger and appear witty and approachable in groups. I'll just leave this here to get you started: 

Hail me. Hilarious! Now, all of this breathing etc takes practice - it's not a one dose cure-all. I will no doubt fail using my chosen strategies just as much as I will succeed. But the point is I will try and I will be aware. My belief is that self-awareness and self-like/love/lust, is ultimately what keeps these emotional beasts and that excessive cheeseburger consumption at bay. So, if like me, you are fighting off those dastardly anxious thoughts - remember to breathe and know that you're not alone! 

Good luck 
Danielle x

Useful Resources:

Note also - I'm not a Dr nor am I anyone who actually has experience with Anxiety Disorders. I am, however, keen to get my own issues on track and I believe that sharing is caring so... there. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


When I was asked to write on this topic by my good friends at Platform of Women, the first thing I did was start to plan how to write the perfect post on how to not be perfect all of the time. I even wrote it down, like a year five student who has been asked to present their work in a "first draft" (might I add, I didn't do a title page or draw a nice border with clouds around my draft... come on. I'm anal, not insane) But really, for me this is a really important subject - I daily struggle with how NOT to be seen as perfect and totally together all of the time. 

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of 3.5 years. I did this whilst working as a development worker in a rural province in Cambodia where I am the only Westerner. When we broke up via skype, I was totally alone. But instead of losing my shit and crying ugly, ugly, snotty tears, I closed skype and went on facebook to post something glib about the challenges of living in a province... I never mentioned it to anyone for days. I didn't cry or rant or scream or clutch at my pillow because I didn't want to - I wanted to handle it perfectly. And for me, that means to stay in control and not let anyone see the cracks in my composure. A NORMAL PERSON would think "hey, a failed relationship! You're going to die alone! Cry now, damn it!" and this person would then ALLOW themselves to lose it, even if in front of their friends. But not me. And here's why - I think I don't want to disappoint anyone. As in, if I show people my frailty, perhaps my opinion will be worth less? I don't want to be seen as the emotional one who loses it and (dare I say it) can't be relied upon. That's a terrible amount of pressure for someone to put onto themselves wouldn't you say? Well yes it is. 


1. Stop Editing - I edit all of the time. Even when I don't need to. At my worst, I find myself reaching past my boyfriend, for the keyboard so I can correct his spelling mistake in his facebook post. No. That's bad. Stop it now. Just let it happen because everything will be fine. Only edit for really important work documents or guest blog posts.

2. Stop List making - I do this all of the time, because, God forbid I forget to accomplish a particular task. Don't get me wrong, there are days when a list will literally save your life, but there are days when you don't need a list at all. You know what you have to do. And if you don't get it all done, the world will not stop spinning. Just put the yellow legal pad down and back away from the list making... until it's absolutely necessary. (And yes, it WAS necessary in the context of writing a top 5 blog!)

3. Download shit music that you LOVE - now this might sound a bit out of left field, but I can't tell you how much music I've downloaded that I didn't like, just because someone else had told me I "needed" to have it. I hate Bjork - her voice is like nails on a blackboard to me. In my darkest hours, it's never going to be Kate Bush that I turn to. I don't even know if there is a cure to what the Cure does to my eardrums. But if I'm ever in need of something, I WILL turn to my old friends Beyonce, Frank Sinatra or Carly Rae sodding Jephsen because that's what makes me feel good! So that's my tip - download songs that you love because you love them and make your music just for you, as imperfect as your taste may be.

4. Say no sometimes - If I was to ruminate on one of my greatest fears it would be that my friends decide not to like me any more. Stupid really, once I say it out loud, but true none-the-less. I get tremendous personal satisfaction from my friends and I will literally bend over backwards to satisfy them. So I run my life to a fairly tight schedule - Saturday gym, followed by brunch w friend, followed by boyfriend time, followed by coffee w friend, followed by evening drinks w friend, followed by movie w friend, followed by... you get the picture. So here's the tip - say no to an invite every once and a while because, guess what, you're not superwoman and you cannot control time. Give yourself enough time to actually stop and relax on your weekend! Besides, you have the latest Beyonce documentary to watch.... 

5. Some people Will not like you - Accept this fact and move on. This is a BIG tip and my amateur psychology is no doubt fucking it up for everyone who genuinely struggles with control issues or anxiety, but I believe this is the root of a lot of this need to control - we don't like it when we aren't liked. I am 31 years old and if I think I may have remotely offended a peer by not sharing their opinion, I will still insist on sending a follow up text message after our meeting to ensure it's all been smoothed over. I mean, it's pathetic. But still, here I am, still on the look out for side-way glances signally someone's disgust or double reading emails to see if there was actually an angry tone from a colleague. When in the end, all I really need to know and act upon is this - some people in this world do not like me. There is nothing I can do about this. So when I sense that someone feels this way about me, and I've done nothing but be myself, I must just shrug my shoulders and move right along. 

In the spirit of not being perfect, I'm not going to proof read this blog but I am going to add a meme. I'm not even going to reread it to see if it makes any kind of logical sense but I am going to add a meme. Yay! Breakthrough! However, I will say, that life is a work in progress. We are all coming at it from different angles and no matter where you're from or what you're story is, we all have our issues and (inner) demons to keep at bay. You're not perfect and neither am I. In fact, nobody is. 

Dani xx

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Maths in Cambodia

I've done a brave thing - well, at least that's what people tell me. I've moved to Cambodia. I've given up my job an the ensuring benefits, put my mortgage on hold, rented my place, and said "see you soon" to my boyfriend, family and friends. All so I can travel to another country and help, in a really frustratingly small way. A lot of people have said its something special and they're right - its special but not because of what I'm doing for Cambodia, but what it's going to do for me. I've been here 12 hours so far and I can already tell its going to be life-changing/affirming.

The trip was almost too easy... With the support of my org and flights that ran on time, I feel a little spoilt. We (me and four other vols) were greeted at the airport with a garland of fresh flowers each. SPESH! Then ushered into two vans, given fresh water and delicately delivered to our hotel. EASY.

So far I've supped and sipped my way around the block and was even able to indulge in staying connected with Australia by watching a football grand final. It feels like a nicely organised holiday - but soon, that will end.

I was told yesterday that my accommodation for my work placement has no electricity and no running water. It will be bucket baths for me - what a bloody visual. Me, hunched over a plastic tub, devoid of dignity, weeping and trying to clean myself with a soiled cloth and cupped hands... Eeeeek. One the plus side, it's what I've been after - a shake up of my life so that, like an etcha sketch, my life and mental state will be clean and full of potential. And like supermodel/entrepreneur Giselle, I will also be tanned and exotic.

In summary:
Cambodian Danielle = (giselle bundchen + etcha sketch) x aid work

Thank you Maths B.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hi... How much do you weigh?

I'm moving to Cambodia on Thursday. Holy smokes! I'm going to volunteer for an aid org which basically makes me one of the single greatest and most enormously selfless people you've ever had the great fortune to read a blog by - yes, please feel free to applaud. I honestly can't wait. I've needed a challenge in my life for so, so long that I'm desperate for a new scene. I figure moving to a new country, working in a rural area, not knowing a word of Khmer and leaving my boyfriend, family and gorgeous friends is INDEED a challenge.

From what I understand though, cambodia isn't that tough a place to be in... Beautiful people, amazing scenery, a mix of fascinating history including years of pain and genocide. It will be amazing but I'm aware of one thing - in going to Cambooge, I'm going to expose myself to the very blunt scrutiny of the locals who will not hesitate to start a conversation with "you're so faaaaat!". Daily. No, scratch that, it will happen every five minutes. I remember this from living in Hong Kong and it only got more invasive when people realised I was not only fat but had a black boyfriend!! One of the current volunteers has emailed me to say most conversations with her work colleagues begin with them asking how much she weighs... Hmmmm. So do I lie? That's the question. Obviously it's just a number (the logical part of my brain says) and it may not mean much to whoever is asking me, but frankly, I don't want to keep saying it. I mean, it's not just a number to me! It's a large part of what I feel worst about. It would have been nice to escape it for a while... I guess all I can hope is that I get enough food poisoning that the number reduces? Or there's enough personal growth that I grow to genuinely not care.

Speak to u soon from PP.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

With a little help.

Until recently*, I hadn't lived in the same state and/or country as my immediate family for a long, long time - since 2003 to be exact. It wasn't deliberate - I mean, I didn't wake up and realise I had been transported in my sleep to Hong Kong - what I'm saying is I didn't move to escape my family. It was just a happy coincidence. 

So I've been asked to write a blog about friendship and that's the reason why I bring up my physical distance  from my family - for many years, my friends have become my family. In a very Sex and the City sense, wherever I live I surround myself with an urban family - they're a gang of sexy, fashion forward, border-line slappers who discuss blow jobs and marrying bankers and saw me through my failed relationship with Aiden the furniture designer... oh no. Wait. That actually is Sex and the City. Easy mistake to make... 

I joke, but seriously, my friends have got me through so so much. And in return, I like to think I've helped them do the same. One instance that immediately comes to mind was when my friend came to my rescue in the midst of a relationship drama. I had been with a man for about 3 years who was a compulsive gambler. In 12 months, he'd made his way through all of his money, my money, borrowed money, stolen money and all of the stuff in my house (laptops, tv, books, cds... you name it) in an effort to make his fortune at the roulette tables of crown casino. He was totally blind to how he was totally destroying our relationship and my spirit. Until I kicked him out. 

The thing about addictions is that, for the partner, it's so so isolating - it's embarrassing and hard to understand. You tend not to speak to your friends about it because you hope that one day soon it will stop and the last thing you want is your friends (read: urban family) to dislike your partner. So you keep quiet and try to do it all yourself. Until you can't do it anymore and you call your friends (read: the cavalry) in. 

After I kicked my partner out, he was mad (go fucking figure...) and tried to come to the house and retrieve "his couch" (um.. dude you made me broke?!?! it's now MY couch). When he tried to kick in the screen door, I didn't call the cops, I called my friends. And BOY did they come! My mate screeched up the driveway and walked right up to my ex who was hollering through the door at me. She planted her feet, and when he walked towards her she pushed him in the chest and just said "NO. WAIT OUT HERE" and like a puppy who was spanked he backed down. She walked through the door and, like a superhero, picked me up and carried me off into the sky. NO, NOT REALLY, but she did speak to him, speak to the police, negotiate for me and just completely take the load, the emotional load that was totally suffocating me. It was amazing and is a perfect representation of what REAL friendship is - a good friend is unafraid to stand in front of you and shove back on your behalf. Real friends have the ability to put you first when you need them to - the same way your family would.  Which is why, when your family is far away, you need real friends to get you through. 

I'm always surprised at people who don't actively seek out new friendships and/or don't have any friends at all. I can't imagine how they carry the load all on their own. And I know a lot of you out there will say that your partner is your best friend but to this I say - NO. I think it's dangerous to rely on just your partner - you NEED someone/s (is someones a word?) who you can rely on outside of your relationship. Because, trust me, it could be your relationship/partner that you need help with one day. This is why I'm so excited about Platform of Women - it's true that you can never have enough friends and I know that PoW will allow women to connect with new friends and surround themselves with REAL friends who will push back for them!

See you at the launch...
Dani x

*My sister Jess has stalked me and now lives in Melbourne. She assures me she's not leaving any time soon...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Why Dry July?

I've never really considered my relationship with alcohol before. If you had asked me a few days ago, I would have told you I didn't really have a relationship with it. I mean, I could enjoy red wine on a cold winter's night out but, surely, that was it? I mean, I date a muslim man ffs - we don't drink as a couple so it's just not something that I do. So, yeah, my relationship with alcohol is like that of a 4th cousin - there is one, but it doesn't really count and it's certainly not part of my nearest and dearest things to do. 

Which is why I'm terribly confused as to how it was I found myself sitting on my toilet at 3am Sunday morning, half dressed and covered in red wine vomit. 

How does this happen? I'm not a qualified medical practitioner, but I am able to think critically about my own actions. So I've spent the last 1.5 days eating dry toast and contemplating the REALITY of my relationship with alcohol. Here's what I've decided:
- I'm not used to it so I don't know how to handle it. When I'm drunk I'm not familiar with the point at which I should say "enough now... make the next one a glass of water", so I just keep drinking. 
- I'm easily influenced. If someone hands me a drink, I won't say "no thank, just the mineral water for me!". I'll drink it and then shout the next round. 
- I'm a fun/funny drunk and I think that the social acceptance and/or overcoming potentially awkward social situations (ie who do I know at this birthday party? nobody. *sigh*) is attractive (read: intoxicating) for me. 
- I'm getting older. My body is getting older. I cannot afford to behave the way I used to with drugs and alcohol because recovery is now a 2 day process. And it's incredibly unattractive and anti-social. 

I'm sure there are far deeper psychological issues that a professional could identify me as having. I'm not chasing a diagnosis though - I'm chasing a new relationship with the grog. So I've set myself a challenge...

I'm spending the month of July reassessing my relationship with alcohol, particularly in social situations. This month I'm going to HAVE to say no. I'm going to have to test myself to overcome the awkward moments using my own social skills, and not the type that comes from the bottom of a bottle of wine. 

I'll let you know how it goes... Feel free to click on the pic and sponsor me - all money will go to supporting people with real problems (ie adult cancer patients, not whiners like me) at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.