Thursday 24 December 2009

I haz for Christmas

If the Shoe Fits

The 12 Shoes of Christmas

Day 1: If the Shoe Fits

This is the first blog post in a series of twelve.

As the end of 2009 approaches, this is surely the time to stop and take it all in. If not now then it will be at a sentimental time in 2010 when I feel all huggy and the vision is a bit blurred.

The title of this post indicates that I will start my reflection of 2009 with a look at what I have had to face about myself. Owning one's flaws, talents and consequences is the most difficult thing to do but nothing will help you grow faster.

Here, I'll discuss My Job of 2009...

Early in the year, I realised that the joy of working at ThoughtWorks was drying up for me. I no longer got the satisfaction I required from work. That was for many reasons. Firstly, jobs with well-known companies often promise the world and then always fall short. Nothing can live up to the expectations you set for them. ThoughtWorks claims to want to change the world but when you get in there, you spend most of your time making more money for already rich investment banks and fighting to build good software in environments that simply won't budge because the momentum of low standards is too hard to resist.

The people at ThoughtWorks were the magic that made each day worth it. Never before and possibly never again, will I get the chance to work with so many brilliant, motivated and insane alphas. Until ThoughtWorks, I did not beleive a team of *all stars* could work well together. I did see it work but it took enormous amounts of ego-wrangling from very talented managers to keep it moving. Don't get me wrong, my mega ego is included in this set.

With big talent comes bloody big egos and I often found myself on a team of people who wanted to direct others to do things and do nothing themselves. My view of software development is more pragmatic and less pure than most of my TW workmates. I would sacrifice some of my ideals if it meant we could get a project delivered. Quality was never one of those ideals to be sacrificed but after a million arguments about gold-plating and the perfect design, I realised that what I think agile software development is and what it eventually became on those teams was not a perfect match. We could spend days discussing things and not build a damn thing. It was a waste of client money and our time. This was the main reason I left ThoughtWorks.

Elitism is the other. There is a famous story inside TW about the Chicago office Away Day. That's the few days the whole office has off together to bond and celebrate their successes. A brilliant idea and one all companies should embrace, in whatever form they can afford. Anyway, the story is that an Away Day t-shirt was printed with the words...

"Just because I'm an elitist doesn't mean you don't suck"

That sums up the attitude of 75% of the ThoughtWorkers I worked with. Smart people who were a little too aware of how awesome they were at their jobs. It made being a consultant hard for them because they felt constantly underappreciated and not listened to. The fact is that people will listen to you not because you are smart but because they trust you. Trust is earned through proof that you can do your job and that you share the same goals as your client. How you get to those goals is negotiable, once you earn that trust.

A lot of people didn't ever get that concept. I once suggest to a junior colleague that he be nice to another team we were working with. My theory was that if you are nice to people then it makes it a lot harder for them to screw you over, since they like you. I meant be genuinely nice. Being fake never works so don't bother. The youngen replied to me with "Damana, that's just evil!"

I'm not perfect. I was convinced a lot of my fellow TWers didn't quite get me. They found me serious and playful; confident and insecure; driven and lazy; friendly and exclusive; and brilliant but totally stupid at times. To be honest, that's me.

I have never learnt more or been pushed harder than when I worked at ThoughtWorks. They made me learn to take feedback - good and bad. The senior management invested so much effort in each employee - pushing us to do more of whatever we did well. They supported Girl Geek Dinners more than any other company and employed more geek girls than any other place I have ever worked (except maybe Fairfax Digital).

The point? I was a ThoughtWorker for two years. That was the best two years of my career so far. It has given me direction and confidence in how good an engineer and consultant I am.

If you ever get to work at a company like ThoughtWorks then don't accept another job. You may end up like me and find you grow in a different direction to it and want to move on but it will change your life, your career and your soul.

Monday 21 December 2009

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Just another manic Monday

The Bangles got it right when they said "It's just another manic Monday, I wish were Sunday".

We all love weekends. I can't complain about work (at least not at the moment) but I can say that returning after such a long break has resulted in one glowing, neon-signed trigger that kicks my depression in to overdrive and makes me a demon to be around. Or that is how I see it happening... and maybe some other people closer to the bomb.

The weekend comes and goes then I am left feeling refreshed and resilient. The day passes with great productivity and that cherished focus that I have been longing for over the months past. After work, I come home enthusiastic and head for the supermarket to buy food to cook for everyone who will be showing up at the house tonight. Engergised. Powerful. Happy.

Then the crash!!

When it hits around 7:30, it feels like my brain shuts down and refuses to reboot without a blue screen. Then sentences are hard to make. I try to express myself normally but the words I need don't seem to come in to my mind. From there it goes downhill...

When I am in a normal (for Mana) mood, the negative thoughts that enter my mind can be swatted like flies using the tools I've learned through therapy, talking to wise people in my life and reading. These days it is quite hard to get me in to a very negative mood. These moods are usually obviously identified by my tendency to wollow in self-pity.

On Mondays when I've started the day well due to two days of good rest and relaxation, I tend to over-exert myself. This leaves me mentally exhausted and quite unable or unwilling to use the skills I have to fend off negative thoughts. What that means is that I start to fall in to a downward spiral of negativity and self-doubt. I get paranoid that people are going to reject me. It's quite terrifying and brings out the familiar feeling of loneliness that often visits in the down times.

Last night, I lost a very good friend. He can't deal with my moods anymore. Can't blame him. At least I'm more aware that it's happening now, unlike with Giles and Ines.

The only way to fix this is to go to bed as soon as I realise it has started. Unfortunately, that takes a while. It is taking less and less time on each occasion. I make sure I eat something and then find a safe place to sleep.

Next week, my plan is to do nothing on Monday after work. Just sit and relax.

Hopefully, one day Mondays will just be another annoying day and not one that wrecks me.

Monday 30 November 2009

Clothes Shopping in Darwin

I have money and I want to give it to you.

I'm not sure how much clearer I can be to the clothing shops of Darwin. My hang up and the thing that makes me the most difficult customer is that I want the clothing shops to give me back clothes that don't suck.

This afternoon my mother, cousin and I went in to the _biggest_ mall in Darwin to buy tropical work wear for my first day tomorrow. I gave myself two hours to achieve this and we went on our merry way. On arriving at Casuarina Shopping Centre, I went to the usual shops that would satisfy my needs in Sydney. Even with a willingness to throw money at the shop assistants, there was simply nothing to buy that would suit my needs.

I can see some of the logic behind why there isn't a huge selection. Only the tropical clothes are brought to the NT. Who is going to buy woolen business suits and dress jackets? Of course, I disagree. Sydney gets stinking hot and it still has a huge selection of clothes. My suspicion is that Darwin retail outlets that belong to big chains are disposing of their out of season clothes up here. The kind of arrogance that says no one here really cares about fashion so why bother, is more annoying than any over-pricing or bad service that you get from these shops.

Tomorrow I will attempt to shop in the CBD at lunch time, since I am working in that area.

So far, I have written four emails to different clothing chains saying that they are seriously missing out on money by underestimating their market up here. Of course, my cries will go unheard as the screams of those driven insane by the tropics.

Thank gawd for online shopping... not for clothes but for everything else.

Sunday 29 November 2009

2009 Tweet Cloud for @damana

The three words used the most were: people, love, sydney.

Back to Basics

That's it. Sydney is a closed chapter in my life and I'm moving on to... what should be the next chapter but I'd say it's the sequel to the last book. Maybe it is coming full circle and it ending where it began, in Darwin. Or simply beginning again in the same starting point. Who knows?

What I do know is that my entire body did some sort of full-body physical exhale when I stepped out of the air-conditioned Darwin Airport on to the paved path to the car park. It was a feeling of massive relief mixed with an internal graceful step from one painful situation to an unclear but hopeful future.

Please do stick around to find out what happens next. Find me on Skype at: damanamadden

Keep in touch with me however you prefer to and don't forget me. Damanas do not like to be forgotten :o)

Tuesday 17 November 2009

I admit I've been a crappy friend

I posted on Facebook and Twitter today that I wasn't taking shit from anyone else who put me last in their lives. Several friends threw their hands in the air and asked if I realised that I'm one of those people and they found my hypocrisy amusing, to say the least.

Although I like to think I'm pretty honest about what I'm going through in this interesting year of my life, it's possible that I've been sheltering you because I am ashamed of my thoughts and what I feel. Maybe I've been sheltering me because admitting this makes me one of those crazy people.

To be honest, I realised after hearing your sniggers and losing so many friends this year that I would rather be that crazy bitch than that unreliable friend you dumped in 2009.

If you read this blog then you have known me a while. In Darwin, Canberra and the early days in Sydney, I was a good friend to many people. Always there when people needed a laugh, a drink, a shoulder to cry on, someone to bitch with or someone to listen to relationship, work and life problems. This didn't just go for friends. I was there for those I worked with even if they weren't on my team, the geek girls and guys of wherever I worked and friends of friends.

Unfortunately, you are like me and you remember the last interaction we had and not the reason we became friends.

I want to tell you what has made me the most unreliable friend, ex-friend, acquaintance or colleague you've ever known. What changed Damana? Is it this Giles business because people break up all the time and that's no excuse? Is she going to cry "depression" again and aren't we sick of that excuse?

Let me lay it out for you. I went from a functioning member of society with friends, a good work ethic and an ability to answer mobile phones to a person who couldn't even get out of bed in the morning.

Couldn't Get Out of Bed
For 20 months from mid-2007 to early-2009, I could only make it to work for 9/10 days in a fortnight. I'd call in sick, making some excuse and then roll over and go back to sleep. I call it sleep but it was more just lying there paralysed and unable to motivate myself to get out of bed. I wouldn't eat, talk to another soul, get out of bed or even go to the bathroom until Giles came home after work and coaxed me out of bed. Sometimes he had to use strength and drag me out. On weekends, I was not much better. If I woke up on Saturday morning and one negative thought crossed my mind then I stay in bed until Monday morning. There were days when I didn't eat or speak. To say this was taxing on my marriage is an understatement. The fact that Giles left me is not as big a surprise in hindsight. I wouldn't have done it the way he did but I can't say I would have been strong enough for him, if the roles were reversed.

The rest may be out of order but bear with me. This has to be said.

The fix: I tell my mother and people I live with now about all my appointments and ask them to not let me get out of going. Since I am unable to motivate myself, I rely on others... for now anyway. It is working. I also eat breakfast every morning within 30 minutes of waking up. My trainer taught me that. It starts your metabolism off strong and also means I get out of bed because my stomach won't shut up.

Couldn't Answer the Phone
You've all called me and been surprised when I actually answered my mobile. Ask people who knew me in Canberra and they'll swear I was always talking on the damn phone and the easiest person to get hold of if you were up for doing something. In the last 12 months at least, when the mobile rings I feel pure terror. Usually even walking towards the phone is paralysing. First, I stopped answering "Blocked" numbers because I could rationalise that it was probably recruiters or businesses calling. Then I would see the caller Id and pump myself up to answer after 4 or 5 rings. Then I stopped answering and let calls ring out. Then I started hitting decline on every call that came through, even if I'd just SMS'd or called the person and they were returning my initial contact.

This was easy to justify to me. I told myself things like "If it is important then they will call back" or "If it's important they can leave a voicemail" or "This phone is for my convenience and not others". That's all bullshit. It was still easier to lie to myself than to answer the phone. My rapid heart rate and anxiety didn't correlate to any real or proposed threat. It wasn't rational. It wasn't acceptable but it just was how it was.

People realised this about me and started sending me texts to communicate. It's the worst form of communication and resulted in me losing one of my best friends in Sydney, Ines. I'd pulled out of a holiday we planned together and I didn't even have the gutts to tell her to her face or on the phone. Instead I emailed her and texted her. She refused to respond until we actually spoke and I never made the call or answered hers. It ended badly but I ended it. It was me who caused it and there is no excuse that will satisfy a rational person. That's because it was irrational.

Ask Rob Hunter about how I used to hide my head under a pillow rather than look at the caller Id on my phone. He witnessed some of the insanity.

The fix: Each day I promise to answer a phone call from people in my family and inner circle, or call them back straight away. I also call back my employer and real estate agent. You may believe that is easy because there are consequences but ask Amanda Keleher about how impossible I was to contact and the consequences of that. Even now, I don't answer calls from friends. Ask Christie Brown (my second best friend ever) who has called me over and over to organise to go out and she'll tell you I never answer ever. That's the next step, to answer the phone when Christie calls again.

Turning out the lights and hiding
When you came to the door and buzzed my apartment I would turn out the lights and stay away from the windows. The sound of the buzzer sent my cats running upstairs and me to the kitchen where I sat and cried quietly for at least an hour after the person left. Why? I don't know. The thoughts that went through my mind were of someone invading my space unannounced. Of a person seeing that I hadn't put on makeup or showered by 4pm that day and the utter failure I'd present to them. At that time, I honestly thought one of my dearest friends Alice would disown me if she knew I spent day after day in pajamas and didn't take out the garbage.

I used to be happy when it rained because people didn't usually come around on those days or nights. I would be safe usually.

The fix: This was easier. I moved to Darwin where there are so many windows that I can't hide. People know I'm home and they say "hi" as they walk up the driveway. I have simply put myself in a place where I can not hide although you could argue that being in Darwin is hiding too.

Never respond to emails
That was my rule. Actually the rule was don't respond straight away. I read it in a book somewhere that people think you have no life if you do. That was my excuse to simply not reply. At my worst, if anyone asked me a direct question in a personal email then I would delete it and pretend it never existed. The guilt disappeared as soon it was in the trash. Sometimes I deleted the gmail trash dozens of times in a row just to make sure the question was gone forever and I didn't have to answer it.

The fix: I respond within a week and never delete anything. If someone sends me an email then I will make sure I send something back within a week, even if I discuss it face to face and send a follow up summary email. This is working more and more each day.

Yeah, that word. People get sick of hearing it. They want you to just get over it - move on - suck it up - stop giving excuses. People use the phrase "I'm depressed" in every day life but trust me when I say that severe depression is nothing like you having a bad day or sad moment. It's not caused by my husband leaving me or my cat dying. It is a chemical imbalance that causes us to feel something. As human beings, we like to believe we understand why we do things but ultimately we are dumb animals. When we feel something, we assume it's been caused by something. We think we are reacting. Thing is that with depression, we feel it because our brain simply gets it wrong. Nothing triggered the emotion. It just happened then we attributed a reason to it.

Is any of it rational? Do you even understand what irrational feels like? Once you do then please explain it to me because when I'm acting irrational, it feels completely normal. It's as if to think anything else would be nuts. To anyone watching, it's crazy. To be honest, it is bloody crazy.

The fix: Therapy, Medication and Behavioural Change. That means not drinking like I once did to self-medicate. It means going out for exercise even when I'm so lethargic that the thought of moving tires me. It means committing to take a tablet every single day at the same time for at least 12 months. It means participating in a draining struggle with yourself, against yourself. Not believing the bad thoughts that tell you the world is a better place without you. Not listening to the sadness that leaves you rocking like a baby on a pile of sheets soaked with tears. It means ignoring the belief that you are invisible and no one cares. That if they knew what you thought, they'd have you scheduled. Hoping that saying this now won't see it used against me in the future and that maybe it frees someone else or even gives my friends a reason to wait until I am well.

Give me a chance. That's all I want. If you could see where I was and where I am now then you'd be so proud of me. Yes, it's not your problem and please don't think I expect you to solve it. Just give me a chance to become that amazing woman who you became friends with. She's in here and slowly finding her footing. She'll be a good friend again, like she once was. If not then you can dump her and move on.

If you can't understand or empathise then at least please just accept that it is what it is.

Sunday 1 November 2009

and no one notices

“Sometimes I come crashing down inside myself
without anyone noticing. I’m like an ambulance
on two legs, hauling the patient
inside me to last aid
with the wailing cry of a siren
and people think it’s ordinary speech.”

- Yehuda Amichai

Tuesday 13 October 2009

I'm leaving Sydney

I went to look for a picture in iPhoto that would sum up Sydney and there wasn't just one. I guess this blog is the total of it. The happiness, the pain and all the wonderful friends. It's been a beautiful time in my life and one I've used to grow in to who I think I really am.

What you hear is true, I'm leaving Sydney to return home to Darwin.

This was not as hard a decision as I thought. Sydney is not the same as it once was for me. There are many reasons to stay but many many more to go.

To say I will miss you, doesn't really express it enough. I hope you keep reading this blog and find my life just as dramatic and interesting and mundane as ever :)

I'll be around until the end of October.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Juicy Juicing Juice

Summer is coming and it is a time for cold refreshing and healthy drinks.

Lucky me got a juicer for her birthday. I have wanted one forever but it took my best friend to actually get up and get me one. Since the day I unpacked the beast, I have been learning a lot about juicing. Just like anything to do with cooking and taste, it's not as easy as the experts make it look.

The most important difference between a juicer and a blender is that a juicer allows you to efficiently get the liquid from vegetables, as well as fruit. There is no need to add anything but water, if you need the juice diluted a little.

Here is what I have to share on the delicious topic of juicing fruit and vegetables...

This Goes With That

There are so many combinations available to you as you stand in the supermarket, deciding what amber you will create. The thing at this point is to keep it simple. A good juice has three parts to it...
1 fruit base + 1 other fruit + 1 kind of vegetable + an accent = delicious drink

The Fruit Base

There are three kinds of fruit that make for a perfect base to any drink. They produce a lot of juice, are always sweet and are easy to find in any food shops.
orange OR apple OR pear
I have only discovered pear as a base in the last month and it is my favourite. Pear juice isn't that common and that is probably because it discolours very quickly. No one wants to buy brown juice at the shop, I guess. The thing I love about it is that it has a lighter flavour than apple and this means that it wont overpower the other fruit you choose.

Oranges are sweet and very cheap as a base. Navel oranges are fantastic if you want a sweet citrus base. Be careful not to add too much other citrus or you'll regret it.

Apples are always fabulous but can overpower the other fruit and vegetables in the mix. If you are going to use apples then use the big red Snow White type apples or Golden Delicious. I don't usually touch those two types with a ten foot poll but they are the juicing queens. Use fewer apples than you would oranges or pears.

For a 500ml drink, the base should contain either...
3 apples OR 4 oranges OR 5 pears

One Other Fruit

That one other fruit you choose will be the main flavour of the drink. This is where you get creative. I've tried everything including mangoes, watermelon, rockmelon, kiwi fruit, pineapple and strawberries.

If the fruit doesn't usually feel or taste very juicy then you will need more of it to get enough juice. Strawberries and kiwi fruit don't produce much fruit so I use a lot. Melons and mangoes are insanely wet so you don't need too much of them.

For a 500ml drink, the other fruit should contain either...
1 mango OR 1/4 of a watermelon OR 4 kiwi fruit

One Kind of Vegetable

Trust me when I tell you this, just because vegetables are healthy does not mean you want them to dominate your drink. Some people love the taste of dirt a whole beetroot will give you but I restrict myself to 1/2. Carrots give a stunning colour and are quite sweet but don't exceed two unless you are part rabbit.

You should always add a vegetable to the mix though. It changes the drink from a sweet pale yellow sugar hit to a palatable smooth health shot.

For a 500ml drink, the one kind of vegetable should contain either...
1/2 a beetroot OR 2 normal carrots OR 1 stick of celery leaves and all

An Accent

The accent is what makes this a special drink. Lemon, lime, ginger and mint are the choices you have here. This is very much a personal choice but I will give you some of my winning combinations. Think of the base fruit when you pick your accent.

For a 500ml drink, the accent combination can be either...
pear & lemon OR orange & ginger OR apple & lime. Mint goes with melon mixes.

Mix It Up

When the juicer has done it's thing and squeezed the life out of your plant bits, make sure you get a spoon and stir the mix. At this point adding ice and stirring is great to cool the drink down. Keeping your fruit and veg in the fridge can avoid the need for ice.

Don't forget to use the left over pulp in baking, in the compost or for animals that can eat it.

Enjoy your juicing days this summer.

Oh... if you need to, a little vodka from the freezer will make the juice a party drink.

Thursday 24 September 2009

You're so vain, you probably think this post is about you

"There are certain people who come into your life, and leave a mark… their place in your heart is tender; a bruise of longing, a pulse of unfinished business. just hearing their names pushes and pulls at you in a hundred ways, and when you try to define those hundred ways, describe them even to yourself, words are useless."

--- Sara Zarr

Friday 18 September 2009

How do I repair it?

Lately, I've been finding out exactly what it means to make decisions for myself. I've been uncompromising and driven by the idea that what I decide affects me and therefore is all about me.

Slight flaw there: "My" decisions have been slaying friends here and there. It's like those scenes in old Dr Livingston movies where the man with the funny round hat is slashing through the jungle with a machete.

It's as if I have gone from one extreme to the other and in the process lost all that I gained. There must be some compromise. I can change the way I make decisions from now on and consider all the consequences. The future can be different.

What I wonder now is how and if I can fix those things that have been damaged. Are words like "sorry" enough or do I need actions to negate the harm? I honestly don't know.


Wednesday 16 September 2009

If only you understood it

“ some way, the quiet terror of severe depression never entirely passes once you’ve experienced it. It hovers behind the scenes, placated temporarily by medication and renewed energy, waiting to slither back in, unnoticed by others. It sits in the space behind your eyes, making its presence felt even in those moments when other, lighter matters are at the forefront of your mind. It tugs at you, keeping you from ever being fully at ease. Worst of all, it honours no season and respects no calendar; it arrives precisely when it feels like it.”

-- Daphne Merkin on her forty year battle with depression

Friday 28 August 2009


They say a change is a good as a holiday. This time I found that a holiday was as good as change. The only thing was that returning to _normal_ life showed me that I needed something new. Maybe it's a new approach or a new focus. Maybe it's a change of scenery and a new challenge.

Since it's almost Spring in beautiful Sydney, this is the perfect moment for it.

I used to worry when I made decisions that whatever I chose, someone would end up disappointed in me. Now, my only concern is making sure that I'm not disappointed in me.

That is most certainly a change for the better.

There are schemes afoot and adventures to be had. Life is too short to not take chances. Wish me well and forgive me if the choice I made would not have been yours.

Monday 24 August 2009

No one depresses me quite like Ayn Rand

“She stood, in a room of crumbling plaster, pressed to the window-pane, looking up at the unattainable form of everything she loved. She did not know the nature of her loneliness. The only words that named it were: This is not the world I expected.”

- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Saturday 22 August 2009

Under my umbrella-ella-ella

Thanks to my wonderful musical friends for the perfect SingStar birthday party.

Friday 24 July 2009

I was always here to catch you

Life is getting pretty wonderful for me now. I smile most of the time and it's not just me hoping to become what I pretend to be anymore. The good days vastly out-number the bad ones. The bad ones aren't even days but more like hours.

Love... today I thought about what it is and realised that I don't really believe in it anymore. There are words like "forever" and "completely" and "passion" and "pain" that I have used so often and with so much faith and sincerity. There is doubt now.

Maybe love is just chemicals and lies that our brains tell us so we will have babies with some person.

If you know me well, you'll have heard me declare how much I love Love :) Loudly. Proudly. Often. But not now. It's not real. It's Sweet Valley High programming. It's for others. It's not real which is why it doesn't last... it was never there.

People are awesome! I haven't lost my faith in humanity. I still have to change the world.

This doesn't mean I'm spiraling in to another sad phase. That's just not me at the moment. I am happy and in a way that stays and lasts. Love... I just don't believe it's worth too much anymore.

Saturday 11 July 2009

TTFN Darwin, I love ya!

With 48 hours left in Darwin, it's starting to register what difference this trip has made to my life. Normally, you'll hear me talking about having ups and downs but that's not a song I will be singing in this post. Visiting Darwin and my wonderful family has turned so much around for me. Don't worry, it won't turn back around on returning to Sydney. It's more of a turning point and the beginning of a new journey. A new road but not in a Comac McCarthy way :)

I read a book called Sunshine earlier this year in my current quest to read all the vampire click lit on the planet. The main character was recharged by sunshine. It was like her life force. That makes sense for all living things. For this tropical girl (me), the warmth of Darwin has healed me after a dark 6 months of winter. It's been wonderful and I recommend a visit to this beautiful, relaxed city some time in your near future.

There have been many nights hanging out with family playing board games, playing SingStar and discussing everything from the merits of chocolate to the existentialist implied responsibilities of every person to every other human being.

We've done all sorts of touristy things and stuff that I once did when I was a local. We've shopped like you wouldn't believe unless you try to carry one of my suitcases down my Mum's stairs. Nights of explosive fireworks fun to chillaxing over the water with seafood and a glass of wine while watching the red moon rise.

I feel ok about leaving and not sad because this is a great place to come back to and I will return. Thanks for everyone who has made this such a great trip.

Monday 6 July 2009

Bollywood He-Man

Picasso paints with light

In 1949, Picasso painted in light for Life magazine. I've never seen the pictures before. They are beautiful and look just like his art. I had to share it.

A beautiful broken place

There are many things that are important to me that have been neglected in the last few years. One of those things is learning about the way that other people live and understanding the challenges that we all face day to day.

This evening, my mother received a worrying call from our family in Papua New Guinea about a sick family member. I'm not here to talk about that person as it is a personal story owned by them but it did start a revealing conversation with my family here in Darwin.

It started as we sat around the dining table and I probed and questioned what my home land is now like and why everything seems so broken there. My family visit there often and are always in touch with what is going on. As for me, I have not visited the country I was born in since 1997. A lot of it was to do with the fact that I was discouraged by my partner at the time to reject that side of me but I honestly can't blame anyone for the neglect and lack of knowledge. This is something I want to rectify from now on.

Papua New Guinea is an amazing country with a rich history, beautiful varying terrain and 4+ million inhabitants with thousands of languages and different different cultures. The latter is what makes the turmoil currently occurring there, a little easier to understand. At least after an explanation from people who have been watching it happen since before PNG independence.

The health system is a mess. Medication imported for use in hospitals is stolen and turns up in chemists or on the black market. Doctors send people home to die knowing that they can not do anything to help since basic equipment and medication aren't available. There is a ward in a Port Moresby hospital and if you are admitted there then they have decided you are going to die. It isn't that the doctors and medical staff don't want to help but more that they simply can't at that point. People fear hospitals because if a condition is bad enough to send you to hospital then it means you will go in and never come out.

A friend of our family has cancer and is slowly and painfully waiting to die because there is no cancer treatment in PNG. His family once spent a whole night driving around just to find some Panadol for him to take since there was nothing else they can do.

Of course, this is all based on stories I hear from different people. I'm unable to confirm it without visiting myself and seeing it first hand but this sure has made me want to. Take it all with a grain of salt. This is something I want to see for myself and understand. I want to know why there is so much corruption in a country that takes one quarter of the aid budget of Australia each year. Where is the money going? Why are resources being squandered?

Everyone is aware of the problems being experienced by African nations but we seem to be ignorant of the problems in our own backyard. Is the South Pacific falling apart right under our noses? I've been ignorant and I want to find out more.

Stay tuned.

Me as a lolcat...

It took a while

Those of you who read this blog have been on the rollercoaster journey of the last six months with me. It's been bad and it's been good. Today was a turning point of great importance and joy.

This morning I woke up to a text from my lovely sister asking if we were still on for our proposed trip to Crocosaurus Cove. My instant response was "Absolutely!"

This may sound like a normal answer to a normal question, on a normal Sunday but it is as different a moment as I could manage without walking around upside down and naked.

Today was the first day that I got up and got out of bed without forcing myself to. I didn’t have to say “Get up and move, Damana” this time. Instead, I felt I wanted to.

It has been well over 2 years since I can remember thinking that way at all.

I am sure there will be other bad days but today was a turning point. Tonight I sit here listening to John Hiatt singing “Have a little faith in me” and thanking all of you for having a little in faith in me. I wasn’t sure I’d ever make it to this day and I love you all for helping me get here.

Smile. I am now :o)

See pictures of today's adventure here.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Mum and the Shoe

Mum: "Mana, I used your shoe."

Me: "Just one shoe?"

Mum: "Well that's all I needed to kill the spider."

Tristram and Chiara

This week, my soon to be ex-brother-in-law Tristram and an old friend Chiara are going to get married. They are a lovely couple and will be perfect together. Giles and his whole family have gone to their wedding in Italy. I always imagined I'd be celebrating that fabulous moment with them but I am left behind.

I wonder if Giles will sit there and listen to their vows and smirk at how they meant nothing to him.

If you fall in love and you get married, remember that forever is just that. There are good times and bad times. You work on being there for eachother and remember the love that ignited it all. Don't make promises you can't keep. These are not just words. They are a binding vow.

In sickness and in health.

I'll smile as I think of those two lovely people tying the knot. They deserve a happy life with beautiful children. I wish them all the joy in the world.

Friday 26 June 2009

Remember the time

On Twitter and Facebook, people are saying RIP Michael Jackson but I have nothing to say. There doesn't really seem to be a good way to express how shocked and sad I am about the King of Pop dying.

It's hard to explain to people who didn't grow up from day zero with Michael Jackson's music as a soundtrack to their lives, what impact he actually had. Unfortunately, most people only really remember his HIStory album and the crazy antics, operations and law suits to follow. To be honest, I don't remember him fondly after those events.

The important thing is to separate the man from the music. The music is the soundtrack of my life. At least the years as I was growing up.

My Mum used to play ABC by the Jackson 5, when we were learning to walk. My sister and I continued to dance to the Jackson 5 during our jazz ballet lessons, for years. We listened as we learned to moonwalk.

My family is still friends with the family that lived next door to us in 1984 when we first watched Thriller on TV.

BAD gave me the song Man In The Mirror, which is a song that told me how to do my bit to change the world. I still listen to it regularly.

HIStory was the round-up of that era for me. Black or White was the last song of his I loved and I still know every single word to it.

Today is a sad day. The end of an amazingly talented life.

Wednesday 24 June 2009


Taking 3 months off work has given me a lot of time. At first, I thought I'd fill that time to the brim with productive things. Make the most of my time off. Have a lengthy running list of all the useful stuff I had done over that time. Then I stopped.

The first 2.5 weeks of my leave of absence from work was spent sleeping and getting every possible virus going around. Apparently this happens when you stop running on adrenaline and slow your life down - your poor body crashes. Hopefully it only crashes and doesn't burn. In my case this was just a speedbump. Within no time, I was sleeping 8+ hours and eating regularly. With exercise and a conscious effort to slow my life down, things are starting to look up.

Who would have thought that slowing down was going to be so difficult?

It is difficult. It is hard. Stopping and taking the time to be mindful.

Meditation is helping. Leaving my normal environment and visiting supportive people has been encouraging.

What do I miss now?

I miss doing technical stuff - writing code and talking about technology and design.
I miss my kittehs - still in Sydney doing some human-sitting with a friend.
I miss my clothes - but I'm buying some great tropical stuff up here.

Life is wonderful.

Monday 15 June 2009

Distrubing window display

There is a shop that sells textiles (I think) in Surry Hills called Bird. A few nights ago, I walked passed it and was quite thrown by it's window display. It makes me not want to go in there at all, ever.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Why I am taking a leave of absence

After hearing gossip from work and rumours amongst friends, I thought I might as well explicitly state why I have chosen to take a leave of absence from work.

Firstly, it was my choice. It was not something that was pushed on to me by anyone. It was not an alternative to being fired. That is a load of utter rubbish and anyone who knows me, knows that. Those kinds of rumours might be wishful thinking on the part of people who won't miss having me around. Sorry to disappoint :)

2009 has been a year of downs and downs and downs but it is finally looking up.

My marriage ended after 11.5 years together. I didn't cope well with that. I'm coping better now.

It was time to slow my life down and actually work out who the hell I am as a person, on my own. I have a pretty good idea and am heading in the right direction now.

It was time to stop trying to juggle the stresses of life, work and health and stop letting others and myself down. I'm prioritising health now. Connecting with my good friends and my lovely family is a close second.

Life has been moving at one hundred miles an hour since I left university, or even before that. It's not time to go out with a bang. Burning out is not taken seriously in our industry. It's simply time to breathe and find my stride again.

After such a long time, I am happy again :)

Sunday 19 April 2009

Surry Hills Festival 2009

Mum and I spent an hour or so at the Surry Hills Festival on Saturday. We bought bags, ate corn and took lots of pictures. Here are some now...

The licorice man

Aweome wind chime things

Mum with lunch

A strange stand that sold only roman stuff

A beautiful wall. I like walls

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Writing it down

Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go to write it down, and either you over dramatize it or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want to.

-- Sylvia Plath

Sunday 12 April 2009

My latest Happy paintings

My friend Claudia told me that I am a big tree that has been growing in a small pot. Now my pot has broken and I have more room to grow and be beautiful.

That is what inspired this painting.

I painted this flower painting, while my Mum painted hers. She's amazing. Stay tuned for her paintings soon.

This will be my last word painting. I'm happy now :)

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Love Letter

I received a love letter from members of my project team :) It came with this great photo. I love 'em back. Thanks!!

Sunday 5 April 2009

Someday You Will Be Loved

I think this song is for me.


I once knew a girl
In the years of my youth
With eyes like the summer
All beauty and truth
In the morning I fled
Left a note and it read
Someday you will be loved.

I cannot pretend that I felt any regret
Cause each broken heart will eventually mend
As the blood runs red down the needle and thread
Someday you will be loved

You'll be loved you'll be loved
Like you never have known
The memories of me
Will seem more like bad dreams
Just a series of blurs
Like I never occurred
Someday you will be loved

You may feel alone when you're falling asleep
And everytime tears roll down your cheeks
But I know your heart belongs to someone you've yet to meet
Someday you will be loved

You'll be loved you'll be loved
Like you never have known
The memories of me
Will seem more like bad dreams
Just a series of blurs
Like I never occurred
Someday you will be loved

You'll be loved you'll be loved
Like you never have known
The memories of me
Will seem more like bad dreams
Just a series of blurs
Like I never occurred
Someday you will be loved
Someday you will be loved

Saturday 4 April 2009

My colours

InĂªs gave me homework to paint an abstract painting of myself with MY colours. I don't know if this is what she meant but I like this painting. It's my favourite of late. I think I will hang it on a wall.


I went on a painting spree last night. It's all about words at the moment. Trying to get positive feelings out of words that represent feelings that don't feel so good at the moment. Does that even make any sense? Ahh, just look at the pictures :)

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Blister in the Sun

I'm proud of myself. Today was a tough day. I got up when the alarm went off, I got ready and went to work after 8 days off. It was a good day with lots of people, adventures, reading and music.

This has been a good week too. Since last Thursday, I've been going to the gym and seeing a personal trainer. I've thrown up twice from three training sessions and am doing more strenuous exercise than I think I have ever done in my life. My body thinks it's being tortured but the consequence is days filled with energy, remembering to eat again and smiling. It's been a while.

Tonight, I saw a movie called Confessions of a Shopaholic. It is possibly the worst movie I have ever seen in my life and this includes all the Brandon Lee ones. I could argue it was the poor acting of Isla Fisher or the try-too-hard-to-be Sex and the City but in all honesty, it was the fact that the only way a woman could communicate financial news to other women was to use shoe analogies. It was condescending boy-meets-girl, girl-goes-shopping, boy-sees-depth-in-girl, girl-goes-shopping, boy-realises-he-was-wrong, girl-goes-shopping, boy-falls-in-love-with-girl-anyway-cos-she's-pretty crap. Don't go see it. Don't borrow it on DVD. You won't get those two hours of your life back.

I like chick-lit, don't get me wrong. I read the entire Twilight series in a couple of weeks and that was just a gateway drug to more vampire chick-lit which is quite well written - much better in fact than a lot of sci-fi fantasy pulp. This guy I know made a reference to Mary Sues when talking about these types of books. If you haven't heard of it, it's a slightly elitist term used to describe characters or a world in a book whose primary function is to serve as wish-fullfilment for the readers and authors.

"In a possibly unique case Andor in The Wheel of Time series borders on a fuedal sue-topia at times. Nobels are all noble and deeply care about the welfare of their people. The peasents all love them. And there's almost no poverty despite lots of money being poured into castles, palaces and personal armies."

Personally, there is nothing wrong with this sort of thing. Not every story has to be a literary masterpiece. Not all characters have to teach you a noble lesson or be a rogue of an anti-hero. Don't we read books and watch movies as a form of escapism? I certainly do.

At one of the happier points in my life, I was obsessed with books based in post-apocalyptic worlds. At the time of heartbreak, I've needed books with tales of endless love and recovered hope. We escape. We don't go in to fiction to search for our souls. We wander in to join the adventure and be lost in the tale.

I guess this rant is really about the fact that no matter what people say about your tastes and who you are, don't listen too hard. Like what you like. Be who you are. Read and watch whatever you like from classics to pulp fiction and be honest if you see no difference.

Life is wonderful but escape it however you choose. I'll respect you for that.