36078607_sIn the past few weeks I have witnessed the two extremes of the end of marriage.  The tragic promise of “’til death do us part” coming to fruition, and the heartbreaking reality of separation following the annihilation of trust. I have also listened to a first-hand account of something that falls fairly squarely in-between….that of the amicable separation (if I dare to believe that such a thing truly exists at all).

I have also been extremely conscious of my reaction to all of these scenarios, and I have to admit that I am rather disappointed in myself.  For, though there was of course empathy, I cannot deny that one of the overriding emotions I experienced in each of these scenarios was: Relief. Relief that it wasn’t me. Relief that my cosy little life is still intact.  Relief that I know exactly where I am, what I am doing, and what my plan is to face tomorrow.

If that wasn’t selfish enough, the another major emotion I felt was: Fear. Fear, upon the realisation that despite the fact that I am single, it is inevitable that somehow – perhaps soon – my life too, will be upended like a canister of pick-up sticks, and scattered in indiscriminate chaos.

I truly hope when that day comes, I am capable of of handling it nearly as well as these dear people, whose grace has been humbling, their strength inspiring, and honesty so refreshing.

In the meantime, how does one, standing on the outside, provide any kind of assistance or comfort? It all seems so futile, so trifling, so…unsatisfactory.

37. I’ve Got It All Figured Out

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_bumann'>bumann / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Thirty seven.


Oh, how I have been ruing this day. I have tried denial – attempting to convince myself that it wasn’t happening.  I have wailed into my pillow, sifted through the regrets of failed relationships, berated myself for unsuccessful ventures, admonished the many missed workouts and few too many spoonfuls of Maggie Beer’s burnt fig ice cream.

I have gazed in defeat upon the soft lines around my eyes in the mirror, and the streak of grey hairs that has quite suddenly morphed into a blanket of silver, which in some lights, does not blend with the blonde nearly as well as I thought it did.

Last year I tried to pretend my birthday didn’t exist, though I did invite a few girlfriends to brunch and then promptly burst into tears the moment one of them sat down at the table.

But this year – despite my anticipation of it feeling so much worse – somehow….I don’t.

I feel …OK!

I feel indifferent to the number and its significance to the “downhill run to 40”.

Though the title of this blog is somewhat misleading – by “all figured out” what I really mean is that I have figured out that I don’t have it figured out, but that’s alright, because I’ve also figured out that no one else has it all figured out, either.

My life is definitely not perfect, I still work too much, I still haven’t pitched an article to a publication (despite having dozens of ideas of things to write about), I still haven’t lost that extra 8kg, I still haven’t renovated my backyard, I still don’t walk my dog EVERY day, and I still cant do more than 3 unassisted chin-ups (well actually, I cant do any at the moment due to a rather painful neck & shoulder problem).

However, it’s never going to be perfect so, I might as well strive to be better, and otherwise enjoy the bits that are good now.

Because tomorrow it might be different again.


Minimalist Me

Copyright: markusgann / 123RF Stock Photo

About 51 weeks ago, I wrote a post about quitting complaining.  I challenged myself to quit complaining for a month.
I think it worked well, I discovered that by thinking with intent, I was able to flip my negative thoughts around – for the most part.

However, after a while I stopped “thinking” about it, and almost exactly 1 year on, I have realised that I am back to my old tricks, whinging at every opportunity to anyone who will listen.

It’s just pure coincidence of course, that I happened to have noticed this almost exactly one year on from my original post about the subject, but as I was randomly flicking through my blog the other day, I took it as a sign that I should revisit this little challenge.

But I’m not stopping there.  No, no. In typical Serene style I am going to make the challenge even more…er…challenging!

I recently viewed a TED talk on Minimalism, and found it rather interesting. I clearly have been living under a rock because when I plugged “minimalism” into Google I was overwhelmed with the reams of blogs, websites and YouTube videos of people sharing their experiences, providing advice and giving tours of their homes and closets (burglars – don’t even bother!).

What I found most interesting was how people reported that adopting a physically minimalist lifestyle, translated to their mental and emotional state.

Living with less meant they experienced more.

I myself am becoming increasingly frustrated with how cluttered and disorganised my life feels. Hell, my entire blog seems to be centred around my discontentment (and my neverending search for satisfaction). At first I thought it was the crazy work hours, then I thought maybe I was trying to do too much with my time, but I continued to forge ahead, feeling proud of myself for my strength and resilience to handle anything and everything.

Then, about 4 weeks ago I woke up in agony – my neck was completely locked up, I had pain radiating down my arm and pins & needles in my fingers.  I couldn’t work out, I could barely move – and sitting at a desk 17 hours a day was painful and mentally draining.  Suddenly, dealing with all of my stuff seemed like a huge effort- all I seemed to do was move stuff in my house – it was everywhere! Socially, I just couldn’t face the thought of going out, I was too uncomfortable.  I was sleep deprived.  I began to cry at the drop of a hat. I became anxious when faced with simple tasks.  And I began to fear this is all my life would ever be.

I am too young to feel this old!

Having seen 3 chiropractors in the past month I think I have found one who may actually be able to help my neck & back (without the traditional “cracky” techniques, thank you!! Ugh!).
So, at least that is a positive move.

It is not enough to fix the physical pain though, I need to fix the inner turmoil, I am tired of feeling at war with myself.

My first step to overcoming this, is to simplify my life and de-clutter.
I am a single person living alone in a 2 bedroom home, and every room, every drawer, every shelf of every cupboard is packed with stuff.  I don’t even know what most of it is, half the time I don’t even open said drawers and cupboards!

My wardrobe is bursting with clothes, I have actually run out of hanging space and drawers and have resorted to shoving pieces in corners…(and if you knew how big my wardrobe was, you would be horrified to hear this).

Quite simply, my house is a mess, and so is my life.

Little wonder why I cannot focus on work tasks, much less the personal activities (writing, blogging, studying…) I have no room to breathe, no space to think.

So this weekend, I start on my closet.  I have no doubt it will take me the entire 2 days – perhaps even longer – but  am looking forward to offloading!

After that, the study.

After that the kitchen & linen press.

How much stuff does one really need to survive, anyway?

Now, I am not going extreme minimalist here – I know some people challenge themselves to live on only what is absolutely essential – to the point of getting rid of all furniture, etc.  At this stage, I am more focussed on reducing my stuff and learning what I need and don’t need to be comfortable without turning my home into an empty shell.  There are things that I don’t intend to ditch- my shoes being the first on the list.  I have a lot of shoes (ok maybe I can afford to relive myself of a couple of pairs), but I also know I cycle through all most of them fairly regularly depending on the season.  I think I can probably survive very happily on about 10-20% of my clothes (excluding sportswear), but I love to change up my shoes and though I don’t need them all, I do like to wear them.

This is the great thing about a challenge such as this – it is tailor made to you as an individual.  It is about what makes you feel good.  Not only that, it is an evolving thing.

I am told that the first step is to understand why I want to do this.  This will apparently help when I am struggling with decisions of what to toss:

1.  I feel claustrophobic in my own home
2.  I can never find things
3.  I want to stop buying things in an attempt to fill an emotional void
4.  I want to clear my head
5.  I want to save money (more on this later)
6.  I want to learn to be content with what I have and be present
7.  I want to feel valued for me, not how I look (this is more about me understanding the value of me)
8.  I want more time (i.e. I want to spend less time worrying about what to wear/looking for things/frivolous shopping)

In conjunction with this, I am putting myself on a shopping ban. I am allowing myself a couple of well considered purchases – which I will consider further over the weekend.  But apart from a couple of things I can think of right now, I really do not need any more things.  Really, I earn enough, yet somehow I always seem to be making credit card payments, and never have enough money to just take a holiday if I want to, and though I have a modest emergency fund, if I were to lose my job it would be panic stations to pay my mortgage past the first month.

I realise that this might be the situation for many, but really, I have no excuse. I am not rolling in it, but I earn enough to be in a better position than this.

It is high time that Adult Serene woke up and took control of her circumstances, rather than being controlled by her circumstances.


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.