Why is this affecting me?
What happens when you get too close to my bench (Newsletter #1)
If you’re reading this, I’ve collapsed out of sheer, overwhelming shock that I’ve finally moved on from copywriting and started my own newsletter. The risk of going through an entire life without writing anything I truly cared about finally caught up and tackled me to the ground.
Send help, and feed my cat.*
Raft Journal is about navigating the flow of life, together. Each edition will include short essays, thought snippets, useful tools and the big questions I’m chewing on covering topics like self growth, mindfulness, and the endless search for who we are and why we’re here.
I’m aiming to post weekly, fortnightly, or maybe even monthly. Let’s hope it’s the former. Life is better with a little mystery, right?
If something resonates with you, reach out and let me know. This is a two-way street, my friends.
* Please buy me a cat
Why is this affecting me?
The other day I was sitting on a bench in one of my favourite Adelaide parks, surrounded by gum trees and enjoying the late-afternoon air.
I’d been listening to a guided meditation about reactivity which had me naturally recalling all of the cringe-worthy, and (I felt) justified times I’d reacted badly to a situation. Like the time at the restaurant my meal was overcooked and an hour late, or when my online order was delayed another day and I was counting on it to deliver me happiness after a crappy morning.
Guided meditations aren’t always my jam, but they can act as great reminders of the positive values and habits we try to cultivate. The teacher spoke about how:
We can’t control what happens
We don’t have to label what happens as good or bad
But, we can control our reactions.
After 25 minutes, I’d finally relaxed and melted into the meditation when I could hear some voices coming straight toward me. As they got louder and louder, I stayed focused and waited for them to pass. But instead of moving past me, they came to a sudden stop. Right next to my bench.
Two heavy bags dropped to the ground with a thump.
The meditation wasn’t finished, but I couldn’t help squinting one eye open. A girl and her mother, in a giant and almost empty park, had parked their training gear less than two metres from my feet and began setting up plastic cones. And they were talking. Loudly.
If this had happened a few days earlier, I would have said something. This time, it was hard to ignore the most obvious opportunity to practice what I’d just been hearing. So I did what a crazy person would do: after planning out exactly how I’d leave them trembling on the ground in shame, defeated by my morally superior words…I didn’t say anything. I smiled, finished what I was doing, and eventually walked away.
On my way home, I thought about how I could respond like this in the future. Sure, it’s easy to apply something when you’ve just heard it. But what about in a week’s time?
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long to find out.
The next day I walked into a local pub to book a table for the weekend. 10 minutes had passed, and none of the bar staff had stopped to talk to me. Feeling the frustration arise slowly, I remembered the park bench incident and decided to try something new. I asked myself a simple question:
“Why is this affecting me?”
The switch was flipped instantly. Not only did it shine the spotlight back on me, it also took the raw energy out of the situation. I became occupied with searching for the emotion I was feeling, and why. Following the paper trail, I found frustration for not being served, which turned into not feeling valued and ultimately not feeling seen. Deep stuff for 11am at the pub.
By the time I’d investigated all of this, a bartender showed up and sorted me out quickly. And I wasn’t the least bit annoyed anymore.
I’m going to keep trying it and see if it keeps helping. Even in the most infuriating situations, the astonishment of someone hearing me yell ‘why is this affecting me!’ in their face should defuse things through sheer confusion.
💡 I’m thinking about
What Russian gymnasts and Hugh Jackman have in common.
I read an article recently (the source escapes me!) about how athletes have to train to stop thinking during peak performance moments. Everything they need to get the job done in the moment, they already have. The body knows what to do. The only problem is keeping the mind at bay.
For gymnasts, it’s blocking out that internal voice saying things like ‘one wrong move and you’ll snap your neck,’ and ‘‘don’t mess this up or you won’t get a medal.’ In sports like gymnastics, nine times out of 10 the outcome is not based on who can do it, but who can do it today.
To do this, some use mantras - simple, seemingly irrelevant but highly personalised phrases repeated over and over again to keep the mind busy. Which is the same concept as Transcendental meditation that Hugh Jackman has practised since discovering it in drama school.
📕 What I’m reading
I just finished I Didn’t do the Thing Today by Melbourne-based writer, Madeleine Dore. It made me feel energised to get more done, while also pleasantly vindicated for all of the days I wanted to be productive, but wasn’t. That’s a lot of vindication.
The tagline is ‘On productivity guilt’, which basically self-identifies the types of people who will get satisfaction from it. The book is based on over five years of interviews Madeline conducted with artists and local creators about the routines and structures to get creative work done (without crumpling into a heap - much).
The book contains a fascinating collection of interview snippets, useful quotes, practical advice and little philosophies to get you thinking differently about productivity in all aspects of your life. You can also read the full interviews on her awesome blog, Extraordinary Routines.
💬 And I quote
I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be."
- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
📚 What I’m learning
After several years of writing words seen by thousands for big Australian brands, I thought personal writing would be easy.
Spoiler: it’s not.
There’s a big difference between planned and structured writing (however creative it is) and personal writing. It’s like becoming great at cardio only to remember you started working out so you could lift heavier weight. Sure, you’re fit. But not in the way you intended.
It’s time to start lifting.
Until next time,