Turns out I fucking hate puzzles (and other COVID thoughts)

The other crisis

You felt it coming.

We all did.

A week into quarantine, the walls got stern, the world got quiet and you wondered – could we ever emerge from this the same?

Predictions started swirling, every pundit suddenly privy to the whisperings of the COVID crystal ball.

Sure, we might be saving ourselves from a hyper-communicable disease – but were we exposing ourselves to something much worse… ourselves?

You see, we weren’t built to be alone.

Tribal creatures, through and through, our DNA is wired to crave community, connection and the great comfort these things bring us.

We are social by nature and by nurture.

And so the looming months looked more like a prison sentence than a civic duty.

Articles started coming out.

My own favourite author predicted the ‘mental health crisis‘ that would await us before the end of all this.

Turns out I fucking hate puzzles

Isolation started to get tough.

We collectively began to pace and paw at the doors of our houses.

The days became sharp and pointed. So did our tongues.

We bought a puzzle – turns out I fucking hate puzzles.

The morning walk of the dog around the block became the only ray of sunshine in the day – and heaven forbid if rain clouds dared to interfere.

But quietly. Cautiously. Without fanfare or announcement. The slow life crept upon us.

Suddenly we’d been gifted time – the same present we’re all given every day that we repeatedly forget to unwrap.

Those 86,400 seconds we throw away, as though we can ever get them back again.

The hours you’d spend in transit, in lines and with people you probably shouldn’t – as though they were worthy of the precious minutes you gave them of your short little life.

Every video and phone call suddenly felt that much more important.

And damn if you didn’t make more of an effort to make and take those calls – they became your only link to the outside world.

And so I noticed – I began to breathe more deeply in this space.

In this great in-between.

The choice

It seems we’ve all been desperate for this.

We’re more resilient than we give ourselves credit for – even the science says so.

Funny how the universe gives us exactly what we don’t think we’d ever want and yet it turns out it might be the one thing we all need.

I don’t know what the world will look like next month or next year.

Our memories are short and our patience even shorter.

Will we be able to hold onto some small morsel of this shared magic?

Will you call you mum more often – and turn on the camera so you can see her face?

Will you work from home more days of the week now – so you can spend those extra moments with your kids, your dog, your partner – yourself?

Will you spend more weekends at home – because you know you can make your own fun there, without spending a dime, using up precious resources or looking any different?


Or perhaps we aren’t meant to remember this.

Perhaps it’s just this – a moment in time, we will point to and laugh at and make funny memes about.

I hope not.

I hope we learn.

I hope we grow.

I hope we change – if not for our own sake, for the planets.

And so I’ll leave you with this thought:

If the world turned back on tomorrow – what would you keep from this COVID life?

On Living Alone (and other modern maladies)

Emma Watson said this week, to British Vogue, that she was ‘self-partnered.’

I, for one, don’t know what the fuck that means.

But I do know what it looks like to live a solitary life.

I spent my 26th year alone – in every sense. Single, and the soul occupant of a one bedroom apartment. And I became very well acquainted with the modern malady of living alone.

What living alone looks like:

It looks like Uber eats 4 times a week because cooking for one sucks absolute dick.

It looks like a yoga mat in the middle of your floor that you never have to move because it’s not bothering anyone but you.

It looks like self care – lots of it – because who the fuck else is gonna care for you?

It looks like lying to taxi drivers about who you’re going home to – because if you tell them there’s no-one waiting at the end of the fare, you don’t want to ruin your night wondering if it’s safe to go to sleep.

It’s sounds like ‘I like being by myself’ – and only sometimes meaning it.

Some day it’s taking yourself to the ocean and watching a sunset so beautiful it makes you cry and wish you had a better camera – and someone to take a photo of you with it.

It looks like deciding to travel the world and not having to make a single sacrifice on the itinerary.

It looks like spending 4 hours in a museum on that trip because there’s no one else there to complain about how bored they are.

It’s not having to shave your legs.

It’s listening to Taylor Swift whenever you want, as loud as you want.

It’s the silence of your tiny space at 3am on a Tuesday.

It’s the weight of your existence without the comfort of a human shaped mirror to reflect who you are.

It’s being alone but not lonelybecause you eventually realise, that too, is a choice.

What 145km taught me about the power of standing still

The unexpected track

I didn’t expect to be sitting atop a mountain at Isuvara.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I’d climb a single mountain, let alone traverse a mountain range, I would have snorted at you through a fistful of McDonald’s chips from the comfort of a chaise lounge, while watching the entirety of the Friends back catalogue for the 4th time.

This unfortunately isn’t an exaggeration.

This was how I spent the vast majority of my free time as a young adult, when I wasn’t drinking myself stupid in a club on a Wednesday night.

It’s not a flattering picture. But it is an honest one.

I had no regard for my body. I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t care for it. It couldn’t do much. It wasn’t very useful.

I remember travelling with my uncle and aunt to Coral Bay one year as a teenager – a stunning little seaside town on the north west coast of Australia – and discovering that every morning of their idyllic beach holiday, they would get up at 6.30am to sprint up sand dunes.

I legitimately thought the fuckers were out of their minds. I did three dune runs one morning (under duress) and puked my guts up shortly thereafter.

Ahhh sweet summer memories.

It was, ironically enough, that same uncle that sparked the idea of Kokoda in me. He’d done the track 5 years before and imparted to me what an incredible experience it was.

Discomfort = growth

I’ve always believed that discomfort is the key driver of growth. And after reading ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins at the start of 2019 I was reminded of this fact.

His ethos is strongly centred on the idea that you should aim to push yourself to some kind of limit every. single. day.

And that the easiest way to do so is through physical activity – because you can’t reliably manufacture any other kind of stress in your life that won’t sustainably fuck it up.

Physical pressure and stress is easy to create and control – and instead of doing you long term damage like normal stress does it serves you by making you stronger and more capable.

Kokoda, it turns out, was the most difficult physical challenge I could think of.

Life on the trail

It was brutally hard.

Most day we were awake at 4 or 5am.

Some days we’d wake up to torrential rail, put on cold, wet clothes that hadn’t dried from the previous day’s downpour and start hiking again in the pitch black hours before dawn.

Other days the heat was so oppressive I didn’t think my body would be able to drag itself up the next summit and hike the 20+ kilometres required of me that day.

When it was flat it was muddy and when it wasn’t flat it was steep as hell.

Going down the side of a mountain is remarkably harder than going up the side of one, it turns out.

The jarring of each downward step rattles bones you’d never felt before, hits joints you didn’t realise you had.

And at least going up – you weren’t worried about falling

On day one, as we sat down for dinner, I vomited in front of the 27 strangers I was doing the trek with.

On day two, I fell several meters over rocks, roots and scrub, again in front of most of my peers.

On day three, I burnt my one and only hiking shirt to a crisp, because I hung it to dry too close to the fire.

Needless to say, things improved from day four.

…. how could they not?!

The mental challenge

I trained hard for 6 months to make Kokoda a reality.

But every person I spoke to told me the same thing – while I was physically as prepared as I could be, the real challenge would exist between my ears.

My goal initially was to survive it but in the end I felt like I’d fucking conquered it.

It is one of the best experiences of my life, to date.

Because of what I discovered about the power of my thoughts.

For the first 4 days though, I was waging a war.

Every second spent going upwards was a struggle.

Every couple of moments I had to catch myself. I had to send a constant barrage of corny-as-shit positivity through my brain.

“You can do this”
“You got this, Beth”
“Stop being a little bitch”
“You’re a fucking warrior”
“You trained for this”
“Your legs are strong”
“You feel fantastic”
“You could do this forever!”

It was the only way to stop the opposite from going through my mind:

“I can’t do this”
“It’s too hard”
“My legs are burning”
“I’m too weak”
‘I’m not cut out for this”
“I should never have come here”
“You’re fucking delusional”
“You’ll never finish this”

What I discovered was that your mind is what writes the story of your life. Your body will always follow. It’s the reason I never stopped, never quit, never felt sorry for myself.

If I had to – which I often did – I would pause to catch my breath; I would motion those behind me to go ahead, so I wouldn’t slow them down. But I never fucking quit.

The day that changed it all

On day 5 everything changed.

We got into Bombers Camp early – midday.

There were hot showers. The campsite stocked foam mattresses and pillows. There was even green grass, instead of mud! Luxuries we’d been without for days.

We spent an idyllic afternoon in clean, dry clothes, lounging about in the idyllic weather. A game of touch rugby with the locals went on, some of us did yoga, others played cards.

Around the campfire that night, our trek leader recited bush poetry and some of the porters gathered and serenaded us with beautiful songs in their native language.

At some point that day, it seeped into our collective consciousness – we could make it.

Our legs were strong by then. We’d spent 5 days working muscles we’d never used before – and they were ready now.

We’d learnt the ways of the track, how to move through it. Not with ease necessarily, but with some grace.

Slips and falls were normal, expected even, and they came without shame – instead just a few laughs.

We met each new summit with determination instead of destitution.

The track hadn’t defeated up – it had created us.

I sat amongst the granite at Isurava.
I crossed my legs and closed my eyes and tried to hear what the mountains had to say.
I could hear the wind gently agitating the trees around the memorial and I could feel the morning sunlight warming my skin.
I could hear the sound of the waterfall nearby cascading over rocks along with the hum and buzz of the never-seen-but-always-heard jungle inhabitants. They were all just distractions though.
Because on a mountain top at Isuvara, I sat amongst the granite, I forgot everything – and I remembered how to breathe

The gift of presence

If you make it through the first 8 days of the track, on day 9 you reach the memorial at Isuvara. Polished granite structures proudly wear the four words that so fittingly sum up the spirit of the Australian soldiers that walked – and fought – along the track in 1942.


It’s a very special place.

After learning the entire military history of the track during World War II, you can’t be anything by awed and inspired by what the diggers did indeed endure.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced more present and peaceful moments in my life than those  I spent at Isurava.

There, alone, breathing with the wind, glowing with the sun, I felt more connected to my breath and body than I ever have before.

This, I think, is the greatest gift Kokoda has given me. A finely-tuned radar, a keenly crafted sense of what my body – and my soul – needs.

It seems strange that it took 28 years, and a mountain range to gain this insight. But I suppose we all take a winding road to get to know ourselves – and mine just happened to be across the Owen Stanley’s.

Kokoda Track | 1 month of training to go

‘Strong’ is a mindset

‘You’re looking strong,’ said one of the coaches as he walked past. He wasn’t in the class I was taking, but he was nearby, taking a private PT client. He took the time to walk past so he could tell me the change he could see in me, since I’d announced, 8 months prior to his entire gym, that I planned to take on the Kokoda Track.

I grinned.

‘I know,’ I thought to myself.

Instead I just said thanks. And that I apprecaited him saying that.

And I really did.

But what I appreciated even more was that I didn’t need to hear it.

For the first time in my life I didn’t require a single piece of external validation to confirm what I already knew – that I was strong. That I could do it. That after 6 months of hard training, I was ready.

That I was ready to take on Kokoda.

Sometimes, it’s important to ignore your family

My family thinks I’m idiotic to be carrying my own pack. My Grandad, bless his soul, concerned and direct as ever, called me stupid. My mother, a perpetual worry-wart, offered to pay the $700 for a local villager to carry my shit for me.

I refused of course.

And now it’s my pride that’s on the line. I want to prove what I already know – that I can do it.

I’m not stupid enough to think it will be easy. Or that I won’t hate most – if not all – of it.

But I’ve come to believe that I can endure it. Survive it. Conquer it.

And that’s all I’m really asking of myself at this point.

Kokoda Track Predictions

  • Sleep will suck. I have a penchant for king beds and memory foam. I’ll be getting a blow up mattress and a fold up pillow.
  • My mind will falter long before my body does.
  • My body will falter long after I think it will.
  • I’ll cry.
  • I’ll accidentally (or maybe even on purpose) eat meat. Girl’s gotta eat, ya know?
  • I’ll have the best shower of my life the day the trek finishes.

Will take bets on any of the above.

Days to Kokoda Track: 24

On Instagram | Real life doesn’t happen in squares [Poem]

This life I lead.
It appears to you as a picture book of magical moments
A scrolling rainbow of colours
Captured through luck and maybe even a bit of talent
Precision and a dose of happenstance
And from the outside, it looks picture perfect.
But what if I told you it was all a beautiful illusion?
What if I told you…
That behind every image..
Every video..
Every moment I’ve ever captured
Is an entire world you won’t ever see
Hours spent researching, processing, editing, enhancing
Standing in the rain
the snow
the dust
the mud
All to be in the perfect place
At the perfect time
To find that perfect angle
So that you might for a moment believe that this is my reality
That the likes are the metric by which I measure my success
And that my perspective is only as wide as my camera lens
When perhaps this reality
Is an illusion we’ve chosen for ourselves
A convincing one
A persistent one
And we’re looking at the stars reflected into our eyes from a glossy black mirror
Instead of the stars in the night sky
Wondering why we can’t see the light any more

Instagram ins’t real. We all know that.

And yet our self esteem can live and die by the number of likes and comments we get.

How strange that we’ve choose a virtual world as the place our self worth now lives.

Instagram is hiding likes

This week, Instagram took the bold step of rolling out it’s plan to ‘hide likes’ on pictures in more than six countries.

Maybe it’s a good thing.

Orrrr maybe it won’t change anything at all.

But it’s a step, perhaps even one in the right direction.

By maybe we’re the problem?

It’s never a bad thing when a large and influential company takes a positive stance on a serious issue (i.e. mental health and self-worth) by actually putting their money where their mouth is and taking legitimate action to be a part of the solution.

I can’t help but wonder if Instagrm is the problem here though? Surely we are, the users, the consumers, the voyeurs are? Shouldn’t we be are the ones responsible for our consumption of media and the effect it has on us?

Or perhaps it’s not as simple as that.

Either way.

Only time will tell if it will have an impact.

I hope it does. I really do.

Un-hacking productivity | In two simple steps

I don’t know about you, but Friday afternoon is a bad time for my productivity. It’s the end of the week. I’m tired. I’m grumpy. Clients have yelled at me and sent nasty emails. Others have sent me flowers. It’s an emotional roller coaster and I’m usually stuck trying to find some gratitude and presence in between it all.

On Friday afternoon.. I hate myself a bit. I feel like a useless sack of shit, sitting at a desk, clicking between tabs, trying to get my head on straight and remember where I even put my to do list.

Saturday morning always comes around though.. because Scarlett O’Hara was right, tomorrow is another day.

I’m up every Saturday at 6.30am to get myself to my favourite activity for the week – 1.5 hours of Vinyasa Yoga. I head to my favourite cafe and just down the road and after an incredibly millennial breakfast of smashed avocado on toast, I pull out my laptop – then for the next two hours I smash through 20 emails, write two proposals I’d been avoiding, plan my entire upcoming week, set reminders, write drafts and complete my timesheet.

And this, dear friends, is the curse and the cure that is productivity.

99 productivity problems

In Australia, productivity was three times higher in 1995-96 than in 2017-18. Despite having access to transformative technology, data and processing capabilities, we’re less productive now than we have been for most of the last 20 odd years.

I’m not so interested in the bottom line of the P&L but on the impact this incessant need for productivity has on general well being.

The thing is, there are plenty of remedies available for this – just google the term ‘productivity hack’ and your search will return over 670,000 results in less than a second:

But the issue I take with this is that productivity is – for me anyway – highly dependent on so many factors – like my emotional state, the kind of day I’ve had, the type of deadlines I’m working to, how my co-workers have spoken to me.

So while a ‘hack’ is all well and good, I don’t think it’s actually very useful in the long run as it doesn’t give credence to the fact that humans are messy and flawed and not very good at fixing these things.

So in the spirit of NOT giving you a list of the top five hacks to turn you into a super human – nay, robot-like – producer of outstanding work 24/7, here is my two-cents and only two pieces of advice on the matter.

1. STOP TRYING (to be productive)

That’s right. If you’re faffing, flailing or figure skating around a bunch of shit that you should be doing – just stop. You’re not doing it anyway so why punish yourself and waste time doing something you’re already not doing? EXACTLY. My madness is sound.

Stop grinding against something that just isn’t happening for you.

Maybe that’s for 5 minutes – go and get a tea or have a bathroom break.

Maybe it’s for a few hours – get on with a bunch of admin crap you’ve been putting off, as a form of productive procrastination.

Maybe it’s for the whole day – in extreme circumstances you might just need to shut the hell off. Power down, go home, take the night off, get a good sleep and try again when you’re refreshed.

My premise is that giving yourself the grace to acknowledge when you’re just not up to it and you just can’t perform is often crucial. Because it’s OK to fail and it’s OK to not be ‘on’ all the damn time – you’re human, not robot (yet, anyway).

2. START PAYING ATTENTION (to when you actually are productive)

Start paying attention to what actually works for you.

For me – it’s those two golden hours after a yoga class on Saturday morning. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a combination of the fact that I’ve had a good night sleep, woken up early to do something I really enjoy, moved my body and put myself in an awesome frame of mind. Coupled with the complete lack of pressure (it’s Saturday, I really don’t have to be working if I don’t want) I feel completely at ease and totally on top of my game.

I figured this out because I payed attention. I noticed the pattern and I realised what works for me and now I use those Saturday mornings to properly close off the week before and really set myself up for the week ahead. And I no longer care about my crappy Friday afternoons cause I know that it’s just not my time to shine.

The thing is though – what works for me is almost guaranteed not to work for you. Because your triggers and mind states are completely different from mine.

  • Maybe Monday morning is when you ‘get-shit-done’.
  • Maybe your smash time is 8-10pm every night.
  • Maybe go time for you is the last half hour of every working day.

Whatever productivity looks like for you – find it, embrace it and for the love of all that’s holy stop trying to hack it!

What or when is your productivity gold? Get in touch to let me know – I’d love to hear!

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