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From isolation, with love

“All my friends left me when I got sick.”

These words have been echoing in my head recently. For privacy purposes, let us call this person T.

T was a client who attended a mental health recovery camp where I was doing outdoor education. He is a tall greek guy with kind hazel eyes, a bulbous belly and lots of dark hair all over his body. His toenails were long and he promised me he would get his mum to trim them when he got home. I joked that he shouldn’t dare put her through that and we giggled about it. He was nearly 40. He slept in, but when I asked for his help, he’d be there. T got sick a few years ago. I don’t know the full story, but he had a nervous breakdown and hasn’t fully recovered or become a functioning (whatever that means) member of society again since. Unlike some who do function in society, he is kind, helpful, considerate, humble and selfless. Things are just a bit more difficult for him.

His dad lets him work in the family business. By the sound of things, his family is his only support network. He’s luckier than others in that respect. But, he is lonely. Sorely lonely. My heart aches for him. I remember him looking at me with childlike innocence, telling me how much he loved coming to the camp to feel connected but how he knew it was only temporary. It’s hard to enjoy the sweet moments when you’re already grieving over them.

Over the week he only participated in one or two of the activities, but I knew he wasn’t there for them. Some of these clients have come to this camp over ten times. They’ve done the activities over and over. They’re there for the people – the connection. For the teary eyed conversations they’ve been needing. The understanding that can only come from those who had been, or are in a similar situation. They come for the guidance of a nurse or counsellor outside white walls or the emergency room. It is a powerful chance for people suffering mental health issues to dictate to health professionals on how best to address them, rather than the other way around. While it is a beautiful, transformative, healing, happy high point… it follows by a crash landing in the pit of contrast that is real life. Human connection can be incredibly difficult, especially for someone who is mentally ill.


With an open, honest heart and gentle treading, some people will unravel themselves to you within a week. Sometimes within a day. Surrendering to ones own emotional vulnerability encourages others to do the same. Now is the time to put that vulnerability into practice; if not with your best interests at heart, then with someone else’s.


In isolation, I have this enormous surplus of time. Fuck I’m grateful for it. Time for personal rest and revel. I sign up for a free online course on the science of well-being (highly recommend). I take comfort in neuroplasticity and make more effort to create conscious actions toward enhancing my wellbeing, eventually entrenching them into habit. I get to check in with the people I love and spend time with family that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I feel their warmth in the form of overloaded affection, honest conversations and Mum shoving her love language of food down my throat. 

I’ve moved to a quiet coastal town with the man I love. We’re not working. We wake when we please, drink coffee in dressing gowns and spend the days however we choose. A taste of retired life. We explore the coastline with the pup in tow. It’s bliss. We have uncomfortable conversations, the ones that highlight all our differences. Strangely, they’re my favourite conversations to have. And hey, we’ve got the time. He teaches me things. I don’t always like the things I learn. Vice versa. Then I learn that that’s okay and that it doesn’t mean our relationship is doomed. He shows me the space in between black and white. He helps me on my path of growth, even if it’s just correcting me on weird mannerisms I didn’t know I had. He is patient and understanding of my bouts of anxiety. With his gentle coaxing of my dubious heart, I’m learning that it’s okay to sometimes take refuge in another. At a time like this, I’m more grateful than ever for him and all his dad jokes.

I savour the connection I have with my friends. I don’t have many, but those I do have, I cherish. Even a two hour online catch up with a friend sister, who I’ve known since I was 4 years old. She’s honest, kind and supportive. Not to mention hilarious. She’s the kind of person you’d drop everything for if they needed you and you know they’d do the same in return.

I love taking time to reflect and be grateful for my life.

My thoughts sober and I think about T and his lack of friends. At times I really resonate with his loneliness. I think of the friends that have abandoned me in times of need or that have been lost in the throws of life. The hurt part of me hates them for it and begs for reasons. But it’s just life. It’s painful. I don’t understand their actions, but I forgive them.

Sometimes closure never comes, so you have to surrender to the unknown.

Alongside all this love I’m experiencing in a bizarre time, there is this terrible agony. I worry about people who don’t have this kind of support or love in their lives. People who are elderly, homeless, live alone or are mentally struggling. The ones who don’t reach out. How can I/we help them? I sign up for volunteering positions. It’s not enough. It remains a thought to be revisited. For us all to revisit, I hope.


For people like T, who are already isolated and alone in everyday, pre-covid life, this really could be a taste of hell.

With him in mind, find a way to show kindness to the people around you. Go out of your way for a chat and probe people to see how they are coping. Remember that while you’re feeling lonely, there are people out there that are a whole lot more emotionally isolated than you are. Maybe you can lessen that loneliness together.

From isolation, with love.

Hey interesting person, what interesting thing did you learn today?

This is what I have set my phone to ask me, every night at 8pm.

Realistically, I’ve had a minimum of 12 hours to conjure up an answer to this question. My phone doesn’t care if I answer and obviously neither does anyone else. But I do. It’s a small way that I can keep accountable to myself in a way that is positive and constructive.

I suppose now more than usual, this kind of mental proactivity is useful in keeping our brains open and flexible to new information, no matter how minimal. It forces you to seek out all kinds of bizarre knowledge that you never knew you needed to know.

Small goals help create small habits. When compiled, these small habits lead to consistent behaviours.

Every person you meet knows something that you don’t.

That thought changed my interactions with people. It helped me give otherwise vexatious people the time and space to expose themselves more to me than I probably would have otherwise let them. Be it younger or older, more or less travelled, educated, whatever… the same principle applies: everyone knows something that you don’t.

So then, you may as well make what you know a little interesting. Get creative in acquiring your knowledge. Read books, listen to podcasts, learn a new word everyday, trawl through google or pluck up the courage to ASK SOMEONE – ANYONE – A QUESTION!

For you reading this, what interesting thing did you learn today?

the saplings of forgiveness

I restlessly throw my body around in bed while candles flicker and frogs croak. Camomile and honey trickle down my throat. Lavender floats around me in a cloud. It feels like even the frogs have more conviction than I do. I can barely muster a squeak. 

There is an aching in my soul that I’m unsure of how to soothe. A hurt that this time, I do not know how to mend. I’m good at this, I think. I can step back and assess myself, criticize the reason for my emotions and analyse my motives. Stab and slice away at my ego, threatening it to stir and face me. 

Most of the time, I can strategize a way out. A way up. Not this time. I’m snowed under with a weight it feels I cannot bear. In this place, it feels like there are no hands to help me. I’m not sure I’ll reach for any either. 

I remind myself; my needs are met. In fact, they are beyond met in many ways. Mostly, I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want. A true luxury that I try not to undervalue. How dare I feel anxious or depressed?!

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is something that I often draw back to. It resonates with me that a human has a myriad of elements to keep in fine balance before one can feel self-fulfilling (which ironically coalesces, or more accurately, actually depends on the intimate support network around the individual). 

Tonight the acknowledgement of these base needs being met are not serving to comfort me. 

  • Insert reality check: they are NOT a given and should be ALWAYS appreciated as a comfort – perspective is key.
  • Insert secondary reality check: the vicious ‘how dare you’ mindset is reinforced – stay wary of negative self-talk masquerading as the helpful critic.

I am deeply grateful to have loved and been loved by some special souls in my life. In the occasional absence of this loving presence, I am sometimes unexpectedly cast into a chasm of emotion with myself playing damsel and hero simultaneously. Usually I’m not shy of this confrontation of self, but this seemingly unending emotional fragility has me trading faces.

I fumble around with this uncomfortability, trying to understand it in any way I can. Feel it wash through my body and take root in the centre of my torso. Find consciousness in my breath and attempt to loosen the knots in my chest. 

Thus far, uncomfortability has been my most brutal, but honest teacher. Oh, and maybe heartbreak. At this point I’d label them interchangeably. I’m not sure I’ll ever revel in uncomfortability but my appreciation for what is unveiled in its wake is constantly multiplying.

In the midst of this inner turmoil, a gentle voice enters and begs for both time and space for forgiveness. The harsh critic is silenced. I’ve visited this place before. In it is a garden. A sacred garden with a plethora of possibilities. Here, the seeds are most difficult to sow. Upon discovery, the landscape is barren and the soil unrelenting. Weeds entrenched and overgrown. Colours mute. With diligence and mindful care, slowly the soil softens. Richness re-enters to allow small, hopeful sprouts. With further tending, these saplings will flower, but their flowers are stubborn and slow to bloom. They demand boundless amounts of conscientious tenderness. However, once given their fill and in full spectrum light; this garden and its flowers provide the deepest healing.

Tend relentlessly to your garden.

Dear soul

Dear soul, I hear you in there whispering gentle truths. Directing my eyes on an upward trajectory.

Dear soul, my heart quakes with the vibrations of your deafening bellows; demanding to stay aligned with my journey.

Yet sometimes, I do not listen. I avert my gaze. I wander. I get lost. I betray myself. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice, sometimes it’s not.

Then I find my way back.

Do you ever blink with wonder at how you got to where to you are? The air around you stills and sound leaks from your ears. Maybe you aren’t who you wanted to be. Maybe you’re more that you ever thought you could be. If you aren’t where you know you should be, on that upwards trajectory, you’ve hushed that voice for much too long. The sound of the soul inside you that tugs at the bottom of your shirt like a kid begging to be pushed on the swing or bought chocolate at the check out of the grocery store. You swat it away with annoyance, even contempt.

We justify our aversions with half-hearted conviction. A squirming of uncertainty alerts us that we aren’t living in accordance with our highest truth. But, we won’t fail if we never try. Onwards our feet feebly lead us. We drown in earthly expectations. Succumb to dramatic social demise. Feeding our ego its tantalising sustenance, soon our soul grows weary of its constant dismissal. Faith in yourself dwindles and so too does your once clear vision for life. For your journey. Your spirit.

Often, we live according to the narrative that we (and society) have etched for our lives – one we torturingly expect ourselves to not only live up to – but exceed. Is it in accordance with our truest self? You better hope that it is. After all, you’re the one that spent all this time getting yourself here.

strive to consciously create

We take ourselves by the hand then swing ourselves over cliffs of self-construed personal destruction. There’s that voice again. The tugging on your shirt. We stray from our path. Then we blame and curse; those around us, our upbringing, the world. While we perish at the hands of our own self-sabotage, we deflect responsibility. To admit fault would be to threaten our beliefs. Beliefs that over time, have morphed into deeply set values. Values that convincingly masquerade as our identity. Maybe some are. Or maybe you’ve just told yourself that. Where did they come from anyway? These values are often bolstered by ignorance, threatened by change and the challenge of growth. Ideologies are hard to kill, but when they do die, they die hard. Let us not forget how malleable our identity is to the world around us.

let go

To undermine ones value system would surely test the fibres of ones soul. Just how far have you wandered?

Visualise the greatest version of yourself. Start making conscious choices that are in alignment with that version of you. Be more afraid of fear holding you back from experiencing life than the fear itself. Confront hard truths. Be a sensation seeker.


Dear soul, I promise to listen. To live aligned to my truths. To speak words of honesty, with love. To love from the depths of my being, without limitation or expectation. To leave the world a little (or a lot) better than I found it.

Who are you, if you’re not living in consistency with what your soul is saying?

Thirsty soul

I sit in a smoky, crowded room 4800m high in the Nepal Himalayas. In my headphones, Ludovico Einaudi plays like honey to my ears. In the background, the voices of Nepalese, Spanish, Israeli and English intermingle. I am a witness to life. People gather around the cylindrical fireplace, equal faces of happiness and exhaustion. Some here because they are paid to be, some for adventure, reprieve or healing. I have walked through the mountains for a week and tomorrow we pass Thorung La, at nearly 5416m. I have crossed rivers and with altitude, traversed many different terrains with a rainbow of flora and fauna. I’ve been very uncomfortable, in body and mind. I’ve also found more acceptance, appreciation and patience for myself and the world around me.

This is meagre excerpt of the deep reverence I have always had for nature, increased by my time in the mountains. Before I came, I set a trajectory here to fertilize some soul soil. To challenge my sense of self. To be okay with being alone in one of the most remote places in the world. To help solidify the mastery of my own mind and emotions; where I will always be a sojourner in a foreign land. I envisaged nourishing my soul with mental and physical challenges, in an ever-evolving endeavour for growth. What was a physically taxing journey was all the more mental for me. My muscles were nothing compared to the storm raging inside my mind.

In nature, you find more than you ever thought you were looking for.


With infinite love for this beautiful world.



I have a thirsty soul
Quenched by the colours of the world
(Satiated by love)

Kaleidoscopic
Life;
In its many faces
Eyes speaking stories of universal human experience
Those you
And I
Know well

Relative are our experiences
But no less valid
Suffering and happiness
Yin and yang
Chaos and order

On this plane we meet
Where souls recognize one another
Themselves reflected
An unavoidable dichotomy
The ebb and flow of our existence

My soul yearns –
For the gradual awakening of a deep night sky
A slow dialled gradient
Where first light glints
Over oceans
Or beams over mountain tops

I have a thirsty soul!
A heart that dreams
Of snow dusted mountains
Mottled stone walls
Staggered and sheer
Protruding from their icy encasement

Pine trees perched on pinnacles
Exposed cliff edges
Rivers that churn and rage
Creeks that trickle
Water as the lifeblood of seed
Seed to flower
Flower to fruit

Awe

Mother Earths sheer totality
Air fire earth and water
Together they mould
And balance our everchanging Earth

I dream of underwater worlds
Life aplenty
Myriads of coral cities
And creatures of the deep
Of desert landscapes
Harsh and arid
Where nature is most cruel and unforgiving

My soul pleads for diversity
For every creature to flourish
For coexistence with the natural world
For harmony

A soul that yearns and a heart that dreams
But in nature
Mind body and soul
Unifies

Under a labrynthine lush canopy
Where light filters in between carefully crafted leaves
Where soft wind whispers through trees
Fingers of the universe sounding carefully selected piano notes of natural wonder
Warm light endows each leaf
Exhibiting each fragile vein in their perfect creation

Here you behold life

Intricate
Yet simple
Life;
In all its glory.

On the joy of being alone

I watch the morning light set her matted, curly ginger locks ablaze. Her and her sister swing their legs on their seats as they wait for their Dad to retrieve his morning coffee. People, with their people, filter in and out of my vision.

I feel alone.

I cop a lick to my ear and have another wet nose nudge my leg. I remind myself to be grateful – an attitude of gratefulness quickly quells a yearning heart.


With anxious energy abounds and a daily step count goal of 10,000 to reach, I threw the dogs in the back of my car and sped to the beach.

The horizon had the outline of the last remaining rays of the day, where the light arcs as it dissipates. If you look up, you feel like a wide-eyed guppy in a fishbowl. At first, I thought I must have seen a single firework, as a streak of clustered white light streamed through the sky. It was as if a hand of the universe plucked it out from behind my right ear and twirled it up into my peripherals. It was a glittering meteor. It fluttered for a moment, burning up as it skimmed across our atmosphere, finally finishing by sprinkling its stardust out into the universe somewhere. A wispy grey trail faintly water brushed through the sky lay as evidence against my imaginings. 

Magic.

I found myself instantly wanting to share it with someone. Someone just as encapsulated by the enigmas of the universe as I am. I knew just the person. But why? Could it not be beautiful enough that I witnessed this alone? It was a beautiful moment, in and of itself. It didn’t need external validation. But did I? 

Naturally, we long for and seek out connection of many varieties. We are communal creatures. We especially seek it when we have become accustom to it. I always had ‘my person’. At times where you desperately need the mental, emotional and physical intimacy to support you through a shit time, they serve as an emotional buffer. Now without that, the void is vast. But instead of trying to fill it with distraction, I’m diving headfirst into it. Sometimes with liberation and renewed spirit, other times with aching emptiness. All times with the same desire – to grow.

I’m attempting to unravel my psyche and pry apart my insecurities in a bid to really know myself and understand just how much I value myself without the interference of others; be it in words, human interaction, comments or likes. Delving into the darkness where fears of abandonment, loneliness and rejection lay in hungry wait. To my surprise, I’m very much the opposite of alone when it comes to feeling lonely.

According to the Australian Loneliness Report, 1 in 4 Australians are lonely and 1 in 2 Australians feel lonely for at least one day a week. Nearly 55% of the population feel they lack companionship ‘at least sometimes’. With a sample size of nearly 2000, I acknowledge that this is no overarching statistic to be applied to all, but it certainly highlights a growing disconnect. 

Being alone is terribly uncomfortable for some people. For others it’s freeing, like being sprawled naked in bed at 7:30pm on a Saturday night writing this. (FOMO can get fucked). Interestingly, loneliness as a social pain shares the same neural pathways as physical pain. That sickness in your stomach and tightness in your chest isn’t a figment of your imagination. Our bodies physically respond to our emotions. Google it if you don’t believe me, or listen to this lil morsel. 

Anyway, it’s a handy biological function when you think about it, collective knowledge has increased our chances of survival. So is this desire to connect, to validate our feelings and experiences, all just an extension of our biological conditioning? It’s almost as if that connection adds an unlanguageable ‘something’ that wasn’t otherwise there.

As we build relationships with people, patterns of human behaviour are logged in our brains and endorphins continue to be released as intimacy increases. Technology can aid us with things like video calls, to people we can’t be in physical contact with. This medium allows our brains to recognize that same eye contact and body language we experience in person, instigating a small injection of serotonin and oxytocin; chemically induced happiness. However, as a whole, social media necessarily circumvents this neural and emotional connection. You simply can’t substitute being with someone. 

When we are out experiencing something new and unknown, it seems more special for that newness to be shared. Social media is arguably our most significant example of this desire to share our lives with the world, while ironically disconnecting from the moment of real life itself. Endorphins are released when we are in the flesh with someone; conversing, absorbing their body language and gaze as a part of our dialogue. Check out this podcast; Look Up and Connect for some more inspiration to do so (science n shit). 

Sometimes it is hard to resist experiencing something without sharing it. Especially in a state of loneliness. Instant gratification, instant connection

We appreciate when we recognise parts of ourselves in others, the good parts at least. We also appreciate when others go out of their way to share personal moments with us. Beautiful little bonds between souls. Maybe it’s just another form of pattern recognition that we know will be appreciated and reflected by a certain someone. Maybe it’s just those biological survival skills resounding. Although, the reasoning may stem from a deeper place of vulnerability. From an unnerving crevice of our ego that begs to be fed the indulging words of others. The same place where our own appreciation appears not enough. 

Happiness is only real when shared.

Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild)

How you gauge your own personal loneliness meter I suppose really depends on how often you are without human interaction, while feeling as if you’d prefer the opposite. I’d argue that we often need to be alone, despite this feeling. In fact, especially when we feel these uncomfortable feelings. Whether that time is spent going for a walk, meditating or taking a small solo break somewhere, it allows us the mental/emotional spacetime to purge our thoughts without the interference of others. It pays to turn your phone off or drop off social media for a while. Unplug from the virtual world; take a nip hardening swim in the cold ocean, hike through the mountains, get scratches on your skin and feel the sun warm you from the outside in. Whatever conduit for change and growth you choose – use it to seek clarity and acknowledge just how grateful you are for the basic comforts you have been afforded in life. There will always be persons greater and lesser than yourself. Be grateful for the people and relationships you have cultivated and acknowledge where they need tending. 

So then, where does the equilibrium between a healthy relationship of independence and co-dependence, or isolation and socialisation exist? I spent nearly the entirety of ages 13-23 in two different relationships… maybe I’m not qualified to answer that question. All I know is this: 

There is love to be found in everyone you meet and everything you do. Time spent in love, of any and all forms, is never time wasted. Yet, there is only one person that you can ever rely on to show up for you when shit just gets a bit fucked. 

You. 

Today I…

Today I met Rosemary.

(I hope she knows that she was the final straw of inspiration gathered to start this little creative outlet. So here goes. )

Rosemary is a stocky, 60-something year old woman with sparse, inch long blonde hair. As I plonked my weights down in the enclosed workout room of the gym you can escape to when creepy guys encroach, we got talking. I don’t like talking to people when I exercise, especially not at the gym. I pulled my headphones off in a sweat, to catch the last part of her sentence. Something about how the girl outside was complaining about exercise. Rosemary was laughing and shaking her head as she tottered around the exercise bike to adjust it. “I never used to say fuck” she said… “but fuuuck.”

Long story short; Rosemary was supposed to die 5 years ago.

She has a terminal diagnosis. Breast cancer. Her decrepit strands were the remains of her regenerating cells, despite rounds upon rounds of chemo. Her entire body was swollen due to the copious amounts of medication she was on. As she hoisted her stout self up and swung her leg over the exercise bike, she added that she had recently had a knee reconstruction and that the big blue sleeve she had around her right arm was due to burns she got from her cancer treatment. A big blue $1000 sleeve that had to be regularly replaced.

I found myself beckoning for more of her life story, music paused and breath now steady. My attention was all hers. She cycled along and told me how many “licorice bullet” lumps they found, that she must have missed. How her chest grew “fire engine red” which was a symptom of her breast cancer. This was a sign that was waved away by multiple doctors, one time with antibiotics and another with a diagnosis of sea lice irritation from her early morning ocean swims.

5th opinion lucky right?

Rosemary spent 30 years in the fitness industry and had a degree in health science. She part joked, part lamented about how she “did everything right.” Never smoked, drank or did drugs… but how she wished she had. I reassured her that there is certainly still time!

I don’t believe in the divine, let alone divine appointments. But, encounters like this do make me wonder. After this swift unravelling of Rosemary, I felt comfortable to do a bit of my own and told her a little bit about the series of unfortunate events that my year has, and seemingly continues, to lead me through. I wasn’t expecting her advice (or lackthereof). She told me I was ready for a break down. That I’d go through hell. I’m not one to be dramatic, but I told her I already had.


The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.

Eckhart Tolle

There are some points in life where we have to harness every inch of our willpower to draw a distinct line between logic/reason and emotion. Sometimes it is the only way to be able navigate treacherous emotional waters. I told her that in my view, all we have is the now. The past can’t touch us and the future never really arrives. “Huh”, she pondered. “I’ve never really thought about it like that.”

My heart wilted as Rosemary mentioned nonchalantly, “No one wants to know you when you’ve got cancer, especially when it’s terminal.” I wanted to know her. I’m grateful for our meeting. Throughout our encounter, I had taken comfort in her matter of fact disposition. And somehow, as our stories melted together, the inspiration appeared mutual.

To my surprise she called ME “brave girl.” She warned me about all the deaths of hikers and climbers in the Himalayas, as I told her that I was about to venture off on my own for some solitude amongst the mountains.

Finally, I asked Rosemary how she pulls herself through each day, to which she responded:

“Everyday is a bonus.”