A breeze so kindly

Softens a winters grip

Please wait with me

We can take in the sun

– Birds of Tokyo, White Leaves


Today, 1 September, marks the beginning of spring!*^ And it’s an absolute pearler.

Just don’t look at the forecast!

*In the Southern Hemisphere.

^Some may argue that seasons start at the equinox/solstice. They’re wrong. This is my blog, and I say they start on the 1st.

This turn of the calendar came to my attention when a fellow blogger posted about her plans to write 30,000 words this month. (Good luck, Lauren! 🙂) I’m not going to do that. But I would like to take the opportunity to “spring clean” myself a bit. Continue reading “Spring!”

Introducing sunshineintensifies.com!

It’s been almost two months since I dipped my toe into this blogging thing. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into – I still don’t, really!

I honestly thought I’d be out of motivation by post number ten, and this hobby would flame out like so many others. But, no! The words are still flowing, the notebook is filling with ideas and drafts, and there’s plenty more I want to share with the world.

So I’ve decided to wade in a little deeper – up to the waist, I guess! To that end, I’ve sent some money over the internets (gasp!) and upgraded this blog.

What does this mean?

I want to say a huge thank you to my online community for your support. I’ve learned so much already, and I’m convinced that this is the right thing to do. And I’ve discovered that writing is surprisingly therapeutic – which means I’m not likely to stop any time soon!

Here’s to the sunshine. Long may it intensify! ☀️

The social media lemming: Green-haired with envy

My spirit animal is the lemming.

Not the cute rodents that roam the tundra of Norway. The video game version.

1 Let's Go!
Let’s Go!

This game was my jam during my university days. I spent thousands of hours building devious puzzles and setting records for the original levels, with a modest but widespread community of like-minded rodents. My specialty was exploiting glitches in the program to make the lemmings do things that shouldn’t be lemmingly possible. Like this:

2 The Far Side
Mayhem 12: The Far Side. Yes, you’re supposed to go around the solid steel!

The game is founded on the fabricated myth that lemmings follow each other over cliffs to their death. These guys, left to their own devices, will blindly go along with their fellow rodents, even if that means falling into a bottomless pit.

Well, I’ve just done the human social media equivalent.

This should be a doddle!
3 Follow the leader
Taxing 25: Follow the leader…

I’m still new to this whole social media thing, okay? Unlike the rest of my generation who jumped in a decade ago, I held out til October last year.

I found a fantastic local community of friendly, introverted yet outgoing characters. These people do cool stuff. They inspired me to get off my backside and go out and do stuff. Lots of stuff.

Too much stuff.

It seemed so easy at first. But it turns out I was blindly walking into a trap – and a common one at that.

4 Watch out
Taxing 2: Watch out, there’s traps about
Oh no!

Don’t get me wrong – I had some great times and some amazing new experiences. But looking back, I realised I was doing things to prove to them that I could. You signed up for a 10k run? I’m there. You work out at the gym? Me too. You go out for drinks midweek? I can handle it.

You’re starting a blog? Ok, honest to god, I thought of that independently. But I couldn’t help but try to outdo you!

As I mentioned in my last post, it caught up with me.

5 there's traps about

How did I get here? Social media envy. Somewhere along the way, I went from “This sounds like a great thing to try, count me in!” to “What? Some aspect of your life is better than mine? No fair!” Inevitably, in my vain attempt to do it all, I hit the wall.

6 Better rethink your strategy
The game is trying to tell me something…
Pressing paws
7 Paws
Paws = Pause. Geddit?

Here’s the thing: There are dozens of regular contributors to this group. I’m just one guy. I can’t physically keep up.

But more than that: These people have worked hard – perhaps for years – to get to where they are. To build those friendships and relationships, to get that job, to gain that skill, to find the energy to live a busy life. And to handle their liquor of course.

There’s no way I can live out the amazing life of user123 over there. But I don’t need to. Because, guess what? I have my own life too. I’ve done other things in that time and gotten somewhere myself. I don’t know for sure, but things seem pretty good in my little corner over here.

And who’s to say their life is any “better” or “worse” than mine? Maybe user123 actually has a crappy life and only shares the good bits. You’d never know! There’s no point in comparing myself to them – I can’t even rate my own life, let alone the lives of internet people I barely know!

New strategy
8 If at first
Taxing 1: If at first you don’t succeed…

In light of this, I’m re-evaluating my approach to social media. Here’s the plan:

  • Reduce the amount of time I spend there. It’s tempting to get constant updates, but I can easily catch up with just a couple of visits a day. This frees up time and energy to get on with my own life – which, conveniently, means I’m more likely to have something worth sharing!
  • Keep looking out for social opportunities and new things to try, but be sure to find time and energy for them. Prioritise: Will this bring more joy to my life than the other things I was planning to do?
  • Be happy for the people who go out and do great things. Let them inspire me. But turn the focus back to what I’m trying to accomplish in my own life.

The key here is perspective. Step back and think about just how amazing this is. All these people, each with their own unique life experiences, come together on this forum and share their best moments. And you know what? They’ve earned those moments. I haven’t. But I’ll have my own too.

Time for this lemming to stop following and start leading his own life.

9 Yippee

Mental health self-awareness: Doing a little soul-searching

The following is adapted from a story I shared with my online community. I’ve received many thoughtful responses and pieces of advice, which I’m very grateful for. So if you’re from there and you’re reading this, thank you so much, and sorry there’s not much new here for you here!

Confession time. So, that self-improvement journey I mentioned? It’s actually a mental health journey.

I’m dealing with a long-term issue, and for the most part I’m on the way up. But, as you’ll see below, there are down times too.

This blog just turned the corner into mental-health-ville. Enjoy the ride. And don’t worry, there’s plenty of sunshine ahead!

My mental health day

Despite what my last two posts may have you believe, I’ve been really stressed out for the last little while.

I hit the wall this week. To be honest, I saw this coming and didn’t do anything to stop it – but I didn’t expect to break so soon.

It was a beautiful sunny day out, so rather than hide indoors, I did what any sane (?) person would do in this situation: I took a pen and notepad and went down to my local park to do a little soul-searching.

Park & write
Greetings from sunny Katherine Mansfield Park!

Maybe it’s a coincidence that my local park is named for a famous author. Because I got inspired to write. A lot. I drafted this entire post there over the course of two hours.

All these things that I’ve done

This was set in motion two weeks prior when a change was announced at work. I can’t do much about my work situation (besides job hunting – let’s not even go there), but I realised there are a lot of factors that are completely in my control. So I came up with a laundry list of all the things I’ve done that might have led me to this point.

tl,dr: I tried to do too much at once.

  • Alcohol. Between work drinks and other social events, my alcohol consumption has shot way up lately. I never developed a tolerance for the stuff so it hits me really hard – great on the night, not so great in the following days. And of course it messes with my sleep.
  • Coffee. About a month ago I went up to three cups a day, and that third one really bites. I basically turn into a jittery mess for the rest of the day. And even though I don’t drink it after 2pm, it probably messes with my sleep. (There’s a pattern emerging here.)
  • Screen time. I spend most of my workday on a computer with two screens, and then I go home and turn on the laptop. I’ve known for a long time that looking at screens in the evening messes with my sleep, and yet I keep doing it. It’s hard not to. Sometimes I feel like there’s nothing else to do.
  • The blog. Yes, the one you’re reading right now. I stayed up late on Sunday night for last week’s post. Exactly what I wanted to avoid. I have other material ready to go but I wanted to put that out while it was fresh (like the muffins). See the above point about screen time.
  • Baking. Like the blog, I’ve only just started this. But I stayed up Monday night to bake for a work lunch that I didn’t even make it to. (I brought the muffins in for the team the next day!)
  • Food. I make healthy-ish food for myself, but lately I’ve been eating out more in the interests of time and/or social life. Healthy options are available (usually) but I don’t tend to take them. There’s also work afternoon teas (which at our place are mostly cake and chips), baked treats (not just the ones I make) and questionable snacks (such as waffles at 3am).
  • Gym. I joined a month ago and I have a weights routine figured out (yay!) but my body isn’t coping at the moment. I can get through a session just fine – in fact I really enjoy it – but it really drains me for the next couple of days. I get that there’s a temporary phase of adjustment when you start working out, but the timing hasn’t been good. It’s also a big investment of time, especially since I’m doing yoga there as well. We’re talking an hour a day here if I do it all.
  • Busy weekends. I had two full-on weekends in a row leading up to this, which means I effectively didn’t have a break in over two weeks. I used to stay home gaming all weekend so I’m not accustomed to moving at this time of the week!
  • Social media. I’ve recently become part of an amazing local community. I invest a lot of time and emotional energy here, and up to now it’s been repaid in spades. Many of the above things have come about through this group, and I’ve had some great new experiences. But the site itself is quite addictive, and it’s become my go-to distraction – not good when I need to get stuff done.
Ok, laundry listed. Now what?

On the face of it, this might sound like a fun, fulfilling lifestyle. But here’s the thing: I’ve taken on most of these things in the last month, and many of them for the first time. And in every case I’ve invited more stress into my life. None of these things is overwhelming in itself – it was the cumulative stress of everything at once that got me.

At this stage I’m not going to single out any of the above to dial back, even though it may seem obvious in some cases. I hope to address them all in due time – for now I’m just getting it out on the page.

But something’s gotta give. And I don’t want it to be that last one.

Note to self: Too much sunshine can be bad for you!

For those of you in the UK, Monday 14 May marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year is stress, and this site contains some excellent resources on managing stress. Give it a read, and take a moment to think: what can you do to reduce the stress in your life?