Hello, my name is Sandy.

Closing the loops

Ever since reading about the Zeignarik effect, I've been thinking about all the unfinished business knocking around my agenda. This year was supposed to be about chilling da fuq out and it hasn't been and I'm happy but I'm stressed and I'm sure it's because I have so many loops to close.

So, I'm dedicating the rest of this month and probably all of next month to finishing things. I've allowed 18 tasks on my loopy list, some with subtasks, and some that won't be finished for ages — but sticking with them will ensure they do get finished eventually.

Here's the condensed version:

  • Finish my blog design in time for the May 1 Reboot (spoiler alert: it looks just like this one)
  • Finish reading Meditations on Violence by Rory Miller
  • Finish reading WWII Infantry Tactics by Stephen Bull
  • Register as an organ donor
  • Finish beta-reading for my author friends (I'm a slow, bad friend)
  • Migrate my Office Plants articles to a new blog
  • Post something new on that new blog
  • Write back to all my penpals (I'm a slow, bad penpal)
  • Finish and submit a couple more stories
  • Start posting on betalunaris again (it's been on hold while I've been smashed by projects)
  • A bunch of freelance pieces
  • Keeping up with my 100-day project

To stay sane, I've been studying Romanian. Though I hated studying languages as a child, it seems to be having an oddly motivating yet relaxing effect. Yoga has also been helpful. Especially the quiet meditation part at the end.

I've got a couple of new projects waiting in the wings. A video project, getting around to my typewriter, an interactive novel, a graphic novel... Yeah, I have a long-standing problem of wanting to do all the things. But it stops here. For a bit, at least. I'm not allowed to start anything new until a few of these loops get closed.

OK, time to get some rest. Good night, friends.

OK, March is over

It's April now, and I wanted to punch in the rest of my March Month of Fitness progress. Here goes:

  • 13 Mar: Nothing. I was sick. :(
  • 14 Mar: 20 pushups, 20 situps
  • 15 Mar: Walked to and from D&D (1.5km)
  • 16 Mar: Ruck walk (3km @ 5kg)
  • 17 Mar: Ruck walk for geocaches (6km @ 5kg)
  • 18 Mar: Ninja Academy
  • 19 Mar: Indoor football
  • 20 Mar: Geocache walk (4.5km)
  • 21 Mar: Frogstand training (30sec)
  • 22 Mar: TKD training
  • 23 Mar: Sick again. Walked to and from D&D (1.5km)
  • 24 Mar: Frogstand training (30sec)
  • 25 Mar: Nothing. This was my sickest day.
  • 26 Mar: Indoor football (felt like poo but scored a goal!)
  • 27 Mar: Frogstand training + ruck walk (4.5km @ 5kg)
  • 28 Mar: Casual fitness with my work besties
  • 29 Mar: Walked to and from D&D (1.5km)
  • 30 Mar: Slacked off lalala!
  • 31 Mar: Ruck Jacob's (5 laps @ 5kg)

I'm happy with how this campaign went. It's shown me how to improve fitness quickly in a short time with consistent practice, and that being sick may stop you from doing some things, but you can still do other things if you measure all your actions carefully.

When studying up on colds and flu last year, I came across some advice that said you can keep exercising as long as it's not your chest giving you trouble. So I pushed through my sinus problems this month, gently of course, and came out all right in the end.

So now, after just 4 weeks of a rounded fitness routine, I can ruck with 5kg, do 5 laps of Jacob's with 5kg, and frog for 30 seconds (my goal is 1 minute). Check it out (via @wearehumaan):

frogstand with a fitness buddy

Ps. I got some lovely news the other day — an online publication accepted one of my flash fiction pieces! It should get posted sometime this or next month, and I'm looking forward to sharing the link with you. :D

Pps. Ack! And I meant to send out Soft Signal this week too, but got so caught up in work, exercise and story-writing that it completely slipped my mind. How unfit of me!! Oh well, maybe next week.

Month of fitness check-in

March Month of Fitness has been going well. In the last two weeks, I've upped my backpack weight to about 5kg (double what I started with!). This puts me a third of the way to my goal, and halfway to my next milestone.

The days after backpack training, I've noticed I wake up relatively pain-free. As in, I don't start the morning with my usual shoulder and upper back aches. Not sure what that's all about. I've read rucking can help with relieving back pain, but I'm not sure how reliable this information is. Must remember to ask my physio next time I see him... though I hope I won't have to see him for a long time yet!

Getting fit through play seems to be the emerging theme of this month-long campaign. Here's what has counted as exercise over the last 12 days:

  • 1 Mar: Ruck walk (1hr @ 4kg)
  • 2 Mar: Ruck Jacob's (4 laps @ 4kg, 1 lap w/o)
  • 3 Mar: Stretching in front of the telly
  • 4 Mar: TKD training, Ninja Academy
  • 5 Mar: Indoor football
  • 6 Mar: Sailing a catamaran on the Swan River
  • 7 Mar: 30 pushups, 30 situps
  • 8 Mar: Ruck walk (90min @ 5kg)
  • 9 Mar: Ruck hill walks of Mount St (3 laps @ 5kg)
  • 10 Mar: Indoor skydiving
  • 11 Mar: TKD training with sparring
  • 12 Mar: Indoor football

The most boring workouts have been the pushups and situps, but they're the quickest and easiest after a long, busy day.

There's a 2-hour karaoke session that belongs in there somewhere too. Singing (shouting) like you mean it seems to be physically taxing. I'm counting it as a workout for core and aerobic fitness.

It's been good to focus on something without worrying whether it's useful to anyone else. That facet of creative guilt — wondering whether the things you create deserve to exist — is tiresome. Exercise, so far, has been a nice, justifiable indulgence. :)

Two weeks (and a bit) to go. Wish me luck!

Rucking heck

I haven't blogged much lately because I've been spending heaps of time wrestling with my writing. My novels, my gigs, all that stuff. Turns out, when it comes to fiction, I'm a slow ass writer.

But I'm not here to complain about my word rate. No one needs to hear that. I'm here to complain about how sore I am after my first bouts of "rucking" this week.

"Rucking" is when you train with a weighted backpack. Military folk do it, I think some police folk do it, and apparently it's a social thing too. I don't know much about all that. This came about because I was talking to a mate about hiking and he told me to expect an all-day 15kg load. So... yeah, #goals.

I'm not so hardcore that I'd run a mile with 20kg strapped to me (yet?). Just started with 2.5kg at Jacob's Ladder. That's two 1.25L bottles of water in a backpack while alternating single steps, double steps and jogging singles between flights. I can't decide whether that sounds hard or not, but doing it was certainly a challenge!

my 2.5kg rucksack

Oddly, I didn't notice the extra weight. I just felt tired and very short of breath. If I didn't know I was wearing a weighted backpack, I would have just considered myself unfit. It got me thinking about fighters who deliberately put on weight so they can fight in a higher weight class. From what I've heard, they feel slower, say it's harder. I never understood that til now.

My recent-ish trip to Brunei and Singapore sapped a lot of my fitness. I did attempt to keep up my training, but the humidity-induced fatigue and the laziness from constant eating got the better of me. I did manage 20 pushups 3 times a week, but that's not much compared to what I should be doing to hit the level of body health and fitness I want as I approach my late 30s.

watercolour of the Singapore merlion

Anyway, I've been feeling the loss of cardio fitness this month, so you can imagine how my first run of Jacob's must have gone, even with a small amount of extra weight.

It was a temperate day with a cool breeze. I managed 3 laps with the backpack on, plus 1 extra lap without. Piss poor effort, and my legs are still jiggly a day later, but I'm proud I gave it a go. Followed up the next day with the same pack on a 1-hour walk around the neighbourhood. Things started hurting, then stopped hurting not long after. :) I've been wanting to try exercise with extra weight for a while, and hope this breaks the seal for me.

This month has been busy but unfocused. Again, I blame that on the trip overseas, and having many things to do and think about.

Next month, however, is my Month of Fitness, featuring at least one bout of exercise every day. Should be a nice sequel to last year's 4-week fitness thing. This is my small promise to track and share as I go.

If anyone else is focusing on fitness in March, hit me up on twitter and we can complain about being sore together. :)

Creative guilt

Over the holidays, I was chatting with an artist, and mentioned in passing that I often felt guilty for making crap art because of how much garbage ends up in landfill. He remarked that this seemed like a very self-deprecating thing to say.

I thought nothing of it at first, but then someone else said the same thing to me later that evening. It got me thinking about how I approach creativity and my own creative output.

I struggle with creative guilt. It strikes me at every turn, usually shaping up in one or more of these forms:

  • This story is too farfetched. Just don't.
  • You're never going to get this. Why bother?
  • This is drek. Stop wasting time.
  • Your lines are wonky. Give up now.
  • Your technique sucks, just stahp!
  • Why are you taking up space with your crap art?
  • Don't watch tv, go make something, you lazy cow!

It's a rock and a hard place. Especially with that last one in the mix. It all sounds harsh when written out, but I swear it's placid and conversational when I hear it in my head. I'm not crying the corner or anything.

Feeling insecure about my work doesn't stop me, but it does suck some joy out of the process. It's like trying to swim with clothes on. The extra weight makes me fatigued and I experience reluctance when it comes to trying again. It makes everything feel 10x harder than it needs to be.

Anyway, I've decided to reprogram my brain where this is concerned. Not for all the art I might make. I'm still getting my head around this landfill issue. And honestly, I found the 100 days of teacup a bit upsetting cos I just plain didn't like some of the art I made. :|

But I've wanted to invest a bit of time in drawing and watercolour for a while, so I'm re-thinking my emotional response to the learning process. I decided not to feel guilty for producing shit drawings and paintings.

You know, as if guilt is a tap you can just turn on and off. But for something like this, let's say it is. It takes extra mental effort, but it's worth a shot.

So, it was odd at first, but I'm enjoying it now. And I'm really happy with the progress. Here's what the last week of swimming naked (not literally) has been like:

watercolour anime girl

watercolour collage with cat, goldfish and mountain town

the top of a church in ink and watercolour

vanishing point perspective of a row of shops with a disembodied eyeball floating overhead

war memorial at Kings Park

urban scene in Venice

Of fun times and fresh starts

The sun set strongly on the year. We spent Christmas week in Sydney, with most of the days down at the farm. I've never been there in the summer, and it was remarkably green versus what I was expecting. We spent the days eating and drinking and giving each other shit, then kicked off the evenings with tranquil hill views.

This is the first Christmas I've been away from my folks (not counting the year we went to Japan cos we still had a family Christmas a couple days before) and I missed them terribly. But I can't complain too much. I have three families now, and they're all pretty rad. Getting to hang out with the family with brothers was a rare treat I'm so grateful for.

rifle targets set up along a fence

We played with an air rifle on Christmas day. I bloody loved it. I have great plans to visit a gun range sometime this year and learn the art of marksmanship.

And I played heaps of Avernum: Escape from the Pit. It was exquisite to sink my head into a game and decompress - and get a strategy RPG fix to tide me over until my next D&D session. It was a bit surreal playing computer games and surfing the net at high speed in the sticks.

You know what was awesome, though? Writing. I only did a bit, but did it under a tree surrounded by birds and nature sounds. Is it the most productive way to write? Probably not. But wow, it felt good and I hope to make writing holidays a more regular thing.

a street performer squeezing herself into a tiny box

Back in the city, we saw a contortionist squeeze herself into a little box. I don't usually stop for busker shows, but I couldn't help it for this one. It was odd and unique, and kind of amazing to see what the (someone else's) human body can do.

giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit

Also saw a giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit, which, after spending the last few months following @forest_fr1ends, was utter perfection. Merry Christmas, tw*ts.

planner, notebook and pen

Aaaaaaand now we're home and ready to start 2017 with a bang. Already, I've been rock climbing (bouldering), geocaching, karaoke-ing and gaming with friends, and it's only been two days.

I now have a navy blue Hobonichi Weeks and a cheapo little notebook to keep me on track, along with clear, achievable goals and some strategies for accomplishing them. I have felt like I could be doing more, working smarter, working harder... I wrote some thoughts about it in Soft Signal.

I've started asking myself, "What do I want to get out of this X?" Where X could be the day, the week, the month, the quarter. Let me share a couple of things I hope to get out of this week:

  • Working on my novel
  • Gaming with friends done 2/01
  • A crafternoon done 2/01
  • Working on my Pico-8 game
  • Visiting the Ninja Academy done 7/01
  • Visiting a shooting range (or at least finding a good one to check out)

What do you want to get out of this week/this month/this year? Find me on social media and let's chat about it.