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.

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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Papua New Guinea

This month I ended my volunteer stint with Pacific Society of Reproductive Health (“PSRH”) with one final conference in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. I’ve volunteered for PSRH since 2014.

I have an interest in sexual/reproductive health particularly in relation to gender/power dynamics and gender-based violence (criminal justice/health system interface).

Since post-contact (colonisation and rise of religion[s]), healthy discussions around sexuality/reproductive health is not normal practice, let alone having any conversation about it in a family context. I think ‘how’ to have these conversations constructively have been mystified by the weird mutation of colonisation/religion/indigenous culture. I like exploring these conversations with health practitioners because, like me, they are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff (or sometimes, the person stopping someone tipping over the edge). Anyway, the conference itself obviously focuses on more clinical perspectives as well as some social/cultural perspectives when considering family planning.

The conference was in Port Moresby and covers your standard conferencing aims – professional development, continuing medical education and building/disseminating research. This is obviously with a focus on sexual and reproductive health from a Pacific perspective, by and for Pacific practitioners.

So, the conference; it was a time.

The week before the conference, several issues arose that needed dealing with that I tried to manage during my work breaks (alongside my full-time job). I support PSRH  in the lead up to, during and after conferences with admin/ project-work/ funding apps/ conference admin etc. Being a jane-of-all trades isn’t necessarily a good thing because it’s an excuse for people to come to you with the expectation that you know where everything is, what is happening and how to do the tasks needed. Tasks included booking flights/accommodation for people from around the Pacific (Jane-trade #1: travel agent – note, I don’t have access to deals or am qualified in this space), preparing executive documents for the Board meetings, Biennial General meeting and others (Jane-trade #2: over-glorified admin extraordinaire), invoicing, receipting & money counting (Jane-trade #3: accounts admin). Despite the crises, a week prior to leaving, we managed to start the conference without too many issues.

I assisted with the 2017 conference and the main things I wanted to improve on were:

  • My delegation skills (I was so bad at this – I don’t like giving out tasks to a team I barely know);
  • Efficient and effective communication (leadership style);
  • Accounting and financial skills.

Anyway, I messed up and booked an extra day at the end of the conference and most of our crew left. So in the lead-up, I tried to plan a “learning day” by checking out the local market and meeting up with some mutuals I met during the conference.

A photo-essay below of my time in Papua New Guinea – the last hurrah.

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Closing ceremony
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Surviving on coffee
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Cultural night in PNG
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Beanies for Babies in the Pacific
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The va’a sails to Samoa in 2021
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Tohoa Cummings from Kuki Airani
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Errollyn & Bella on my last day of catching up
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The team from the local organising committee
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The PSRH Secretariat with the USA ambassador
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Quiet before the storm at registration desk
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The new PSRH president and Falahola
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Family planning debate
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Speeches & dignatories
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View from the ambassador’s residence looking to the mines
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Making friends with the local practitioners
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All beanies were taken by people from around the Pacific
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View from the Stanley
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On the way to the USA Ambassador’s residence
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Day 3 of the conference
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Boroko markets
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Asian influence is everywhere
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APEC Building
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Parliament house
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Besties with Errollyn at the Conference

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The local organising committee
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The the Chief Midwife of PNG
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My adoptive parents
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Boroko markets

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Chinese aid is EVERYWHERE
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Opening ceremony