Which of your needs are being met by the creative projects you take on?

I’m starting to think about this question a lot. Like, losing sleep a lot.

Over the last few months, I’ve embarked on a creative journey involving publishing my first anthology of poems, entering my first short story competition, writing more regular pieces for the website, starting a podcast and generally focusing on my creative expression. But why? Not why as in “what do you want to get out of it”, but rather why do you do it, or “what needs of yours are being met by the creative projects you take on”?

Many people find reassurance for or stimulation from personal projects through the very notion that they are creating something, they are learning something (about themselves and others), they are embarking on a process of introspection, or even just that it is helping them to develop their craft (“cultivate your competencies”, as I’ve said before). This seems rational and a logical explanation, that seems to have slipped my mind over the last few weeks.

Lately, I’ve felt a little lost with the intention behind my creativity, and feel like it is a good time to take stock of the needs being met by these projects, rather than continuing to do them for something as meager as validation, or attention, which are easy to be consumed by. It’s very easy to create something with the intention for it to be consumed, with the idea that it will bring you some kind of personal validation, but quite frankly, this can be rather hollow and meaningless, if you’re not sure about why you’re creating something to begin with. I don’t want my creativity to feel like “high churn”, I don’t want it to feel like something I have to do on a specific timeline. I’d like to create and express myself with fluidity and as we go.

I wish I had a more concrete answer to the question I am posing for you today, but I will be taking some time to reflect and write, intending to draw some new conclusions about this. All I know, is that there was very little celebration around me completing a short story for an international competition, something which, in anyone’s books, would be an achievement itself. I’m very proud of the story and proud of myself for doing so, but I didn’t stop for one second to acknowledge this and I’m not happy about that. I’ll be thinking about this, and will circle back to this topic on the blog or podcast in the coming weeks.

– Conrad was here.

What do you know with absolute certainty?

Do you have an answer to the question on hand? If not, let’s take stock together.

In the latest episode of Wellness with the Schwellnus, I discuss this topic in particular, highlighting the things that I inherently believe and how that has changed over the last year. I also encourage you to take some time to reflect on what you believe with absolute certainty and why these things are important to you.

That’s not all though. I also touch on the benefits of ASMR vs. traditional meditation, as well as reflecting on on #pridemonth and the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, reminding us of the importance of embracing minority groups with empathy and compassion.

Have a listen to the latest episode of the show, or the four episodes that came before it, over here.

– Conrad was here.

Reviewing the “Five things I know for sure on my 30th birthday” post a year later ⁠— including a new addition to the list.

A year ago I wrote a fairly popular piece called “Five things I know for sure on my 30th birthday“. If you’ve been following my journey, you’ll know that a lot has happened since I shared that article and I’ve recently been feeling curious about revisiting the content of the post, to see if I still have the same feelings I had back then, and with the idea that I’d like to take stock of where things stand, considering that I’m turning 31 in just a couple of days.

In case you also need a bit of a refresher, the list included the following points:

  1. Nothing is supposed to be any which way. I still believe this and if anything, this last year has reaffirmed the idea for me in multiple ways. Your career doesn’t have to be on a static trajectory. You don’t have to get married because everyone else is. You don’t have to feel like you’re “falling behind” because of what people project on social media. Hell, I started dating someone who lives on another continent and ended up travelling all the way there to pursue the relationship, which happens to be going very well and has given me a new perspective on the world we live in. Who said dating had to be traditional? Who says anything has to be?
  2. The rug can be pulled out from you at any time, and it will happen again and again. This is the kind of thing that will always be true. We’re a bit like seashells, constantly being swept up by the current, spat out to the shore, and drawn back into the water. We can only sit tight in the swell and wait for the comfort of the shore that follows. Something I would add to this would be to be appreciative of the days that contain minimal bother: they are the ones we should be thankful for and the ones that make the “rug pulling” more tolerable.
  3. Life’s pleasures come from the simple things. Nature, flowers, a smile, a glance, a hug… there is so much pleasure to be had from the little things and they are all around us. I’ve learned to pay better attention to it in this past year (my Instagram is a reflection of this for sure), and it is something I still believe in firmly as I approach my 31st birthday this weekend.
  4. Know yourself and stay true to that. This is something that happens over time and I think I feel a little bit differently about it now. I’d likely change it now to read Get to know yourself, and stay true to that person. I feel like I know myself a lot better since going on this self care journey and am still learning new things about myself each day. Life remains a process and a journey.
  5. Nothing is certain, except for change. There’s nothing else I can add here, except a loud ‘GUUUUURL‘ (not only cause I want to, but because I’d like to give some kind of a shout out to #Pride month too). This is something that I have to remind myself of each day, and it has become a key part of my gratitude practice. If you remind yourself that nothing is permanent each day, being thankful for what you have in this very moment becomes paramount. This runs deep in stoic and Buddhist philosophy, and is something I am learning about with a keen interest at the moment.

If I was writing this list for the first time now, I’d likely keep the same points, but I would add one more to the batch. Live with the faith that while things may get tough, your life is exactly where it is supposed to be, and is unfolding as it supposed to be. Trust in the difficult, especially because this is where you go through the most growth. Giving over and surrendering to the journey will not only reduce your anxiety, but will allow you to enjoy your days more, especially when it comes to the things in life that you hold most dear to your heart. Was that one, or three points? Regardless, I’m learning! Looking forward to revisiting this again in 2020.

– Conrad was here.

“A Fever Poetry” may well be the most introspective piece in the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology. Read it now.

“A Fever Poetry”
by Conrad Schwellnus

How are you seen, does it even really matter?
The ingredients gently mixed, into a tumbling sourdough batter.
To be successful you need to be loved, to make it out you should be liked,
A world alone that lingers, where your emotions have been spiked.

Shelf life aside, you’d do well to disregard your feelings,
Love was always what you craved, even in your primary dealings.
A time to make amends, a time to forgive and forget,
You are whole and loved, even without a sliver of regret.

How are you seen, why do you gaze into the mirror?
Never have you seen your flaws, evermore yet clearer.
Dare to coast in subtle mania, but you manage to channel it kindly,
Better to be free of it, than to shelter it benignly.

Carry all your confidence, at times false it may still be,
It’s time to give over, in vulnerability you may see —
The truth behind the glass, a fever poetry,
Did you disregard the power, in the shallow waters of the sea?

This poem poured out of me and at the time it felt like it struck quite a few chords. Initially written from the personal perspective, it was later changed to encompass a more general view of a struggle that so many people go through. I myself can take a lot from these lines, even though I will admit to not being in the most positive of headspaces when I wrote it. And yes, I considered calling it “Shallow Waters, but I didn’t want to pay Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper any subtle dust.

Next week, the third last poem from Autumn Haze will be shared, and I will be publishing it from the town of Alfenas in Brazil. If this is the first time you’re reading something from the anthology, feel free to read all of the poems in one place right over here. Looking forward to having you back next week as we bring autumn to a close and get ready for winter.

– Conrad was here.

A realisation around how we should be closing chapters, and generally try to navigate change in our lives.

My latest podcast episode might be titled like a Game of Thrones episode (it’s called “Winds of Change”), but I promise that it will contain far less theatrics and twists and turns, being dedicated solely to leaving you satisfied (sorry, GOT writers) with a few learnings around how we deal with change.

I felt a pull towards discussing change during this show, ahead of leaving my home in Cape Town and setting my sights on a longer trip to Brazil. Featuring some personal stories and a key learning around the way we deal with others (a total a-ha moment, if you ask me), the show packs a triple punch this week, also highlighting the importance of looking at how we close chapters, rather than why we do.

If you’d like to listen, there are various platforms you can choose from over here. Next episode drops in June and will be recorded in five different cities!

– Conrad was here.

I’m heading to Brazil next week to reflect, celebrate and get out of my comfort zone just a bit.

Contrary to popular belief, I won’t be going into hiding as a result of ‘Game of Thrones‘ coming to an end.

This year, I have some surprising plans for winter in the southern hemisphere, which include reflecting, celebrating and pushing myself out of my comfort zone just a little. Gently and kindly so, of course, but a push it remains.

Conrad was here is turning one year old next week (insert proud parent moment: “my baby is starting to walk”), and as part of marking the milestone, I will be flying from South Africa to Brazil, to spend some time processing everything that has happened since last year this time.

The thing is, this will be the first time I’m travelling on my own to a foreign country, which is daunting yeah, but also, incredibly exciting. At this stage, I’ve surrendered all control and and put faith in the process, to bring me whatever experiences and lessons it may. As a friend told me recently, “you can’t try to control a trip to a foreign country. It defeats the entire purpose of going”. Truth guuurl, truth. I needed to hear that.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some updates from the trip on the fourth episode of the podcast, which I will be recording early June. Posts on the site will also continue, including wrapping up of the sharing of the ‘Autumn Haze‘ anthology, and other life ponderings, as is usually the case.

I’d like to take a quick moment to say thank you to you for walking this journey with me over the past year. It has been a pleasure to have you with me for the ride, and to be able to have a platform (a voice, really) to share with people from all walks of life in different countries from around the world is truly a gift. I’ve talked about what it has done for my confidence, which is nowhere near the ditch it was living in twelve months ago. I can only be grateful for that. Here’s to seeing where the wind takes us next. Until then, remember to take things just a single day at a time.

– 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.

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.