Motherhood: sacrifice & love

Today is mother’s day. It is a day of recognition and appreciation for all that mother’s do. I don’t like to catch myself reflecting too much on the point because the realisation of what my mother has done for me can sometimes be crippling, with reference to everything that follows. Because when I think of her, the first word that comes to mind is sacrifice. Because in my mind, to be the recipient of someone’s sacrifice is the greatest form of love. 

My mother chose the name Siobhan because it was unique, unlike anything she’d heard before. And because it meant, in Irish Gaelic, “God is Gracious”. An odd name for a Polynesian woman but a poetic and strong name for the woman she wanted to raise.

Shortly after I was born, my mother took me to Mitiaro for some months. I’m not quite sure how many months, but she has retold stories of me running around our yard (beside the church) in nothing but a cloth nappy for weeks at a time.

In Aotearoa, she taught me my ABCs, 123s, how to spell simple words and write them. She would do this via a cardboard poster which she made, cello-taped to my red plastic children’s table and chair playset. I would hold the pen in my right hand, she would place hers over mine and guide the movement of the pen until I could spell my name on my own.

My mother also taught me how to dance; nothing extravagant but just the simple moves. It was not a significant focus for her, what she aimed to do was feed my mind with knowledge and discipline.

Although she was strict, she has a soft spot for me. When I cried at kindergarten because my mum wasn’t going to stay there with me the whole day, she decided that it wasn’t for me and I stayed at home until my 5th birthday. She did not work for a large part of this part of my life, and spent most of it with me. 

When I started primary, this obviously meant I wasn’t the best at making friends quickly. She would come to school during lunch time and see if I was ok. And naturally, I would spend lunch with her. This eventually waned until I was less socially awkward and made friends.

She structured her working hours so that it would fit in with me and so that there was always one parent at home in case anything happened. She would do shift work in the evenings and be available during the day for any school events and sick days needed.

As I got older, my mother would take me to my sports games and piano lessons. And when I got to high school, she would still help me make my lunch from time to time (this was when my sister came along so she was busy raising another child too).

At University, she would check in and make sure I wasn’t too overwhelmed with my work load. When I woke up early to study, and she was awake, she would make me breakfast. And when I returned home from work after University, she had left me some dinner, sometimes with my name actually spelt on the gladwrap covering the plate of food.

She told me to keep away from worldy distractions and focus on finishing my studies. To pursue something greater for myself and for us as a family. As an adult, and thankfully, a more liberal Polynesian woman, she no longer gives strict direction, but rather guidance and advice. The world’s we both grew up in are so different, and to a large degree, the world’s we currently experience in our working lives mostly are classes apart based on several socio-economic factors. 

This woman, did not have the same upbringing as me. She received beatings, for some tragedies that a woman should never be beaten for, was blamed for things out of her control and was made to leave school before she was 10. My mother was the carer for her other siblings and was kept home to do house chores while her brothers had their education prioritised. She didn’t relive these beatings on me (not in any great way past my primary years). She didn’t tell me to aim low because I was a woman but to be the best that I could be. 

My mother accepted what she couldn’t control but capitalised on things that she could and the best way she knew how. And she did that as best as she could for me. And throughout my entire life, more or less, she has sacrificed her own pleasures in life for mine and for the greater good of our family. She could have moved back to Mitiaro to look after her father at an earlier time before he passed, but she stayed here to help pay the bills and raise my younger sister. She could have spent her money on purchases that she wanted for herself, but instead she spent it on uniforms and laptops for my sister’s schooling. 

She has sacrificed, loved and raised me to be the woman I am today. But I don’t only owe my make-up to her. There are a handful of other women who have raised me, sharing their energy, time and guidance with me. The power to shape and influence another being, their identity, character and qualities, is a remarkable thing. I don’t take my mother’s, or these people’s influence lightly. You are the sum of the company you keep. 

I don’t know if I will get to experience motherhood one day. If I do, I know I will be eternally grateful to these women, including my mother, for showing me the strength, responsibility & power of motherhood.

And I know it’s not Christmas but, I love Kaitlin’s poem below, as a signal of the strength of a woman and (obviously in this case, biological) mother.

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How to expand subjective time during the lockdown.

Conscious Cookies

A three-step technique for creating space, slowing down and enhancing creativity.

“When one has much to put in them, a day has a thousand pockets.”

– Nieztsche

One of the challenges of living, working and socializing all from home during this Pandemic-induced lockdown is that the spatial structure of our days has been largely dissolved: where before we’d have a repertoire of different spaces for different activities, now everything’s happening at home.

If you think about a typical pre-COVID day for someone who works in an office for example, events are naturally distinguished by where they take place.

In my case, I’d get up, exercise in the park, cycle to the office, work and have discussions in different meeting rooms, go out for lunch, return to the office, go for a walking meeting, perhaps zip across town for a meeting in a café; and then after work, I’d often meet…

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Foraging for the soul

As Aotearoa settles down into the second week of the lockdown, we also head into the Holy Week, Easter and the Passover. It’s a weird time to be experiencing all of this. All the while, my own family completely ignore the lockdown whilst Covid-19 sweeps through society (in Australia not here – and yes I’m calling them out). The Passover irony is that those who don’t listen to the rules and breach the lockdown end up catching the disease.

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I’m not saying that Covid-19 is a God-ordained plague. Or that passover and a lockdown have any strong comparisons – although there may be something to be said about staying inside to avoid a pandemic compared with following a ritual so bad spirits & bad vibes don’t come and wreck havoc on your household. I’m not knowledgeable enough to make such an opinion. The point I’m trying to drive home is that, I generally feel sombre around this time because Easter is a symbolic story that gets me introspective (i.e. that feeling at the end of the year when you look back at what you’ve achieved? At this time I look back at my spiritual health and look at the lack thereof any soulfood). Coupled with a national Emergency Alert and lockdown because of a global pandemic – I’m a bit more unsettled than usual. I don’t usually engage in emotional outbursts these days because I like to keep drama-free generally, but when I feel anxious – I turn into a hermit and go through peaks and troughs of overthinking and blankness. Hermit-life isn’t an entirely bad thing at the moment.

The Jewish Passover ritual involved the smearing of the blood of a sheep on the top and sides of the doorway to the home so that demonic forces wouldn’t enter. During the Exodus, when Pharaoh refused to obey God’s command to release the Israelite slaves, it was the 10th plague that God inflicted on the ancient Egyptians, resulting in the death of the first born of each household that didn’t keep that Jewish ritual. There were several other related rituals that were kept with the Passover, however this one, transferred from the old testament to new testament is recognised in the Christian celebration of Good Friday, the evening when Jesus was crucified as the Passover lamb – rooted in the Jewish ritual mentioned. 

I remember when I first learned about colonisation and weaponised religion. I still haven’t entirely reconciled my indigineity with my Christian upbringing. At the moment the two frameworks sit side-by-side in my understanding, both serving a purpose when I’m trying to process and understand something. I don’t ignore what colonialism has done to Polynesian people and some of the worlds indigenous populations. However, I try to focus on the fact that Christianity (stripped of the euro-centric messengers that on many interpretations though maybe not always, weaponised it against the worlds indigenous), is about another group of people that were persecuted because of how they chose to live and their belief system. I know that’s oversimplified af but racism and prejudice have lot to answer for generally from the start of time.

Thankfully, a good friend and spiritual mentor introduced me to Messianic Christianity some 5 or so years ago (Bible teaching from a Jewish perspective, sans most of the eurocentrism and fluff picked up from all the different versions of Christianity and evangelism over the centuries). And I’ve done my share of church shopping in search of a fellowship, teaching and an approach that was based on principle, reason and logic (as much as you could get within the context of some of the unfathomable things covered in the bible).

I’ve neglected this part of myself and mind for the last 3+ years. By neglect, I mean that I haven’t been reading, critiquing for myself and applying any scripture in my life (and I do enjoy this once I get going – it’s like the momentum of picking up a training routine). I haven’t been keeping fellowship with people who are doing exactly that, although I once  was. I’ve got some amazing friends who are Christian, Atheist and Polytheistic but not friends that I talk about this with regularly. And I have no excuse other than – the process is confronting; change is annoying, frustrating and hard!

I’ve only been taking baby steps in this part of my life during that time so, the intention here is to start walking properly and consistently. When I think about this part of my life, I get overwhelmed and just put it in the “I’ll do it later” kete. Since I can’t muck around or have a social life during this lockdown, I want to try and get some of my Messianic readings (which have been sitting in my actual kete at home) done. The soulfood is right here under my nose, I don’t technically have to go foraging for it – just be willing to take it!

[insert several palm face memes]

Happy Palm Sunday!

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#TeamSelfSabotage

I can be a bit of a princess and self-sabotage a lot of good things in my life in an attempt to “protect” myself based on past experiences (cue childhood trauma and other trauma generally). I’d say a lot of people do this to be honest. One of my girlfriends pointed out a few ex-boyfriends that are now loving husbands, but I cut them off or didn’t invest because of the “what ifs” that put me off. Another girlfriend pointed out how I am addicted to doing the most (cue all the crazy milestones and goals I have to date) because I attach most of my value to my achievements and productivity – I can see why this is slightly toxic because I get annoyed at people around me who aren’t “doing the most” either. I think I get this from my mother who is a workaholic in her workplace and at home.

Anyway, I really want to liberate myself from some of these problematic thoughts or beliefs that I generally hold, so I don’t shoot myself in the foot when I’m trying to shoot my shot – in my relationships (romantic and platonic), career, health and in life.

Below is a list of some of the self-limiting thoughts I want to work on; all this from a few nights reflection on some of the behaviours I thought were toxic – that’s a more personal discussion that I won’t share.

I’ve read a little bit about cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other therapies that can help with tackling thoughts/behaviours that just don’t serve a purpose anymore – but maybe once used to. I used to see a therapist for specific matters but am trying a bit of self-help CBT and I don’t want to dedicate time to seeing a therapist atm. TBH – the most value I got from her were the questions she asked me when I presented her with a situation or problem I was facing. And the real learning about myself came from the reflection I did on my own, in my own time, after that question, not the time we spent during the one hour session together. Regardless, she was a gem, but I’m attempting to question myself a lot more instead this year rather than booking in with my therapist – not as an attack on my integrity or confidence, but just a quicker way of self-improvement and tackling #selfsabotage

Romantic relationships:

  • I can’t find someone I trust to be emotionally invested and vulnerable with
    • If I’m emotionally invested and vulnerable with my friends, I can find a partner just the same
  • I’m scared of being hurt or deceived again
    • I’m smart enough to use my mind and heart to confront any red flags with integrity, before getting hurt or lied to
  • I can’t find someone who will be emotionally available for me
    • My friends are just as busy with their careers as I am, the right person who is interested enough in me will make time for me in their busy life
  • I don’t trust my decisions with love because of what has happened in the past
    • I trust myself enough to get to know someone long enough with my head and heart to make the right choice

For the romantic relationships that didn’t last, I noticed a trend in what I liked about those people. My first serious boyfriend, it was his confidence, something I didn’t think I had a lot of at the time. I’ve now developed enough confidence that I feel like I have that quality within myself. My second boyfriend, it was his charisma, charm and how he stood up to me. He was able to connect with a range of people and wasn’t shy with sharing his own opinion. I’m now at a point in my life where I think I have that more or less. And finally, the last serious relationship that didn’t work out, I admired his love and dedication for his family. I’m still sour over that one ending because I hoped it would be my last romantic relationship, but anyway, I’m working on building this quality within my own life, which I’m happy to say, is improving a lot.

I like the positive elements of being in a long-term committed relationship. Despite my previous relationships ending for several reasons (the unhealthy ones – because of cheating or deception; the good ones – because of my emotional baggage and just didn’t “connect”), I enjoy having someone to share lots of moments with and someone to count on – in a healthy relationship. I also like how a partner acts as a mirror. How I am with a partner reflects aspects of myself that I sometimes can’t see and amplify inner growth and learning. It’s the complete opposite in an unhealthy relationship – the worst parts of myself were reflected and amplified in a past toxic relationship. There was still learning, but with unnecessary flow-on emotional baggage.

Familial relationships:

  • Some family trauma is so deep for close family members that some familial relationships will never heal
    • People’s perspective and positions can change
  • I haven’t been the best sister I could have been growing up
    • I can start being a better sister now

There may be fewer goals than my romantic ones but, these ones are quite big.

With my sister, we have a 10 year age gap. This always made it interesting spending time together, but usually it would be at home baking/cooking, watching a movie or just hanging out at the beach/park. Sometimes we would go to the movies, the mall, an event or a theatre show (yes I took her to some – because I thought she would do good in the arts and had a curious enough mind to explore emotions), so I think I spent a decent amount of time with her.

I would put pressure on her a lot in high school to achieve as high as she could but she had “checked” out for several reasons (some of which I don’t blame her for at all). I’ve given in to the fact that I was projecting on her, because of some of the ridiculous standards I hold myself to. I think she’s problematic with a lot of things going on in her life at the moment, but regardless, I try and give her my well-intentioned opinion when she asks. She’s turning into an adult after all and her choices should be respected, even if I think it’s wrong. From my projections, telling-offs and high standards, I just hope that I haven’t added to the childhood trauma she may/may not have suffered. What I hope for her, is that she just becomes a person of good character and values in life; treats the people around her with the care and love that we have given her for the most part (I have the same outlook if I were to raise children one day and try to apply the same care-taking process with the relationships/friendships around me).

With the family trauma, this is around a complex set of relationships each reacting to the others around it. And I haven’t taken any time to reflect on what positions each of these people are probably coming from – which is probably the first task, and then trying to make sense of what people actually want and seeing what resolutions might be available (it doesn’t help that people don’t always know what they want either – myself included). I haven’t confronted or made any moves regarding this space in my life because the pain was still raw for most, but I think this year is a good time to begin having some open, constructive and challenging conversations in this area; I hope those conversations can mend relationships or open hearts a bit more. I know I’ve already had one that is positive.

Because I have a beautiful and strong friend network/sisterhood, that I’ll continue to invest in, I think it’s only fair that I give as much time to this family as I do to that – because my family deserve that attention and care, for the same that they’ve given to me. It’s going to be an uphill trail run is all.

Health, work-life balance and wellbeing:

  • My body isn’t designed for particular activities
    • My body will adapt to what activities I want it to do, with consistent attention
  • I don’t have time to get fit
    • I have time for what I prioritise and so I just need better time management & to cut off the fluff
  • I should be working instead of working out
    • Working out gives me a clearer mind for work and the extra blood flow definitely gives me a lot more focus – integral to making me a better advocate
  • I should be focusing on my career and financial goals and taking a break is selfish
    • I need an occasional break (with and without people sometimes) and need to enjoy not just endure life – just a little lol

I don’t even want to go into how much of a workaholic I am. My friend constantly says I fit 87 things into my day, even when others are involved and… she’s not wrong at all. All of my close friends can attest to how I’ve been over an hour late to some social engagement because I was finishing up something else just before seeing them. Or failing to attend at all because I came down with a headache or was too tired after doing everything else before seeing them. I say I want to aim for a lot more balance in the next year but the reality of my move to Whangarei is that is a big fat no. My work-life balance will be non-existent for the next 2 – 3 years (if I can stay up here for that amount of time) which I’m ok with, it’ll just mean that I have to take my breaks alongside the workload ebb and flow. As for the goals around being ‘fit for purpose’, I want to do a lot of different walks/hikes on my future travels so conditioning and being cardio-fit is the aim this year. It’ll be great for if I ever want to do another fight (probably not anytime soon with this mahi) and for future diving experiences (I plan on getting my diving certificate this year so I want to make sure my lungs are big, happy and healthy for that). So far, my routine has been good enough that I can get moving consistently – I haven’t struck the balance I want yet, but we’re getting there.

Career:

  • I’ll never be as competent as others around me, particularly the white male lawyers
    • See the last point – this one is definitely positioned in my identity as a Polynesian female
  • I do not have enough experience
    • I have enough smarts to be strategic for the job right now and learn the intricacies as I go along
  • I don’t belong in this profession because I’m a little too different
    • I shouldn’t minimise the value I offer – I belong because I offer a unique perspective

I’m grateful for these beliefs up until this point in my life, they’ve managed to keep me safe and get me to this not-so-bad point in life thus far. But it’s time to bid farewell.

It was a bit of a profound moment when I questioned why I was so fearful about how stupid I felt when comparing my opinions to other white male lawyers/professionals. I think I have a lot of work to do on this belief that might not be done within 12 months or any specific time frame – but I know I’m hyperaware of it now. I always felt it when trying to bring my ideas and opinions up, which were sometimes validated by that demographic but never specifically identified it as a pattern. It happened when I was at uni and my first few jobs. That’s all I’ll say on that for now but I’m looking forward to exploring why I feel/think that way as I think it’ll be a major personal development point.

My reading diary from 2019

It’s the season for winding down, relaxing and doing whatever the heck I want. Most likely involving good food, good souls and good weather!

This year I wanted to read one book a month, not just any book, as many indigenous books or books about Polynesia and the indigenous reference as I could. Below is my attempt and mini-review of each that I managed to get through last year. If you can recommend any amazing titles to add to my good reads list, let me know ❤

How to be single, Liz Tuccillo (6.5/10) – this was from a few years ago that I never finished but finally did.

  • I was meant to finish this ages ago and finally got around to finish it. I’m pretty sure this story was what sparked a similar plot for a movie that was released last year on this. The plot is interesting and I like that not everyone has a complete happily ever after lol. It’s a bit more real. But this is definitely from a mayo perspective, which is fun for some light-hearted reading.

Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay (8/10)

  • This was an easy read and I definitely prefer this style of writing when being introduced to academic topics/concepts. It gave me the impression like I was having coffee with a lecturer and listening to her harp on candidly about several sub-topics on their main thesis. Only reason for points off was

Where we once belonged, Sia Figiel (8/10)

  • I LOVE this writing style. Seen through the eyes of young teen Alofa, the story explains the intricacies (and scandals) of Samoan life as a young woman, as a love child and as a daughter vying for her father’s approval.

Free love, Sia Figiel (8/10)

  • This story is more playful than “Where we once belonged” which I found to be more raw (which is my preference). It a treat and I enjoyed the protagonists tenacity which I think all Samoan females have in essence. The second half of the book tied in some beautiful decolonising energy which I definitely appreciated and wish there was more of in the literature I read.

They who do not grieve, Sia Figiel (8/10)

  • Some of the plot includes the larger picture in relation to Alofa’s life in “Where we once belonged”. It was initially a bit harder for me to get into this book and then as I got through a few chapters I enjoyed it a lot more. Definitely like her writing and how she is so raw. It was hard to read at some points but I’m a fan of not censoring the reality of some narratives and complexities that people in Samoa live. It’s up to the reader to interpret from whatever position they occupy.

Wild dogs under my skirt, Tusiata Avia (7/10)

  • Again, I like how Samoan women aren’t afraid to write about what’s considered profane and not censor their material. It’s just a depiction of what happens and is open to the reader to interpret and make sense of it how they will. I watched the play to this and loved how they depicted each of the women portrayed, particularly Alofa(fua). Highly recommend if you can get along to the play, check it out.

Fast talking PI, Selina Tusitala Marsh (8/10)

  • LOVE the Fast talking PI poem, makes me laugh, cringe and sad all in one sweep.

Braving the wilderness, Brene Brown (7/10)

  • Surprisingly, this book made me want to draw back on my spiritual learnings from when I was growing up (Christian and some indigenous teachings). I’ve been going through a bit of a time trying to understand “connection”, particularly with people in my life who are currently suffering from some past trauma and this book, gave a bit more insight into that.

The Devil’s advocate, Iain Morely (8/10)

  • I’ve half-read this. It is amazing though and I just need to get through it in early 2020 -_- slightly annoyed at myself for not finishing it.

Su’esu’e Manongi: in search of fragrance, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese (8/10)

  • This was a nice start into Tui Atua’s writing considering I haven’t read any of his previous texts. I got my copy signed at the Auckland Writers Festival this year and he probably didn’t think I was Samoan given my features and name. There were one or two concepts I didn’t entirely agree with, but I won’t comment on this yet because I haven’t actually finished this book -_- I intend on finishing it in early 2020.

I didn’t get through as many books as I wanted to last year. I was quite religious with reading on public transport and in the evenings before bed up until I went to Papua New Guinea and then straight after that, my fight camp started. Then, during the camp, I was too tired to bother in the evenings and was also training in the mornings so I drove to work. I finished the fight camp in October, and then got a new job and moved in late November to Whangarei so… I didn’t prioritise reading time.

After moving and settling in properly in Whangarei, I didn’t pick up my reading time as I was busy getting stuck into how to be a lawyer in the new role and drifting between Auckland and Whangarei. Anyway, all that being said, this year I want to make more of an effort to prioritise it. Here is to a longer list and review in 2020.

Two thousand and nineteen and the decade of self-love/self-work

Last year has been humbly transformational, which I was surprised with. I sent an email to my best friend setting my intentions for the year at the start of it. We have done this every year since we finished university.

Some of the goals were definitely outside of my comfort zone and even though I did not feel courageous enough to achieve them in January, my mind thought I could at least stretch myself towards it. If I didn’t get there – I was ok with that. But I wanted to at least try and keep trying until I got what I wanted.

Quick stats for January 2019 (not including anything to do with my career/kaupapa – that’s a different post):

  • Physical: Not enough quality self-love/me-time routine, was only giving myself the dregs of the week and numbing my mind with social media -_-
  • Mental: Volunteering with IDYP & PSRH – productive and building my skillset, but not genuinely towards my own growth & vision for my future
  • Emotional: have worked through my behavioural issues that I developed from a toxic relationship in my past but still needed to work on this in relation to some core beliefs that don’t serve me anymore
  • Spiritual: really just lacking overall energy and harmony between the different elements in my life – that should be contributing towards a vision for something greater than me – I’m Christian so yes, basically hopes towards better days etc.

Quick stats for December 2019:

  • Physical: I spend a lot more time on weekdays and weekends doing things that genuinely give me joy/happiness (I’m simple to please – a coffee and stroll at the beach makes me happy; also now punching people and risking being punched), and am 15kg lighter for it. There is also A LOT more ocean time.
  • Mental: Breathing space to think about how I can grow my own kingdom (no longer volunteering for PSRH and IDYP);
  • Emotional: my trust issues and communication about my feelings > behaviours has improved. There are still core beliefs I need to address but I am happy with where I am at and will continue to improve in the new year;
  • Spiritual: getting there but this is something I most definitely will work on in the new year.

Extra-curriculars: I’ve already commented on how much my extra-curricular activities have thrown a lot of my life out of balance – at my own doing so I’m not blaming anyone for this. My ex-boyfriends would tell me it was something I should look into for my own wellbeing. As part of this whole 2019 re-invention, I’ve ditched all the extra curriculars that don’t feed my soul anymore. This includes IDYP and PSRH which took space in my mind but didn’t necessarily satisfy me anymore on a soulful level, it became the mantra “this will add to my CV”. You become a robot if that’s the only reason why you do something. I don’t regret any of my time spent towards these organisations, I just want to move onto other experiences that I feel would be more fulfilling.

Since August 2019, I’ve been free of those activities and I am in a much better head-space for it.

And what a good feeling it is to just be able to focus on a smaller set of experiences and goals i.e. quality and intentional experiences, as well as rest and creativity. Tbh that’s probably the most mindful action I took for my wellbeing in 2019.

Relationships: some of my familial relationships have factured after tauma to the vā/relational space. Whether those fractures heal will depend on the work each person within that space puts in. I predict this will take a few more years yet, if not the rest of the incoming decade. But that is ok. If people still put in the work – myself included.

So that was the year that was. I feel like I have grown so much within the space of 12 – 14 months. And it’s set the tone and pace for the incoming decade as I farewell the last.

Points of importance from the last decade include:

  • I completed 2.3 degrees (haven’t quite finished my PgDipPH but we will get there);
  • Did a corporate fight;
  • Became a lawyer;
  • Went flatting;
  • Received multiple scholarships;
  • Went to several (and helped organise a few) conferences;
  • Served on different committees, a board and several projects;
  • Learned how to budget;
  • Bought and sold a few cars;
  • Moved towns;
  • Worked over 12 different jobs;
  • Had a few heartbreaks;
  • Almost cried in Court (R v Queenie aka Piahana)
  • Traveled to over 9 countries;
  • Graduated;
  • Got my own place;
  • Lost people I love dearly;
  • Got more comfortable within my soul & skin

I’m excited for the decade to come, God-willing. I have so much energy I want to give to the people I love and more. And if not, my insurance plan will at least have my family covered.

Bottled connection, change and celebration

So I moved up to Whangarei in a bit of a whirlwind. In the space of 10 days, I:

  • Quit my job and had a wonderful farewell party
  • Got a tattoo
  • Bought a new family car
  • Celebrated my birthday
  • Went to Friday jams (hopefully for the last time – I’ve done enough of that gig)
  • Moved out of Auckland/home
  • Started a new job

This really is just an excuse for a photo essay; so I remember this moment and capture it in written and visual form – a bottled moment in time if you will. Lots of change about, but I’m super excited to kick-off the new decade with major mountains to climb. I haven’t had to knuckle down like this for a little while so this will be a good challenge.

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Calm mind, quick hands

This year I wanted to do a corporate fight. Initially, I wanted to do it to see how much I could push my body to perform the way I wanted it to (within the timeframe I had). After having a heart procedure 2 years ago and inching closer to 30, I’ve wanted to push myself physically (as a way of celebrating a now-properly-functioning heart! My GP thinks I’m nuts) and to test my courage and will.

Anyway, I set myself up for the second half of the year so that for 16 weeks I could participate in a boxing camp. I signed up because I had seen posts about it on facebook and thought the fundraiser was for a good cause.

I was tested physically and mentally over the 15 weeks. I didn’t expect the camp to be as transformative as it was. I ate as clean as I could (real/whole foods and not processed) while still eating some of my favourite foods for sanity and sometimes laziness. I managed to still have a quiet social-life but centred my week around training sessions and minor Court appearances/duties. I would say I trained on average between 7 – 8 hours most weeks. This meant doing some sessions twice a day and resting on one day. Not getting knocked out was at the forefront of my mind during the lead-up, which dictated what I ate and how I spent my time.

I fundraised, I sweat up a storm and I got smacked around several times. However, this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in life so far.

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The 15 weeks literally felt like a crash course in boxing – I wish I had been boxing for months before that, but I hadn’t. So I made an effort to try balance my work alongside making more than the requisite 3 training sessions per week. On the off-session, I would go for a run or do a HIIT based workout to increase my cardio-fitness (where I could muster it in). All in preparation to perform in 3 x 1.5-minute rounds. I got to spend more time with my dad and friends who helped do pad work with me, so I could work on my agility, faking and defence. After having my first few sessions of sparring, I had to keep my routine tight to prepare effectively.

I couldn’t really help myself being meek in the first few weeks. Firstly, the neuro-programming of this type of body-language is foreign to me and my character. I’m not an offensive person by nature – well, at least I don’t know myself to be unless challenged or when someone I love is being hurt. I’ve always played defence in sports and have been generally good at it. Secondly, it takes me a while to warm up to people. Thirdly, I also didn’t know what the f**k I was doing technically for a little while. For the first 5 weeks we trained together under Daniella Smith then the remainder of the camp with Terry Batchelor (Coach to Geovana Peres, Troy Garton, Roi Ransfield, and many other greats).

It was hard not to be starstruck during training sessions. Geovana gave me some pointers, laughed as she could tell I was still learning this boxing body-language and I was both angry I didn’t get the movement properly/quickly enough, but also grateful af that she gave me guidance.

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There were three points during the camp where I seriously considered dropping out. The first was not being used to particular teaching styles. It definitely took a little getting used to in the earliest stages.

The second moment was due to a health scare. My GP told me I was stupid for wanting to participate in a corporate fight because of my previous heart condition. His lecture made me consider dropping out entirely, because he made it seem like I might end up dying in the ring if my opponent punching me in the chest causing an arrhythmia.

The final moment was when I was emotionally and mentally drained 2 weeks out from fight night. The coach for the other team had asked me to drop approximately 2 – 3 kgs to make sure I was matched with my opponent by weigh-in the night before the fight. I was on the brink of junioring for a sex-offence trial (which ended up resolving on day 2) and I was applying for jobs (secured a new job out of town within that week). All while still making it to training, eating clean and aiming to get my 7ish hours of sleep per night. I was exhausted and wanted a break. I cut the weight (water loading – totally new world to me but one of the girls from the gym knew all the tricks) and pushed through the week until weigh-in. I ended up being 81.5 kgs.

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Boxing humbles you faster than team sports in my opinion – because you can’t lie about your weaknesses or preparation. You don’t have a backup player to help you execute the phase or take the ball down the court or field. Everything is on display in that ring for your coach, the opponent, and the audience to see i.e. everything you did and didn’t prepare for. It is literally all you. That’s it.

A week before my match I watched Geovana Peres live and some of the boys from the gym and their corporate fights. It’s hard not to be inspired seeing them all in the ring win all their matches. But Geo was the most inspiring. To witness that passion and dedication perform at top level is… Unbelievable. The moment is truly ceremonious and humbling to be a part of.

More people than I expected came to watch my fight, which I was both flattered by and anxious about. While you’re in the ring though, everything outside those four corners is a blur.

The night took a while because I was the last corporate fight. I took to the ring at 10:30 pm. Our team had some great wins and some close losses. I won by technical knockout in the third round which the referee called. I was thrilled to have so much support from my extended family, close family, friends and even my boss and colleagues/other seniors. It was a big mashup of social circles and emotions.

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Regardless of the result, it was the process/journey that I enjoyed the most. I can genuinely say I gave the training and prep my all (not being a full-time fighter and balancing it alongside work). Highlights included:

  • Improving my agility (something I’ve missed since giving up netball);
  • Learning how to spar and sparring – I freaked the first time, but I actually enjoy this now, when I’m not tired;
  • Boxing out of the same studio as some current female champions;
  • Making new friends and nurturing a friendship along the way;
  • Spending time with my Dad doing pad work;
  • Building a shit-load of confidence;
  • And physical fitness of course.

The top three mental elements I nurtured, that I want to apply to my life in general:

  • Fearlessness;
  • Keeping calm during the discomfort (be it physical or mental);
  • Mastering the basics of your craft.

I learned and am still learning how to control my nerves. An interesting result from this journey as well is that it has abated my imposter syndrome somewhat; or at least minimised it. I.e. if I have done the work and am competent to do a particular activity, I should not have crippling anxiety over performing said activity – just the normal amount of nervousness with doing something for the first time in front of an audience.

I’m grateful to everyone that helped out along the way and am happy to say that I’ve continued boxing training. I’m not sure I would do another fight because I want to focus on my career a little more next year with my new role – but I wouldn’t say no in future if I was in the right place to train towards it.

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Anatomy of a (Samoan) prayer

I’ve been raised as a Christian under one of the first religions brought to Samoa (EFKS). Apparently, on my Samoan side, I have some lineage to one of the six Tahitians that traveled to Samoa with John Williams on his evangelical mission. That story is for another day, however, as I haven’t done enough research on it.

My grandfather (by western understanding, great uncle) was a sort-of Deacon, a’oa’o fesoasoani in the church I was raised in; not a minister but also not just a general male-member that helps at church events and processions. When I was really young, I wasn’t a promising student at aoga aso sa because I just didn’t care enough; I was there for the food and presents. My grandmother, whilst she was still alive, would dress me up, let me run around the stage giving my best attempt at whatever song and dance we had learned, then coo over me until I came home for the Sunday feast when it was Children’s day (White Sunday). I didn’t really place anywhere in my Sunday school exams until my actual biological grandfather from Samoa, also a matai (Malae Lio), came over and drummed a bit of discipline, fa’asamoa and scripture into me. And then I came first. Following this, my parents/other grandfather expected nothing but the top marks because they saw I understood everything I was learning, I was just lazy at first lol. Exams questions weren’t just about scripture, but also about general knowledge (some I didn’t know why we were learning like who was the Prime minister of New Zealand – I wanted to learn about Samoan history instead). Anyway, I took a mild interest in my later classes into the anatomy of prayer – why it was done in this particular EFKS style in comparison to other structures in other religions.

Throughout my upbringing, I’ve found/made/connected to meaning-making from invocations/intercessions/prayer. I used to do it a lot more before 2012. From 2012 onwards, I had some major life-changes which saw a lot of disconnection and heartbreak. I stopped between then and late 2017. I want to bring it back into my life because I feel like I’m in a better space and I think it will make me a better orator/speaker, lawyer and all-round person (which is what I thought it did when I was more consistent with it). Nothing sets intention like speaking it into existence. Or at least testing your thoughts and intentions when doing so.

This was the breakdown my grandfather taught me when I was in vasega something (five maybe? Or six?) at Aoga aso sa.

  1. Fa’ane’etaga – Exaltation
  2. Fa’afetai – Thanksgiving
  3. Fa’atoesega – Contrition i.e. seeking forgiveness
  4. Mana’oga – Intercession i.e. what you’re seeking

Even though I haven’t always kept to this structure (especially during emergency prayers/sad prayers or whenever emotions are high) I don’t generally stray too far from it. Prayer has physically brought me peace during periods of despair; especially when I’m in a deep deluge of emotion that I tend to indulge in.

My grandfather prayed every day and night for me. He prayed three times every day. Once on waking, at noon, and in the evening (I think this was Mosaic practice? I need to brush up on my general biblical knowledge). I was and still am amazed by his consistency. I aim for this standard of commitment to my goals and vision for my life. I’ll never know how many blessings (or transformative challenges) I’ve received because of his prayers. I’ll never know this in relation to anyone that may have included me in their prayers too. But I do know that speaking something into existence manifests power to whatever is said, rather than it just sitting in your mind or soul alone. As the saying goes, e pala le ma’a, a e le pala ‘upu.

Since I’ve started praying after I learned this basic structure all those years ago, these are some of the prayers I’ve made that have been answered:

  • Getting through an exam/paper/university (I wanted to drop out several times);
  • Getting a legal job (insecurities about my competency);
  • My family’s safety through disaster (my mum was overseas during minor hurricanes in the Cook Islands; my dad traveling to Samoa without us);
  • Asking for a few people who were literally on their deathbed to be given another shot at life
  • Asking for peace for myself or for someone else (several people in my life that have been through personal challenges that I wanted to help but couldn’t);
  • Mending relationships or seeking guidance to balance/nurture the va;
  • Asking for strength and courage through particular life-changing periods (not just for myself but for others);
  • Comfort during the discomfort life throws at me – I still pray for this often;
  • Emotional maturity when something is deeply upsetting;
  • Wisdom – can never never never have enough of this;
  • And several other ludicrous and not ludicrous things (people; material goods; situations and events).

The prayers that have not been answered, are maybe not for me, or it is not the time for them to be answered. In any case, it’s a goal to get into the practice, speaking my gratitude, reflections, and intentions into existence through my prayers moving forward. Whether you believe in a higher being or not, the psychology of such a practice, however you manifest it, is effective; if done consistently.

Imposter syndrome or impatience?

Throughout primary and secondary education, I didn’t find school hard and thought I was pretty decent at the topics I took and got good grades. That’s not to be arrogant but to set the context. The schools I went to were pretty diverse so I had peers that looked like me and I didn’t feel out of place. I felt like I was doing ok in my tribe. Big fish, small pond.

Then I got to university. The tribe I was in grew exponentially and I was trying to figure out whether I belonged or whether I had to “fit in”. That question dictated my actions for several years following and has politicsed. Small fish, big ocean.

I was trying to find my belonging through the relationships I started, social events I attended and student groups I associated with.

I met people who I thought were way smarter than me. I didn’t get into my first degree choice of “architecture”. My portfolio was crap because I didn’t prepare it properly and prioritised other responsibilities in the lead up to the portfolio deadline. I ended up staring university doing an Arts degree, not even knowing what Arts and Humanities were all about. My imposter syndrome was born on the first day of semester one in 2009.

I got through the semester with decent marks, not having done any study like this before at High School. Come semester two, I decided I would either major in Social Science for Public Health and Anthropology and add on a law degree to dive deeper into the policy space. I don’t know where the heck I got that idea from.

Law school wasn’t my first choice. I don’t know why I thought doing law would help with health policy. Regulatory environment and risk maybe, but because we have ACC, there isn’t much by way of litigation/medical negligence. Regardless, I braved through the dark years of part-two law, got through some papers (miserably) and salvaged some decent grades by the end.

Now that I’m practicing, the law is this huge playground and I have no idea where I want to start but can’t help but feel I’m not getting where I want fast enough or strategically enough. I’ve already thought destructively about my legal career at least twice through all of the unhelpful thinking styles below. My personal fav – compare & despair (which I’m sure many colleagues have had as well).

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My compare and despair usually centres around:

  • Am I getting enough experience now – to pay off later
  • Am I working hard/ smart/ long enough
  • Am I advancing quick enough
  • Am I smart enough/ how do I improve my logic/quick reasoning faster

This is when I wonder whether I actually have imposter syndrome, or whether I am just being impatient and need to let experience do its thing – i.e. just give it time; and if I’m not setting up my opportunities in order to address the points of concern, then I should just do that.

What is working currently / happy points: 

  • I feel challenged
  • I am making a constant difference
  • I have a lot of autonomy
  • I like doing research and exploring the law and trial strategies
  • I’m pretty good at managing clients
  • I enjoy advocacy
  • Working with diverse client groups
  • I like working with Sam

I am struggling with:

  • Managing client expectations from time to time when we get a difficult one
  • I know I am a millennial but I want mastery and expertness to happen faster – I’ve calmed down and understand I should enjoy the process as well.
  • I am lacking confidence in my ability – I’ve made more lawyer friends who I’m open with (not many are!) to bounce ideas when I’m unsure
  • I need more support and I need to make it happen – I’ve had a coffee with a few more female lawyers (following up on male lawyers before we meet).
  • Reconciling my cultural obligations (silent) expected of me in the day to day life of the world I operate in.
  • How do I set myself up in the short-term for the medium or long-term gains. Including my living situation/environment
  • How do I present myself as a strong/bright and humble Pacific female lawyer without being invisible?
  • Differences are valuable – what is my point of difference?
  • Example of my imposter syndrome flaring i.e. in Court where I hadn’t practiced something orally.

Some possible positive solutions:

  • Find a range of support and mentoring interventions including sound-boards (people at my level willing to tell me un/realistic my aspirations are)
  • Use my boss to talk through day to day casework as per usual
  • Find a Polynesian women barrister for lots of reasons;  about law, being a PI female lawyer, cases, etc – have found 4 from diff area’s of law (2 poly; 2 not)
  • A male experienced criminal lawyer to discuss cases – still struggle with this.
  • Find an experienced and reputable clinical psychologist to help with occasional support and advice.   Good for making sense of difficult cases, boundary-setting strategies and also your own mental health and resilience – I’ve been seeing a counsellor every so often, which helps (not sure whether to remain or seek a clinical psych. Like you recommended).
  • Use an occasional expert “other” outside of the law to enable you to set goals and strategize about the future
  • Set up a group of like-minded people in law around your age whom  you like and trust to meet informally every 3 months or so to catch up/talk about common issues in law and have some laughs
  • Build a bigger network of people you like and trust outside of law to make sense of all the issues people in normal jobs and life deal with at this age – these are a group of close gfs. We don’t catch up too often as a group, but definitely three times a year.
  • Talk to a range of people inside and outside of law and find some interesting short term legal post-grad learning opportunities in the US.  Use TEC and the Law Society to find funding options, scholarships (e.g. PM Scholarship, etc) – am looking to enroll and finish my PGDip in Public health (6 more 15 point papers to complete); applying for a pacific island leadership fellowship 4-month programme funded by USA (Hawaii and Taiwan based).

There are a quite a few Pasifika/ indigenous lawyers doing amazing things now. And I am inspired by them & my peers. I would like to attempt becoming a “pracademic” of sorts focusing on systemic issues – namely, the health sector/justice sector interface, but before committing to any further level of study – I need to make sure these are the things that actually make me happy career-wise.

Staying in legal practice

Apparently for my personality, working in law is a good fit. I’ve done a few personality tests (MBTI = ENTJ; DISC and others) and my star-sign says law is a good fit or the type of work involved in this space. Of course, there is the cultural lense that comes with that as well. In any case, none of that matters anyway because the only important thing is whether I enjoy it.

I know I want to stay in practice for a while longer – maybe another 5 years or so. Maybe venture into in-house legal at some point if I decide that I want to enjoy family life a little more without the trial litigation space. I’m not sure my mind would be able to sit still – I would need to definitely be a pracademic if so.