Breaking Barriers

The irony is not lost on me…that I did a writing course last year and my last blog post was just over 6 months ago…

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing, I just haven’t been writing publicly. I have started carrying a little notebook with me everywhere I go (I just cannot get inspired to type out notes on my smartphone).  It’s supposed to be my little book of inspiration, whenever I read something that sparks a thought, or overhear a conversation in a café, or restaurant (I have become a shameless eavesdropper!), out comes the little book.

I’m hoping that this might eventually inspire me to actually talk to strangers, but I haven’t mustered up the nerve yet.  However, it would be great to just strike up a conversation with a random stranger and get an entirely new perspective on something, or learn something you never knew, or simply just enjoy a great story about someone else’s incredible life.

The hard part, undoubtedly, is then translating this onto paper (or computer screen).  I ran into the woman who taught the writing class recently, and she asked me if I had pitched anything.  I was embarrassed to admit, no. However, unlike most other people in my class, my fear is not of having my pitch rejected…rather, having it accepted and then having to stump up with the goods! What if I write a piece of absolute rubbish? What if they give me a ridiculous deadline? What if I cant find a suitable expert to interview? What if I ask the wrong questions? What if? What if…?

These thoughts were still whizzing through my head this morning as I was driving home from the gym, when on the radio they announced that it was Alan Alda’s birthday.  They then played snippets of an interview he did Andrew Denton in 2009. Alan was discussing his relationship with his mother, and how despite her schizophrenia and the paranoia and fear that went along with that, she still managed to instill in him a deep sense of self-confidence. “I still”, he said “at this age, start to do things that I can barely do, but I believe that somehow I will be able to pull it together and manage to do it, fairly well.”    This, he says, keeps him “fresh”.

I work in the field of Innovation, and I talk to a lot of people who work in start-ups, and they often say similar things. They have an adventurous spirit, they enjoy the thrill.

I used to think I wasn’t like that, but now I think: we all are. Of course, no one likes the feeling of anxiety before giving a big presentation at work, or before they run a race that they have trained weeks- maybe months -on end for. The reality is that the little bit of fear motivates us to work harder, and if we fail, there is still satisfaction in knowing we attempted it and perhaps a feeling of accomplishment anyway for the fact that we survived.  If we succeed, well…that is a real buzz and suddenly we are hooked on wanting to do it all again.

I know that when I eventually deliver my first successful pitch and publish my first article, I will be hooked.  I just need to force myself to push through that first barrier.

The Biggest Investment I’ll Ever Make


Got through lunch today with a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in a while and DIDN’T COMPLAIN!  This was quite a feat, given I had to fill her in on the whole G saga.

Today however, was a special day.  Today I did something.  Today I took a step that I have almost taken so many times over the past 6 years.  Today I started something that I have been afraid to start for a very long time.

Today I enrolled in a writing course.

And I emailed a creative writer’s group.

The whole reason I started this blog was because I love writing but I didn’t know how. 

I wasn’t always like this, I used to write A LOT when I was younger, although it was more creative writing. Then life got in the way, I dropped all of my arts subjects in upper high school to pursue maths & science.  Then when I was at uni, I didn’t write all that much but I would spend every spare moment reading.  Then I joined the workforce and my reading became career-relevant/technical reading. 

And before I knew it, I had lost my ability to be creative.  What used to come naturally to me, was now a struggle. 

So, I’m going back to school – only for a few days – but I am just super excited to see what I get out of this. 

I don’t want to just be writing an online diary.  I want to be writing things that inspire, emotive things, interesting things, educational things.

I want to learn how to formulate and organise my thoughts- wouldn’t that be a trick! I cannot wait to apply that learning to many areas of my life!

But most of all, I want to learn to express myself in writing, in a sophisticated, intelligent and thoughtful way.

For the first time in a very long time, I have invested in myself in a meaningful way and it feels so satisfying.



I Quit Complaining

Yesterday was my 36th birthday.

It was just another Tuesday: morning workout, coffee & breakfast, work, sports massage (ok that was not a normal Tuesday activity), work, afternoon workout, play with dog, dinner, work calls, some personal development research, then bed.

With a few additional “happy birthday” calls and texts in between.

I spent the days leading up to my birthday just dreading the fact that is was coming.  Dreading how I was going to feel on the day.  Dreading the passing of another year and not feeling like I had achieved …whatever it is that I feel is in me to achieve in this lifetime.

But, the day just passed like any other day, and I didn’t feel depressed, nor exhilarated.  I just felt….neutral.  Which is normal I guess, after all, a birthday is just another day!

Yet I failed in my attempt to be mindful in this instance – because although on my birthday came and went without incident, I wasted literally days prior to it feeling anxious about:

being 36 and recently dumped single;

being 36 and still struggling to get on top of my finances;

being 36 never having achieved my goal weight/body composition;

being 36 and still living in the same city I was born in;

being 36 and still feeling nervous about my job;

being 36 and not knowing how to cook my mum’s infamous continental cake….

The list – invariably – goes on.

And when I reach the bottom of the list of things to worry about, I start right back at the beginning again.

So, despite all of my recent efforts to the contrary, observing where I am in my life without emotion and with acceptance, is still quite a challenge for me.

I am allowing my negative thoughts to strip me of my power.

I attended an Innovation event a couple of months ago and one of the presenters had developed an education tool on a gaming platform that teaches people in the workplace to identify hazards and how to rectify them. It was empowering people to be proactive and take responsibility for their own safety and that of the their colleagues.

The message stuck in my mind – it applies to so many areas in my life, but yesterday I decided to focus on just one, and I have decided to take action (and responsibility).

For the next month I QUIT COMPLAINING.

I will inevitably think of complaints, I’m sure, but the rule is that I am not allowed to utter a complaint and I hope that by consciously stopping the complaint from being audibly formed, I will automatically turn the complaint around, into a positive, or at the very least, “emotion neutral” reaction. I hope that I will be able to consciously just let it go.

Complaining is an empty, pointless activity.  It doesn’t solve a problem – though it certainly highlights them – but I think complaining is distinct from, say, constructive criticism.  Complaints lack any attempt to take responsibility for trying to fix the problem.

I complain a lot more than I should. Sometimes I regret the words the moment they pass my lips.  Sometimes I regret them before they pass my lips but I still allow them. It’s an awful feeling because I know it stems from envy:

If others have a better life than me, then at the very least they can feel sympathetic about the fact that my life isn’t as great as theirs.

It’s a “victim” mentality, really.  Logically I know that I – and I alone – am responsible for my life. When I’m complaining about it, I’m not solving whatever is upsetting me, but I am burdening others with my discontent, in that moment making it their responsibility to cheer me up.

Everyone has their stuff.

I am not special!

It has been said that it takes 4 weeks to form a habit.

1 month. 4 weeks. 30 days.

No complaints.






If The Shoe Fits…

blog shoesAnyone who knows me, knows that I love shoes.  A lot.  Well, I suppose it’s been hinted at on this blog a time or two, and when I’m not whining about reporting on my [almost comically] non-existent disastrous challenging love life, I am generally referencing shoes in some shape or form.

I don’t consider my shoe wardrobe to be excessive, although my father’s nickname for me is Imelda. Just to clarify… He is way off, I’m not nearly that bad.  If I had the money…perhaps, but generally I consider my shoe closet to be fairly modest – compared to most “shoe lovers” on the internet, and I do try to keep it at a relatively manageable level.  Shoes are my travel souvenirs though, whenever I visit a new country – I try to find a pair of shoes to remember it by.

A few years ago, I became frustrated with the fact that finding shoes to fit my feet was so difficult, and I could never seem to find what I wanted.  So, I started to look into the concept of bespoke shoes.  In my search I stumbled across a little website called Shoes of Prey.

I‘m not going to get into a debate here about what constitutes bespoke shoes and what doesn’t.  Suffice to say, I have input on what the shoes ultimately look like, and that’s enough for me to get excited!

Anyway, I was blown away- for the price of a good pair of shoes in a store,  could design my own shoes and have them made for me! AND if they didn’t fit, I could return them for a full refund or have them remade.

Only, at the time, the company was fairly new and very soon after discovering the site I ended up going through a phase of being completely enamoured with Brazilian made shoes. So, I decided not to test the waters just yet.

Recently, I started to daydream about designing my own shoes again, and although there are, invariably (and understandably), limitations to styles when you are ordering over a site like SoP, the fact is they use real leathers, and there are plenty of styles to help me feel like my wardrobe is up to date and modern.

Plus, truth be told, a few interesting variations of a basic pump are all I need to keep me happy – because anything too elaborate and I am unable to wear them as much as I would like, because outside of work I’m either in training gear (sneakers), or boots (in winter at least).  Pumps -regardless of the colour or pattern- can be worn to work all year round.So, in the aftermath of the recent break-up which left me rather shell-shocked for a few weeks (and even still, let’s be honest), and an impending 36th birthday (which I am dreading), I decided to treat myself to a new pair of shoes.The first dilemma I faced was…what type of shoe? Nothwithstanding the arguments above in support of pumps, I knew that I was after something I didn’t already have in my closet.  So I chose a bootie.  This was a test too, I might add, because I actually do have two pairs of ankle boots in my closet …which I have NEVER worn.  Why? because they were extremely uncomfortable!! (again, bad feet) Both of these pairs were the first to come out of the closet when I did a cull a couple of weeks ago.

The next dilemma was a little easier to solve.  My black patent pumps have all but died completely (they are just hanging in there after having been patched and resoled more times than I care to count). Plus, its winter- lots of rain -I wanted my shoes to be robust so that I wouldn’t have to wait until spring to wear them! Therefore, I knew I wanted black patent to feature.  To my delight, there was a croc-style patent to choose from and I did indeed choose it! But here’s the thing, I didn’t want my shoe to just be all black…the point of being able to design your own shoe is that you should be able to tizzy it up and make it a little bit special.  Right?

Cue the gold flecked snakeskin peek-a-boo insert panel.

Oh, yes!

The result:

Now, the hardest part once you surrender your credit card details, is the agony of having to wait 4 weeks.

In this instance I was lucky, because within 3 weeks I had my new shoes in my hot little hands! They arrived at work and there was no way I was waiting until I got home to check them out.

The shoes were packaged with such care, and so beautifully I was sad to have to disturb the perfectly formed bow…but I got over it pretty quickly. I briefly considered the 30 day discount voucher for my next purchase before ploughing through the tissue paper to get to the “booty” (pun intended).  Taking the first shoe out of the box I examined it and it looked good! No dodgy glue lines and all stitching appeared straight and secure. The shoe felt very sturdy too. The leather smelt ah-mazing.

I was nervous to put it on, because the sizing – like anything you buy on the internet which you haven’t seen in real life – was a bit of pot luck.  If you head over to the SoP website you will see they have explained in detail queries about sizing and reasons why measuring your own feet probably isn’t going to help (I did anyway and yep, I was way off!).

They urge you to order the shoes in the size you would “normally” wear, and preferably, you will know your EU size.  This is where I struggle.  I know I am a Brazilian size 39, every Brazilian shoe brand I have ever tried, I was a 39.  Not only that, I didn’t have to get a wider fit, not even for my very wide flappers.

European sizing though…a whole different story.  Sometimes I’m a 39, sometimes a 39.5, other times as much as a 41 or a 42!

Knowing that EU sizing is slightly different to BR sizing, I scoured the internet for some evidence of a realistic conversion and found that EU 40 was pretty much the average conversion for a BR 39.

So, I went with that.  After all, if they didn’t fit, I could send them back and have them remade free of charge.  The only issue was that I didn’t want to have to wait a few extra weeks to get them back if I could avoid it!

I slipped the left shoe onto my foot, and though it was slightly longer than I would normally go for, I knew I couldn’t go down a size, because due to the style and coverage over the upper foot, it would be too tight if it were any smaller. Other than that, I was really surprised at how comfortable the shoe was and there was enough width in the toes that I knew this wasn’t going to be a lengthy wearing in process.  In fact, I’m wondering if there will be any “wearing in” process at all- they were THAT comfy!

Conclusion: winner!

That is, until I tried on the right foot.  Unfortunately, though the shoe stated it was a 40, it clearly wasn’t.  It was probably more like a 40.5 or a 41.  It gaped, my foot was sliding in and out and it visibly looked bigger.  Lining them up against a wall, the right shoe was also longer.  So, there must have been a mistake in the production process, perhaps they had used the wrong sized last to create the right shoe.  Darn.

I emailed SoP and sent through a few photos.  Overnight I had a response from a very helpful customer service person, who agreed with the sizing discrepancy and apologised sincerely.  She guided me through the very efficient and easy returns process and before I had even taken my shoes to the post office, I noticed a new order had appeared on my account to remake the shoes.  Plus, they gave me an additional credit to my account “for the inconvenience”.  Normally I would expect to have to behave like a complete ass-hat and make a big fuss in order to get something like that.

These people really do seem to care about their customers.

There have been very few occasions where I have experienced such friendly and helpful customer service, and I can tell you – it has never been through an internet vendor!

So, I now anxiously await the arrival of my new shoes and in the meantime, I feel confident enough to consider my next purchase (I have a few credits to utilise after all!).  This time I am going for pumps, but my dilemma is: do I replace the black patent leather pumps I love, which are all but dead…or do I go with something more fanciful??

Hmmmm…..decisions, decisions….

So, if you have been harbouring a secret desire to design a pair of shoes for yourself, or place an order for a pair of custom made shoes, I say: DO IT!

….and if you are smart, you will use Shoes of Prey – if not for the shoes – then at least to experience what good customer service feels like (but you’d be crazy not to buy some shoes while you are there).

Serene – Shoe Designer Extraordinaire – signing off.



Mind Loop


I haven’t been writing a lot lately.  I have been keeping notes of things that I want to write about when I think of them, but I really haven’t had the chance – or the energy – to write.

I thought I had been busy living my life, I guess that was part of it.  Really, I think I was just “busy” scraping by, trying to keep my head above water at work, trying not to let G’s cooking and love of fine wine destroy my ability to enjoy the contents of my closet, trying to meet expectations (both my own and others).

It’s been 5 months since G and I got back together- 5 months tomorrow I think. And whilst my work life has been hell, my love life has been nothing short of blissful. We only dated briefly last year (have I even covered this at all yet? I don’t remember….) but we broke up after a few weeks.  Correction: I broke it off after a few weeks, because I thought we were on different pages, I thought he was rushing me.

We stayed friends and would have dinner once in a while, and I found myself enjoying his company immensely. Then in January we had a talk and he suggested we try again.  He said “We can be whatever we want to be”, and so we did.  I opened up a bit, let myself enjoy having a smart, caring guy to spend my time with. But this weekend past we hit a snag.  He was no longer feeling “it”. So while I am interstate this week, we are taking a “break”, no contact.  I have no idea what conversation awaits me when I get off the plane on Friday, but I have not had even so much as a “dog update” (he’s dog-sitting for me), nothing.  Just silence.

I’m not sure where I went wrong,  a couple of months ago he convinced me to let him book a holiday for us to New York in January, we’ve booked sporting events on the other side of the country in a couple of months time, making plans….

In any case, I figured it must be me.  Men seem to be so “gung-ho” at the start, when I am more cautious.  And just like the last guy (aka “the New Guy“) -who I admit, I have barely mentioned here…partly because he broke my heart and I didn’t want to be whining about yet another failed relationship, and partly because I wanted to try and take my blog in a different direction (who was I kidding?)- when I finally allow myself to believe that they really like me enough to make these long[er] term plans, I suddenly find them turning on their heels and running for the hills as fast as their legs can carry them.

So, again, I figure, it must be me.  There must be something about me that irritates people, or something about my character that once known, renders me unlovable.

Sure, I know I’m not perfect, I can get snippy sometimes, I can be quite emotional on occasion.  It’s been a tough few months for me career-wise, I have generally been feeling like a bit of a failure, and I confess I have been bringing it home after hours. So yes, I have been a bit sad, and insecure at times – but when I’m not talking about work I believe, I’ve just been my usual self. I can’t point at any one thing that I’ve done, or said that could cause such a sudden, drastic turnaround. 

Now, I know there are no guarantees in life or love. No one has a crystal ball, but surely, when someone is making plans with you for next January, you can expect that if something about your behaviour was bothering them, they would be willing to talk about it and work it through- not just immediately opt for the “break” (which is inevitably followed by a “break UP”), without warning.  I didn’t even know there was an issue until Saturday, and quite frankly, I STILL don’t know what the issue is because all I got was “I’m not sure why [I’ve suddenly gone off you]…”

So naturally, it must be a character flaw that I just haven’t cottoned onto yet.

And so it was, in my misery, after one very fitful flight, and two sleepless nights, in a city that is not my own, without even a dog to cuddle for consolation, I started…. Googling. 

*mental head slap* 

I know, I know….terrible idea, the WORST but I did it anyway- I figured it was better than giving in and calling him, or txting him or even worse: emailing him (my emails are much like my blog posts, long winded, excessively wordy and meandering – only, with less editing).

He asked for no contact, for once in my life, I’m going to respect that and stick to it.

Lying there on the hotel bed in my work clothes that I did not have the energy to get out of, I scrolled through websites on my phone. Through tear-blurred vision, I stumbled across a little website known as “Marc and Angel Hack Life“, and more specifically, onto a post entitled “10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon“.

It was a good reminder of….well…10 painfully obvious truths everyone forgets too soon! 

But -the bit that caught my attention was #8 – “It’s not other people’s job to love you; it’s yours.” 

[Cue: ugly crying]

“Yep, heard that before” I thought to myself with a liberal dose of dejection “I guess I truly am unlovable then!”

Oh! the self pity – I was all but drowning in it!

And then I saw it.

The link to the self-help book. 




I closed my eyes, and cringed (not that one would have been able to distinguish this from the abovementioned crying) as I clicked on the link, which took me to an page, which ended with me accepting the very reasonable Kindle price of $3.99 to purchase this by Kamal Ravikant  (disturbingly, the picture on the cover involved a silhouette of a man holding a gun to his head…but at that point in time it seemed appropriate…..come to think of it, I guess that’s the whole idea).

Once I started reading I knew instantly that I was going to like this book.

First of all, it’s only 68 pages.  Concise. So, I was going to get my answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, quickly. (Yes, I live in a society of immediate gratification, and I embrace it.  Don’t judge)

Secondly, on the first page of the Foreward he references TED. (I love TED)

What followed was mind-blowingly simple, yet seemingly, simply impossible.  A real, useable guide to learning to love oneself.

Not pages and pages and hundreds of pages of airy, fairy, touchy, feely gibberish and complicated exercises, that in themselves are so impossible to master that most people give up before they even really attempt them with any dedication.  Example: I have never been good at “converting” or “rewording” negative thoughts into positive ones. I cant even think of a simple example of that right now, that’s how bad I am at it.  And if I cant do the conversion that quickly before my mind moves onto the next negative thought thing, then its useless.  Even after practicing for a few weeks one time, it just didn’t come naturally to me.  Maybe it will become easier if I can manage to master being be a little kinder to myself.

Likewise: meditation.  I cant tell  you how many people have tried to explain to me how to meditate, and I just couldn’t.

But the practice that Kamal explained, was so simple and so obvious, that I couldn’t help but try it. 

It’s only been 2 days since I downloaded the book, and work has been insane – but its been so easy to do, and at times just focussing on that one thought, repeating the same notion to myself over and over again whenever I feel my thoughts drifting to something that generates fear and sadness, has helped to keep my emotions in check. 

AND I’ve actually been more productive at work than I have in weeks.

This is not a book review, and I’m not miraculousy “cured”. I am still very upset and frustrated about G and the situation we find ourselves in, but I also feel accomplished because I have been able to really focus on doing what needed doing, and I haven’t been obsessing over him, or “the talk” that awaits me when I get home (well, not as much as I would normally). 

It appears, that Kamal’s 3 point method, is a winner.

The key to the method is the Mind Loop, creating a positive “groove” with a positive thought.  Its easy but at the same time, difficult.  Difficult because it feels so natural to slip into negative thought patterns. 

Why is that? Why did I become that way in the first place? Why is it so much easier to grab and hold onto the criticisms, rather than embrace the compliments?

So, my Gratitude today goes to Kamal, and Marc and Angel for leading me to his book 

….and maybe even G for getting me to the point that made me Google…oh…. that’s a rabbit hole I do not have time for this evening, who knows where that little path will end- my birth??!




I have been learning a little more about mindfulness lately.  Learning how to practice it and learning about why it helps, or at least helps some, to deal with everyday life.  I for one am an advocate, since I have been learning a few techniques I now have an understanding of the fact that a) it’s a lot harder than it sounds, and b) how my catastrophic thinking can derail my ability to seamlessly complete tasks that really should not be so difficult.

Another thing I have been doing this week is acknowledging things I am grateful for.  Every day, I try to write down (but sometimes I just specifically acknowledge them in my head), 5 things I am grateful for.

Today I spent the morning with one of my best friends to celebrate her birthday.  The breakfast was organised by her husband and the hours passed quickly.  I love spending time with these people, they have an innate ability to make everyone around them feel special, and today I realised that perhaps part of the reason why they are so happy is because they are truly grateful for what they have,  these people really understand what it means to be truly grateful and as a result they are all so inclusive, loving and warm, one cannot help but want to be around them.  I also had the honor of spending Christmas day with them.  I will admit that on Christmas morning, I did not want to go.  I had spent the morning by the ocean, encapsulated by the bubble of my own thoughts, and I must admit, very few of them were positive.  I had to resist the overpowering urge to call M and tell her I would not be joining them for lunch after all, but the grown-up in me forced myself to buck up, put on my party dress and get in the car.  There are many moments from that afternoon that are memorable for me, but perhaps the most memorable moment was after I had left in the early evening and was driving home, and I realised how happy I was, and how glad I was that I had gone.  Had I stayed at home I probably would have been by that stage, quite inebriated and feeling extremely sorry for myself.  Instead, despite having left the party, I felt uplifted and contented and…grateful.  This family was the perfect antedote to my anxiety, my pain and my loneliness when my own family were themselves, too far away.

I have been told that if you consciously acknowledge what you are grateful for – preferably by writing it down every day – then you can change your whole outlook on your life in a very short period of time.  I have found myself being far more negative in recent years (this blog is the perfect example of that), yet perhaps with this one simple task, I can change my default setting to a more brighter outlook – one in which allows me to see the best in people first, and allow negativity to slide off me instead of allowing negative comments to stick to me like feathers to treacle.

Today my 5 things are:

  • Air-conditioning (I’m not being trite, this weekend has been a scorcher!);
  • A loyal dog who is always happy to see me, even if I have left her locked up in the house (in the aircon) most of the weekend when she would rather be outside playing;
  • My beautiful friend M, and her amazing family & friends;
  • G, who braved the heat with me in search of new light fittings and paint AND who volunteered his services to even start the prep work when I am out getting a new hairdo next Saturday;
  • The ocean and my proximity to it (even though I could – and would – be much closer to it by choice!)





New Year, New Attitude, New Look!


I would also like to add, that in true Serene style of thinking, with a new attitude must come a new look.  Consequently, I have decided that this shall be achieved with a new haircut.  My hair is currently fairly long, about to the middle of my back and it has been this way for a few years now.  Recently I started making noises about cutting it off and I was met with horrified looks and exclamations of “No!” and “Why would you do that?!” or even “You can’t!”.

I also had a similar reaction when I told people that I had Lasik surgery done, they were all horrified because I “looked so good in glasses” (!!).  Er, yeah totally not the reason why I wore glasses but ANYHOO.

Because of this feedback, I started to think that if I cut off my long blonde locks, then this would somehow make me less attractive or something, so I chickened out the last time I was at the hairdresser.

Well, as of today, I am no longer defined by my hair! And being hair, it does tend to grow back… after all, do I not spend hours of my time every month trying to eliminate or reduce the regrowth of hair on various parts of my body? And now…it’s somehow a catastrophe that I might cut the hair on my head a bit shorter?


Anyway, here are just some ideas I’m toying with.  Obviously the shorter styles are a little more ambitious and something I will work up to, but so far I think the angled bob that Scarlet Johansson is sporting -which is a bit of a longer version of the Victoria Beckham do- is my favourite, and I think, totally doable.  Although, I’m currently sporting some angled bangs, so perhaps the Dianna Agron would be a better choice for now…

No need for me to decide tonight, my haircut is not until the 18th :)

Women-Short-Bob-Hair-Styles short-hairstyles-for-women-after-chemo short-haircuts-11 Pictures-of-short-bob-blonde-hair hair-styles Blonde-Hair-Color-for-Short-Hairstyles-2013 5-short-brown-hairstyles Dianna-Agron-Messy-Bob-Hairstyle scarlett-johansson-02-new-bob-haircut-mango