Planning my passions and the year of firsts

… or why choosing a diary is the most important decision I make each year.

People don’t usually get gushy about their diary, however mine has always been very important to me, and selecting my partner in crime each year is a case for careful consideration. I hold my potential suitor in my hands, imagining my year panning out and vacillate about what colour to get.  Last year I found out for the first time what choosing the wrong one feels like, and it strengthened my resolve to not let that happen again!

The other diary

I went out on a limb in 2017, leaving aside my usual Moleskine to buy a small, but chunky peppermint-green leather-bound diary from Kikki-K, because I thought it looked cute. My new crush. Well, the branch broke. Not only did the weeks not ‘run’ the way my usual Moleskins had (resulting in me messing up ticket bookings for Saul at the Adelaide Festival), but I also couldn’t see to write in it without my glasses.  This partner was cute but it sent me confusing messages.

The weekly quotes would’ve been great, but I didn’t even realise they were there until half-way through the year because they were so tiny I couldn’t read them. This little book completely discombobulated me! I could even go so far as to say, it stuffed up 2017 good and proper (well, it’s a good excuse).  What amazed me was that I stuck with it, being the loyal diarist I am, and limped on with a substandard item for the whole year, not even considering separation, divorce or even an affair with a more inspiring squeeze.

My soulmate

So when a discussion on a Facebook group began in earnest amongst business-minded misfits centring around people’s choice of non-digital planning tools, I pricked up my eyes. One little gem that was mentioned and seconded by many on the thread was a Passion Planner. Users sounded delighted with their significant other. I googled, watched YouTubes, downloaded the templates, tested them out, and purchased one that day!

Organising time is one of those things that is crucial for someone like me with days of unstructured time stretching before me like a magic carpet.  It is easy to get carried off to some crevice of the internet and get stuck down there for hours, so any tool that assists one to keep on track is really important.  A central place to keep all of one’s intentions, personal and business, is key. Like a friend who constantly asks you about your latest pet project, I am finding that a Passion Planner is really keeping me honest.  I haven’t been able to stop raving about this little bible since I received it in the new year, and two friends have already gone ahead and bought one after they’d seen mine.

When I’ve told people about my new flame, they’ve told me it seems a little like a bullet journal – the first time I’d heard of one of those was at a Melbourne Writers Week Moleskin Coffee and Create session in 2017. Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines hosted Sam van Zweden and Karen Andrews to discuss their creative routines. Even after that conversation I was none the wiser about a bullet journal, and besides, I think I’ve found my perfect match, so I’m not too sure I’d even want to contemplate another.  I’m sure though that their conversation left me ripe for a change of heart from my little peppermint brick to my light blue dreamweaver!

How do you use a Passion Planner?

Well, the premise is: writing down one’s goals is the first step to achieving them. You begin by setting out your Passion Roadmap – your wish-list for today, 3 months, one year, 3 years and lifetime goals. Then you create from this a passion plan and then insert these steps into your monthly and weekly openings.

Each month, there is an opening for the month-long planner. There are boxes allocated  to define the month’s focus, the people you want to see, the places to go and the most important thing for me so far – the ‘Not to do list’. Also there are personal and work project spaces in addition to the month-long planner. Finally there is a space for a mind-map of this month’s game-changer. I’m using this space to use some cute little ship stickers I bought in France. They symbolise 2018 – full steam ahead!

Monthly Planning

Passion Planner Monthly Opening

Heading into the weekly openings, once again you can choose a focus, fill in Personal and Work ‘to do’ lists,  let your creative drawing run wild in the Space of Infinite Possibility and progressively list the good things that happen. An extra bonus is the inspirational quote for the week plus a little activity to do based on the quote.  Mine last week was Maya Angelou’s, just when I needed to hear it!!

“When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time”.

If this isn’t amazing enough, each day’s column is headed by a box for the day’s focus, and then proceeds in half hour increments from 6am – 10.30pm. And this goes every day. For freelancers like myself, this is vital.  A diary that only considers you work on weekdays is like a boyfriend who gets grumpy when you catch up with your girlfriends – problematic and it cramps your style! And while on the topic of girlfriends, I have noticed a new and helpful capacity for tracking my monthly catch-ups and social outings. I have been grateful for the way this diary is showing me what wonderful women I know and what a rich social life I have – all through the process of listing good things and taking stock of each week. A Passion Planner is much nicer company than a grumpy boyfriend.

Weekly Planner

Passion Planner Weekly Opening

There is lots of space to give your Passion Planner your own special creative touch. A friend looked on Etsy for stickers she could use, but instead of buying the stickers, she copied the little icons, and it looks just the same, giving her pages an arty/graphic designer kind of feel. You can get lots of wonderful ideas on YouTube from expert and passionate planners who go to town with Japanese washi tape, fluoro markers, stamps, stickers etc. There are so many ideas for tracking new habits, lists, holiday planning etc. And one of the things that tells me I’ve got my mojo back, is that I’ve re-discovered my penchant for decorating my planner with cute or pertinent cut-outs from magazines – something I began doing in the 1990s!  So here are some of my pages to give you an idea.

Once you’ve had your month, there is an opening devoted to your Monthly Reflection. You look back and note the most memorable aspects, biggest lessons, how you are different this month to last and what you’re grateful for. You take stock of your priorities, and note the things you want to improve and the concrete steps you’ll take to get there during the coming month.

Monthly Reflection

Passion Planner Monthly Reflection

Then once you get past the diary itself, you’re into 20 blank pages followed by 23 pages of graph paper.  There are no maps, no holiday calendars, no world holidays, no international dialling lists, no international paper sizes, no conversion tables, no weights and measures table, no Staff Leave charts (who has staff???), within cooee of this little gem of a book.  Nothing exists in this diary/journal that you don’t either need, or design yourself.

I have been using blank pages to write lists – 2018 Books I’ve read, 2018 Books I want to read, Things to Remember about 2017 etc.  The whole reason for writing this post though, was to celebrate one of my pages – Year of Firsts. There have only been six weeks so far, but I have delivered a Webinar, began aqua-aerobics and presented at an outside broadcast on radio for 3MBS Bach Marathon at the Melbourne Recital Centre.  What a great way to celebrate my passionate firsts.

Other benefits

Another useful tip the planner suggests is to share your passions. Find that in-real-life friend who will keep you honest about your goals and tasks for the week.  This has been a great source of inspiration, motivation and solidarity. We talk by phone once a week for much longer than our allocated 20 minutes, but that’s the nature of good, supportive friendships, isn’t it!

Drawbacks

Just to keep it real, there is one drawback for me. Just as your steady, sweetie pie or darling might have a few things you’d like to improve, the Passion Planner is no exception. Although, unlike the real version, this little dreamboat has only one. I’d love it to have the beautiful cream-coloured pages of my ex, the Moleskin. But I’m willing to compromise, as is important in any ongoing relationship.

What version of diary is your beloved for 2018?

PS: I haven’t been given anything by Passion Planner for spruiking how great they are … YET! If anyone wants to purchase one, if you mention you heard about it from me, I might get a free one next year. Just saying.

Click go the shears – February 2017

Staying at Naracoorte for a three week holiday earlier this year, I took the opportunity to go and visit my cousin, Graham, who now runs the farm at which I spent many of my childhood holidays. Not much has changed, except the pine trees out front are taller.

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Out the back, over the hill, with large gums standing looking on silently from the wheat-coloured paddocks, I drive up to the shearing shed. It has been raining all morning, but it is a January kind of warm and muggy.  I hear the radio first, AC/DC Highway to Hell, then smell the sheep and climb the aging ladder up to the nerve centre.

It is 8:30am and they’ve already been at it for an hour. The thick oily-urea smell of sheep gets in my nostrils and before I know it I’m wiping my nose with the irritation.

Two shearers, Hayden and Corey, repleat with double-layered dungarees and quick-grip moccasins are bent nearly double (partially supported by a padded and sprung shackle which hangs from above) holding the sometimes un-cooperative sheep still, while they remove last year’s coat. The shears, no longer the clicking variety, make a mechanised shrill buzzing sound, glide through the wool, separating it instantly from the sheep, leaving a discarded pile on the floorboards. The number of fleeces is clocked on a small silver counter and they earn $2.94 each one (double for a ram).

To the uninitiated, it is a pile of wool. To the roustabout, Mykia, jetting around the floor in her tennis socks, the pile contains many distinct possibilities. The rectangular section of belly wool is separated, the cruddy bits discarded and a sample is taken (from a spot originally found close to the ribs of the sheep). Then with an action akin to collecting up bedsheets you’re taking to the wash, it is swept up into a big heap to be weighed.

“6.4!”  Kilograms that is, the weight of one fleece.

The figures are being carefully recorded and matched with numbered ear tags to assist with selecting the strongest potential breeders for the following year.  This pile of wool is then flung across the wool table – a waist high collection of spanned metal rods that let the dags drop through to be efficiently swept up with a flat plastic-swivel-headed broom, known as a sweep.  It is like magic to see how the fleece expands and contracts like a rubberband and when it lands, moving as one entity.

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Now the edges, the parts that come from the legs and tail, get separated and thrown over onto separate piles, to keep the quality of the wool high. The wool classer, Ron, similarly gathers the fleece into a loose pile to pluck a strand which he then flicks – the closest thing to clicks you hear in a shearing shed these days.  If it fails the test, the wool is classed as tender, and the fleece joins a small pile (around 3% in this shed) of wool which is not so strong – where the sheep may have suffered stress during the year. Then the pile of wool joins the 180-204 kilograms of other fleeces in the baling machine, where it gets compressed under pressure.

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Behind the red metal swing gates, Matthew, pen-er-upperer (I think that’s a word) and his red dog, Rusty, continue to herd the flock closer to their disrobement.  The rams wait patiently in separate corrales, they will get their turn at the end. Graham takes a turn at shearing, but assures me his skill is in taking care of the sheep rather than getting the wool off. To my untrained eyes, he looks enough like a pro.

Graham’s is a fairly small concern, however Ron, a veteran in the district, speaks highly of it’s quality.  He’ll get a good price for the wool at sale, but not so much this year for the quality, but more due to the high market value; such is the seemingly arbitrary nature of the commodity market.

Over smoko, the shearing shed gossip of shearers coming and going, travel stories and local personalities continue while Lizzy the kelpie surveys the shed.  I joked later that I only managed to shear 60 sheep, but actually I am in awe of the physical endurance required to do this work. Click go the shears, seems such an upbeat ditty to describe such a back-breaking vocation.

Subterranean track-work blues and the Sunday Walk

For the past several weekends, by some twist of fate, the quest for gainful employment has resulted in me traipsing the near East of Melbourne city in a combination of train, tram and foot. There has not been one day so far where some part of my journey has not been disrupted. Track work to Victoria Parade trams one week, Clifton Hill trains the next, my frustration at not being able to plan a solid route and arrival time for my weekend work days has been getting me down, and anxious. At the same time, I have started dreaming again of another long walk in France. Little did I know that the conflicting ideas of work and play were to blend into the best idea I’ve had in a long time.

Walk to work!

Excitedly on Saturday night, my walking pants were a snug fit, and I slipped my feet into the most comfortable hiking boots I’ve ever owned. Walking the 8 kilometres to work was an option. Make a day of it. Pretend you’re walking in France.

Why not?

The way is direct, and follows my train route for part of the way, and tram routes for the rest, so I could always hop a wheeled mobile if I needed to, but I can try the freedom of the legs instead.

6:00am and my alarm beckons … I arose with the anticipation of a path not yet travelled. Morning pages until 7:00am, and then shower. Breakfast and a 7:55am departure. I have to be at work by 9:30am.

Leaving Northcote station, brisk but not biting. Up Hartington, and the bells of the convent were ringing out. Past old Greek ladies dressed in black arriving in cars, and by foot – slightly more funereal yet just as smart as weekday CBD-suited women. Down my little cut-through to Merri train station, with fig-tree aromas, refreshed bollard graffiti critical of a certain catholic cardinal and in the distance two balloons – probably hovering over my destination.

Past plate-sized red camellias plopped face-up in my path on Bridge St then onto High St, Westgarth, the bakery already filling up, including my go-to listening professional. On towards the Merri Creek, over the bridge, watching the water below, now subsided from the rains several weeks ago leaving large river stones exposed. The traffic: only slight, but in Hoddle St, pungent already. Past the beautiful yellow leafed trees, vestiges of autumn, letting them go in the Clifton Hill park. On over the freeway past a paddy-van and two policemen in a standoff with a leftover from Saturday night’s partying.

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Left into Johnstone Street, on familiar turf, not taking my path to 3MBS, but turning right onto Nicholson St. Great café to check out sometime – Admiral Cheng-Ho, perhaps a foretaste of the suburb I would walk through next. Casting eyes left, another convent spire punctures the fog in the distance to the east. The road ahead, narrow for a main one, flanked with car-parking bays and, it would become apparent, coffee shops a plenty. Mavis the Grocer across the road, Three Bags Full, and the colossal Mihn Phat Asian Supermarket led me to Victoria St.

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Crossing to leave Nicholson and become Lennox, I was in housing commission country. Three locals loudly arguing the toss about something providing a kind of welcome committee. The characteristic, now tired high-rises a symbol of bureaucratic treatment of poverty and ever-growing neglect, fortunate only that they are not in the northern hemisphere this week. Despite this, a community veggie garden smiles at me. I say a silent prayer for their English counterparts, 58 presumed dead in the Grenfell Tower disaster. A figure no terrorist could match. We have our eyes on the wrong enemy.

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A beautifully muralled Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, past the All Nations Hotel and Richmond West Primary School. This has been suburban Australia since the 70s. Continuing along Lennox St, I am grateful to have found a long street that may take me all the way to my Cremorne destination. Off the main drag I pass street cats and locals walking their dogs past Edwardian woven-wire fencing (something I thought was peculiarly Adelaidian, but has obviously migrated east). I start to wonder about how my time is going, whether I’ll make it as I climb the hill up past the back of Epworth Hospital to Bridge Rd. On the other side, as I gather speed on the downhill, I check my time, and have plenty.

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I am delighted to find several Art Deco apartment blocks that overlook the city skyline ripe for my future prospects for rooms with views in my favourite era of habitat. I hit Swan St next to Mahalo Poke and try to venture further East, but not so far to hit Church Street yet. I want to approach my building from the back streets if possible. The next through-street, Green, is bedecked by the most detailed and spectacular mural.

By miracle, just shy of the East Richmond train station, there is an underpass. Here is the cut-through I desire. Walking south, atop the subterranean Burnley Tunnel, the landscape again changes, this time to industrial. Just shy of the Yarra, I spy the old Cremorne sub-station, and aptly named Electric Street delivers me to my office.

9:22 am. I’m early. Maybe I can walk home too.

How long would your walk to work be?

 

 

 

 

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Endings or Beginnings

As I start to reach the last few days before take off, you know the ones, where you have lots you want to do, but in actual fact the list just turns into ‘what am I realistically going to get done before I go’, and ‘what will just have to wait until I get back’, I’ve been rummaging again through my morning pages, and the words “And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings” Meister Eckhart, jump out at me.

Facebook has an uncanny knack of offering just the right pearl at the right tiime, “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings” Lao Tzu.

It is hard to see the magic in a process that has made you fearful and sick.  It is no secret that my worklife has been crazy for the last few months. The repercussions of maintaining my own truth in the face of almost overwhelming pressure at work have seen me nearly cave. But I have managed (probably due to the unending ears and shoulders of my Philosophy class, some chosen colleagues, family and friends – you know who you are) to just keep it together to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. Moving states twice and packing up to attempt a new life overseas, were all easy by comparison!

I read somewhere this week about fear being like a beacon – where you sense it, that is the direction to head in. There was great fear present in my recent decision to leave my job. Letting go of parts of our lives that we have built into our fabric are always going to bring up many strange and unwanted emotions and ideas. When we attach meaning to what we do, particularly when we feel it is worthy, helpful or just and then contemplate life without it, what then does our life mean? What do I ‘do’ instead? For me this process of leaving was much more than just about how I pay my rent when I no longer have work.

I can remember my grandfather talking to me once when I had just got a new job at the Bureau of Statistics.  He was quizzing me about how that job might help people.  This is a family theme that has been strong, and it weighs heavily on me when considering my path for the future.  Do I need to have a job in which I am paid to help people?  Am I comfortable in letting go of that expectation of myself, to always be helping, fixing, sorting out, advocating?  This process brings me to a new place in which I might choose to do those things and not get paid to do them.  Or is there even a possibility that if I do what I love to do, and follow my heart, as the popular mantra seems to suggest, that I might help, just by being me.

Are these realisations actually what might be referred to as the magic of a painful ending?

This ending has been the source of many beginnings also.  I have reached a new comfort with sharing my difficult times with other people, letting them see me being vulnerable – not an easy thing for me.  As the days go by and I begin acknowledging the huge change I have just made, I realise this is right:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!” W.H. Murray.

You know you’re onto something when a friend emails you a small job opportunity which joins the old life you never really left (earthy and natural) with your unfolding passion for writing. I described it to her as re-arranging my neural pathways. Some may call it magic. It was palpable – the feeling in my brain of accepting that this is a new way to think of myself, as a writer. Even four hours a month, it would be a beginning. I’m going to trust it.