Here is the second poem from ‘Autumn Haze’ — this is “Hearts at Half Mast”.

“Hearts at Half Mast”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Let’s bond as a family, with our smartphones in check,
Eyes fixed on the television, in public we shall forget.
The elders converse with their hearts at half mast,
Exhausted from keeping the week afloat — now with some freedom at last.

Sit by yourself sweet miss, your loneliness is palpable,
Can I give you a hug or will that make me culpable?
Do you believe I feel sorrow in the wake of your solace,
How charmed or lonely I am, awake in my empty bodice.

Bond, bond, and bond, we must,
We despise each other, but in blood we must love.
Sing to me child, show me your prowess,
Other than that, be gone, but remember to stay the dourest.

I wrote this poem after seeing a family having breakfast in a restaurant, and adjacent to their table was a woman having a meal on her own. Both “parties” seemed equally isolated in that specific moment, though ironically, I only felt sorry for the woman, irrespective of whether my intuition told me that everyone at the group table was alone too.

I really appreciate you taking some time out of your day to read some of my work. The next poem in the series, which is quite possibly the most sensual poem in the series, is called “Knife Party” and will be published on the site at 12h00 GMT+2 on Friday the 19th of April.

You can learn more about the ‘Autumn Haze‘ anthology over here and if you’re curious about the first poem in the series, you can read it over here. I welcome your feedback via social media or the contact section anytime you feel like reaching out.

– Conrad was here.

Embarking on a 50 day challenge to start healing my tricky relationship with food.

I’ve always had a tricky relationship with food — it’s usually been more of an emotional crutch, because I’ve never really learned how to cook and usually tend to go for more efficient food options, rather than making the most nutritious choices.

If it was up to me, I’d swallow a pill every morning that would give me all the nutrition I need in one go, but I’ve recently become more aware of how much food brings people together, creates joy, and is at the heart of communities around the world. Considering my plans to travel for the rest of the year, I’d love to be able to explore more types of foods and traditional dishes from cultures other than my own and it’s time to get out of my comfort zone a bit.

Tomorrow, I’m starting a 50 day personal challenge to start working on adjusting (or healing) my relationship with food. My goal is to reconnect with food as a source of nourishment, something to enjoy and quite frankly, to be grateful for.

I stumbled onto a TedTalk about this topic after doing a basic Google search earlier today and I was happy to find out that I’m not alone in the struggle. The talk was hosted by dietitian Eve Lahijani, and included the following tips, which I’ve tweaked slightly to fit my lifestyle, and incorporated into the challenge:

  • Reconnect with your hunger. Eat only when you’re hungry, not out of boredom, stress, or just because it is available. Do so when you first get hungry, not when you’re already ravenous.
  • Feed what your body is craving. Go with your instincts about what your body is asking for, which requires you to tune into your feelings. I think this will be particularly useful to me during my morning meditations.
  • Try not to use food as a reward or punishment. I’m a pro at this, and will need to be extra mindful of this. Mostly, my rewards are sugar heavy and I’ve gone down the sugar rabbit hole far too many times for my own liking.
  • Don’t punish yourself for bad days. It happens, carry on.

Over and above this, I also have two additional resources in my corner that found their way to me today, which I’ll also be incorporating into the challenge.

The first, is the latest episode of the Spiritual Gayz podcast. Angel and Brandon discuss the importance of ritual, and especially so when you’re working on healing some or other aspect of yourself. From listening to the show, I’ve decided to work a small mantra into my morning routine, a ritual of sorts, where I’ll start my morning with a simple sentence: commit to feeding yourself with love today. It’s as simple as that.

The final resource I’ll be utilizing along this journey, is a Masterclass I found today, which is hosted by Thomas Keller. From just the first lecture, it’s clear that he will be delving into the very basics of cooking, even to the point of discussing which kitchen utensils are best to use and how to prepare before you even start preparing a meal. It’s very clear to me that I need this in my life! I’ve decided I’ll be doing one class a day for the next month and I believe it’s also a nice way to easy myself into it, soaking up each lesson and practicing some of the lessons, rather than binging them all in a single sitting.

As I mentioned at the start of the article, I have never learned how to cook, and have always had a “get it done and move on” attitude towards my own nourishment, but perhaps, as part of my self care journey, and just generally wanting to lead a more healthy lifestyle, which protects the one body I’ve been gifted with to live this life through, it’s time for me to take my relationship with food to a new level. Today brought me a couple of signs and I’m excited to see what the challenge does to my energy levels, mental health and frankly put, my general enjoyment when it comes to food.

I’ll be sure to document some of the journey on the blog, and feel free to get in touch if you have any tips, suggestions or resources. The challenge will wrap up on June 1st, and I’ll be sure to share my results and learnings with you on the blog, so stick around for that over the next couple of weeks.

– Conrad was here.

A space to write, a space to type, a space to sleep.

I recently started what I call a six month “flow experiment” — essentially, the beginning of an opportunity to embrace change, learn to be more open to flexibility, practice patience, and generally to just see “where to wind blows me” for the rest of 2019. It sounds very fancy and like I’m playing the lead role in an indie movie, but in reality, it’s all kinda daunting and overwhelming. A couple of things have led me to this interesting point in my life, which I felt like writing about today.

In December I decided that I wanted to quit my full-time job, in order to primarily focus on my own business again. Running a business while working full-time is no joke, and my mental health definitely took a knock as a result of the stress from doing this. Delve 6 will also be turning three this coming September (it’s hard to believe it’s been a part of my life for such a long time already), so what better time to give it a proper bash, to see who I get to meet through taking on new creative projects and quite frankly, to enjoy myself along the way. It’s taken some time, a lot of lessons, and a lot of work, but I’ve certainly fallen back in love with the idea of taking it to new heights over the last couple of months.

If marketing is the main course to my life, writing can only be referred to as the dessert. Along with the decision to quit my full-time job, came the realisation that it was time for me to pursue a long lingering dream of being a published author. Some of you may have already seen that I’ve started rolling out my first poetry anthology, and I also entered my first writing competition earlier this year. Writing is something that brings me a tremendous amount of joy, mental clarity, balance and gives me the freedom to express myself in a way that provides various perspectives on my own life, feelings and decisions. It is the kind of skill that helps in all avenues of my life and one of the biggest blessings of the year so far has been the ability to write (or scribble) each and every day so far.

The last new piece of the flow puzzle is that I’m travelling from South Africa to Brazil at the start of June, and will be staying in South America for at least a month. It’s time to get out of my comfort zone and out of the bubble a little bit. I’ve been looking forward to travelling for a very long time, and finally decided to take the plunge and buy my ticket. This will be the first time I’ll travel alone as an adult (would you believe) but thankfully I’m meeting up with my partner in São Paulo, which should make it an easier (and a more exciting) trip as a whole. On a more practical front, I’m currently taking Portuguese lessons every day (I’m about four weeks in), which I’m sure will also help to amplify the experience to an extent. Something I wasn’t initially aware of was that South African passport holders can stay in Brazil for up top 90 days without a visa, which is pretty amazing, so my ticket back is flexible at this point, and I’ll see how things go, and assess my next move as and when the time comes for me to do so.

In general, all three of these new pieces of the puzzle constitute quite an uncertain whole… and certainly brings a fair share of excitement and anxiety along with it. I do like to overthink most things, and when I caught myself starting to question my decisions, I wrote the following down as a gentle reminder of, quite simply, the only three things I really need to be concerned about for the next six months:

A space to write. A space to type. A space to sleep.

It can really be as simple as that and well… it is. This, and entering into each of the days ahead being both brave and afraid at the same time, something which has become somewhat of a life mantra for me. Who knows which adventures await me between now and the end of September, but the time has come to close my eyes, jump and see where it all takes me.

– Conrad was here.

This is the first piece of work from ‘Autumn Haze’ — here is “Yanked”.

“Yanked”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Yanked against my will,
Towards a life I never wanted.
You asked me to be still,
Forget a childhood of enchantment.

A distant memory lurks, but I’m with family now,
You are what I wanted… we knew each other so well.
Untainted by your words and passions somehow,
Behind the shades, behind the façade, your self lurks with a story to tell.

The cup is unrefined, it’s still early, you’ll see,
Fill your well with all the wishes and the things you mean to me.
For the universe knows how to send you a dream,
Perhaps it’s more about your needs, despite what you will not see.

I initially planned to attach a visual and short description to each poem, but have since changed my mind, as I believe poetry is largely an experience of personal interpretation, and I’d like to avoid influencing the way you experience my writing and the full anthology. I’m happy to chat about it if you’d like to reach out to me privately. Speaking of the anthology — you can learn more about ‘Autumn Haze‘ and the publishing plan for it over here.

The next poem in the series is titled “Hearts at Half Mast” (no, it’s not a country song, well, yet) and will go live on the site at 12h00 GMT+2 on Friday the 12th of April. See you then?

– Conrad was here.

I’m publishing my first anthology, ‘Autumn Haze’.

Earlier this week, I got some good news about “Roaming”, a poem I wrote about the life and career of the legendary Whitney Houston, which came in third place in the first writing competition I entered. The poem (quite surprisingly) was read by over 1,100 people on Instagram, which gave me the confidence to start thinking about how I want to start sharing some more of my work. So here we are!

At the start of March, I wrote a bundle of poems under the anthology title of ‘Autumn Haze‘. I called it this for a variety of reasons. Firstly, as a symbol of the changing of the season and the birth of autumn (which runs from the end of March to the middle of June in the Southern Hemisphere). “Haze”, however, also refers to a traditional definition relating to an initiation of sorts, highlighting the ushering in of a new personal journey, the closing of a chapter, and my path into a career as a writer. The poems are deeply personal, were written in a very short space of time, and have only been shared with my partner so far. This will be the first time this work gets seen by anyone else, and I’d really like to invite you along for the ride if you felt connected to my poem about Whitney in any way.

So here’s the deal: between now and Friday the 21st of June, I will be publishing the full anthology, one poem at a time, every Friday, at 12h00 GMT+2. Each poem will be accompanied by a short context paragraph, to give you an idea of what it was inspired from, but the overall interpretation, as with all poetry, remains with you as the reader.

It will also be accompanied by a photograph I have taken in my self care journey so far, which started when this blog was launched in June 2018. Each post will also contain the title of the next poem in the series, to give you a taste of what is to come the following Friday, and I may even be dropping some hints as to what it is about in the week before, depending on how I feel on the day. The anthology will be published in full on the blog by Friday the 28th of June.

It would be wonderful to have you along for the ride. This is my first time doing something like this, so I’d welcome any feedback on any of the works, and would like to make you a part of the journey. Oh yes, before I forget! The title of the first poem, which will be published right here on Friday the 5th of April at 12h00 GMT+2, is “Yanked“. I’ll leave you to get imaginative about the inspiration behind it.

– Conrad was here.

Rest easy, beautiful. You’ve left a lesson or two behind.

I recently entered my first writing competition, hosted by Writing Tips. They share writing tips every day to an audience of over 40 000 followers and their goal is to help fellow writers like myself out with various nuggets of advice. I wanted to share my entry with you today. The challenge was to submit something based on a single keyword: adrenaline. This was the first English poem I wrote this year, so it’s extra special to me in that sense as well. I’d love to hear from you if it evokes any kind of reaction or feeling in you.

I’ve written a poem, inspired by music legend Whitney Houston. Her life had so many ups and downs, her career was truly adrenaline filled, but when you dig a little deeper, there is an innocence to who she really was. The poem is a eulogy of sorts, which I was inspired to write after learning more about her life in a documentary.

It reminded me that we’re all human, with our own dreams and wishes, and that success doesn’t always guarantee personal fulfilment. I hope you enjoy it.

“Roaming”
by Conrad Schwellnus

She wandered the earth, an angel,
Broken by a spirit of trust —
Commanding the masses,
But carry her family, she absolutely must.

In her meandering, she fumbles, she’s done —
But where were the coin smugglers in your troubled days?
I weep for you, Ms. Houston, roaming even in death,
A legacy of a ghost, but a human being like the rest.

Sing for me Nippy, lament the pop monster —
When did the people start to let you down?
Did you need to be held, need to be fed —
Your emotions on fire, sacrificed for what others did and said.

I will extend myself inward,
I will always love me…
You remind me of my pitfalls,
Drawn into the ashes by a wave of echoed calls.

You remind me to be gentle,
You encourage me to be kind —
Rest easy, beautiful.
You’ve left a lesson or two behind.

Update: I have just been told that my entry came in third place in the competition, which is a wonderful honour. Thank you to the judges for believing in my work and for sharing my piece with their community.

– Conrad was here.

You are worthy of a full experience of all the emotions life has to offer.

Below is a journal entry I wrote on the 12th of December 2018, the day I resigned from my job, having made a decision to pursue a new career as a writer. I stumbled onto the text recently, and three months later, on the verge of starting this new chapter from April 1st, I felt inspired to share what I had written on that day while I sat in a coffee shop over lunch.

Hello, writer! Here you are. You’re giving this thing a go. Embrace it. Go in knowing you can (and will) fail at some point, but it’s all about how you pick yourself up, how you respond, and how you remain resilient within the decision you’ve made for yourself.

You have had a lot on your place these past six months, but you have made it this far. Well done. With a bit of luck, and encouragement from the universe, you will go where you would like to go. Remind yourself of your goal on a regular basis. Remember that you are doing this to meet and connect with as many different people from as many walks of life as possible. This is something that is of the utmost importance to you at this stage.

That particular notion should not, however, apply exclusively to your career. This decision is all about finding new avenues for connection. Where are there avenues for you to connect with people through your words? TSOL (The School of Life), blogging, short stories, songwriting, speech writing… the list in endless, really. Start by paying it forward. The appropriate opportunities will come your way naturally. You have asked the universe for it already. Trust your abilities. Trust that this is the right thing for you.

Remember to keep practicing being your authentic self in the months ahead. Prepare yourself for what is to come. There are many things for you to continue to say no to. A job or any client work that isn’t intrinsically satisfying. Self interested people. Parental notions of who I am supposed to be. Dates which feel too familiar (leave if you need to!). Anxious attachment. Pleasing others over and above taking care of myself. Trying to fit a specific mould based on who I believe myself to be. Excess! Perfection. The idea of what being a writer is and will be. A romantic notion that it won’t be long hours of hard work. Don’t kid yourself and stay on course, dude.

One second at a time, Conrad. Things are already happening. Embrace the change. You know what you don’t want, which is a great place to start from. The freedom of being accountable to your own time is going to make all the difference, as daunting as it may be. Do whatever it takes. You are taking a risk, but you have a great opportunity to succeed too.

Good luck to you, good sir. Remember that you are worthy of a full experience of all the emotions life has to offer.

– Conrad was here.

I don’t have all the answers right now, but also, it’s OK that I don’t need to have all the answers.

I’m a self professed control freak. That much anybody who knows me, will know all to well. I used to write five year plans rather rigorously, something I’ve mentioned on the blog before, though I’m happy to report that those days have come and gone.

It does however take a lot of effort to stop myself from rigorous organisation, persistent faffing about “the little things”, and generally, trying to control the direction my life is heading in. It was a lot worse when I was younger, but thankfully these days I’m more self aware, so it does become somewhat easier to spot and navigate accordingly. Naturally, there are still obvious challenges, especially ahead of big changes, like the career change I’m entering into, the closing of chapters in general, and starting to look toward the next phase of my life.

About a year ago, I was set up with a coach, as part of the National Mentorship Movement program in South Africa. I have enjoyed working with her so much, that we’ve continued our relationship and monthly sessions outside of the prescribed sessions from the NMM. In the most recent session, she made an interesting remark, that made my ears perk up a bit (and that I scribbled down right away):

The more stable you can get in this belief of flow and ease, and inspired action, the more it’s going to become stable for you.

What we had been talking about, was how introducing more ease and flow into my life had already made me a lot happier and less anxious, how new opportunities had slowly started to present themselves, and how detrimental rigorous checklists and planning have been to my mental health over the years. It was an important realisation for me. She was encouraging that I should rather look at the items I want to get to in a given day — the ones I am pulled towards — rather than looking at what I need to get to in robotic fashion, while also remaining open to the emergence of spontaneous opportunities to have some fun during the day.

This means, that it’s OK to take a 15 minute break once you’ve completed a big task, to go have a chat with a colleague about how their daughter did in yesterday’s swim meet, as it provides an unforeseen opportunity not only to connect with others, but to possibly learn something in the process too. The universe works in our favour when we swim with the tide (unintentional swimming pun, I promise), adjusting and adapting where necessary, rather than attempting to make everything happen the way we think it should be happening.

I often have to remind myself that, as hard at it may be to believe, the world is not out to get me and I don’t have to do everything based on my idea of what’s correct and right for me. If that was the case, we would all be making a myriad of absolutely stupid decisions all the time. Just today, I’ve made a few of those already, which I can thankfully laugh about and move on from.

What brings it home for me, is that everything is actually always “working out for me” (or working in our favour) in a weird and wonderful way, although it may sometimes be very slowly, painfully and in a way that can be hard to comprehend or come to terms with. When my self talk realises this, and “claps back” by throwing anxiety at me for living outside my false sense of control, I now make a point to respond that I don’t have the answers right now, but also, that it’s OK that I don’t need to have all the answers. This usually helps soothe the soul just a little bit and perhaps it will help you too. It has taken a while to get to this point, but I am happy we are here.

– Conrad was here.

 

 

A gentle reminder from a friend to practice being a better listener (and yes, it requires some work on my part).

I was in conversation with two of my closest friends yesterday, and while I usually don’t face too many pushbacks (well, talking back) in the conversations I have with people, this particular time was a bit different. My one friend started a story, which she had told me privately before, and I interjected right away, changing the topic and essentially, diverting the attention back to myself. I was in no mood to waste her time, or mine.

Our other friend who was there subsequently interjected me mid-sentence, reminding me that she actually wanted to hear the story, and that I should remember that within our friendship group it is good to ‘share the floor’ from time to time. Ouch. “We all give each other time to tell our stories and share,” she said very calmly and patiently, but naturally, this made me realise that I may be in a phase where I am diverting a lot of attention back towards myself. I immediately recalled a few recent conversations where I had changed the topic and rattled off about my own life — perhaps an after effect of the underlying (subtle) anxiety I am feeling about the changes in my career, or perhaps, I’m just going through a phase of being more self absorbed than usual. This is something I work hard to keep in check, but I’ll leave those thoughts for my therapist’s office.

What struck me the most from reflecting on this particular incident was, in fact, a realisation of what a good listener this friend who interjected me was. Out of all my marble jar friends (people who keep adding to the trust jar, according to Brene Brown) she is perhaps the one who I know the “least” about in the conventional sense. She is the one who I haven’t heard as much about her past, or perhaps, who usually is an ear to me and others, rather than being someone who is allowed to lean on her friends 50/50. I think both parties have to acknowledge when this happens, whether that is in a friendship or a relationship, gradually adjusting and working harder to steer the ship out of the rumble strip.

Upon further reflection I realised that in most of my close relationships, I have recently started to veer more into a direction of voicing an opinion loudly and in somewhat of a steamrolling fashion, rather than sitting back, and practicing the art (and skill) of active listening. I’ve also experienced this in a new relationship I have entered into, where often, I find myself interjecting during his stories, and I am trying to be more mindful of this, as, in fact, we are still getting to know each other and I like hearing more about his life and world view.

So how do you become a better listener? As I’ve mentioned, I believe that it is a practiced skill. The first step, is not interrupting someone when they are speaking. This can be hard, especially if you’re addressing a fairly stimulating topic, or one that you may feel you have some kind of expertise in. I find myself feeling like I know a little bit about everything, well… all the time. It’s not always a good look for the people around me and it is somewhat of a source of shame for me. What I’ve learned, through the teachings of other philosophers and motivational speakers, is that it’s all about becoming the learner, not the knowerYou cannot possibly believe that you know a little bit about everything, or even a lot about anything. If you approach every conversation armed with an idea that you want to learn something, rather than forcing your opinion, you’ll not only learn more, but in my experience, you also find that you will be asked your opinion a lot more as well.

By paying attention through active listening, you also pick up on the finer details of what someone is saying: essentially, you listen to understand. This implies hearing what the person is saying on the surface, and what they may actually be saying. “You need to practice listening more to others” is a direct message to me, of course, but viewed differently, I pondered whether perhaps this friend of mine wasn’t feeling heard in our friendship (or group), and that she may also be longing to have her opinion heard more, be it because of this particular aspect of her life, work or even her home life. So, the next time someone says something to you, better yet, the next time someone says something malevolent to you, take a second to consider that it could in fact be hiding some sort of a deeper issue they could be working through. I don’t think this was necessarily the case with my friend, who wasn’t malevolent in her approach, but we all face people in our days who do make it a bit harder to express their opinions with kindness and empathy.

Actively listening to someone else when they are spending time with you, and holding back on giving your opinion until they have expressed themselves is a courtesy that I like to compare to an old African proverb I read about once, which essentially says “I see you — I am here”. I want all the people in my inner circle (and even just those acquaintances who pop in and out of your life) to feel seen, and to believe that I am there with them and present in the moment. This is at the core of true connection for me, and a skill that I definitely could do with practicing a little bit more. So here’s my goal for the next few weeks: sit back, and listen to the stories of others. Take note of what they’re saying, and what they’re implying by what they’re saying. Enjoying learning from others. Remember that you are not the centre of the universe, and that we all have something to teach each other. I’ll be sure to report back on how this went in a future blog post, not because I’m trying to be fancy, but because I realise I need to be held accountable too. I’m really thankful to my friend for reminding me to be a better listener, and in essence, it has allowed us to connect on a deeper level. It also never hurts to have somebody spill some truth tea on you, especially if it is someone who you respect and value. I’m grateful for the reminder.

– Conrad was here.

 

 

 

 

Do you believe that we are receiving day-to-day guidance from the universe?

Do you believe that we are receiving day-to-day guidance from the universe? I have a story to share from last week which I would love to hear your thoughts on.

On Monday, I was distracted on my way to an appointment, and I drove into another car — a Mercedes Benz, in fact, and the couple I dealt with at least showed me some kindness as they could tell I was a little frazzled. The grill of my car was damaged by their tow bar, and after a day of moping, I decided to stop to have it checked out. I was feeling very deflated, and upset with myself for not paying enough attention on the road, but I was told by my friends to try be gentle, and that these things happen.

When they opened my car bonnet to check if there was any damage to my engine, they discovered a rats nest of all things: we’re talking about hay, plastic & fur all over my engine, with the plastic already melting onto the engine. I had been ignoring the distinct burning smell while driving for the previous day, hoping I was imagining things and being fairly in denial I guess. I live on a ranch, so this isn’t uncommon for this to happen (although this had never happened to me before), but had I not had the accident, I would not have spotted this nest for at least a few weeks. I was told three things could have happened: (1) a fire could have started, destroying the engine (2) the rat could have chewed through my brake cable or (3) apparently they chew through your airbag cables too, so you may be driving over a speed bump, and your airbag will deploy spontaneously, causing serious injury in most cases. It gave me a lot to think about.

Essentially, I was gently guided from a bad situation (on the surface), into one that was in fact a ‘positive’ experience of sorts. I felt looked out for in a way. I was thankful that I had had the accident with minimal damage, as it led to me checking the bonnet sooner rather than later. I just cannot believe that this was a coincidence. So I ask again, do you believe that at times we are being guided by the universe?

Needless to say I will be keeping an eye under my car bonnet for a little while in case the pesky rat (who is in actual fact rather cheeky and entrepreneurial, if you think about it differently!) makes a reappearance.

– Conrad was here.