It’s time. 

It’s now The Month That I Leave. I leave in 16 sleeps. It’s 2 weeks and 2 days before I go. I am now officially counting down the days. 
I feel ready most of the time. Every so often I absolutely freak out, but mostly in a excitement. I haven’t had an “Oh God, help me! What have I done?!” moment yet (I’m sure it will come though!). But generally, I feel ready and willing to get my life shaken up in all sorts of ways. 
For those of you not in the know (I don’t know how- I am literally the worst and will not slipping it into conversation) I’m about to embark on the gap year I never had- I’m going to Thailand to volunteer with Burmese refugees. I’ll be living in Chiang Mai for 6 month, working with the Thai Freedom House as a teacher and in their office. After this experience, I’ll be travelling to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore. I fly back into Australia on the 28th of March next year, into Darwin, before flying to Brisbane and then (depending on circumstances!) road tripping back to Melbourne. 
I’m going to be doing it solo- meeting people as I go and finding new things out- about myself, about my world, about this life. 
And I cannot wait. 
Why Thailand?
I’ve always loved- LOVED- Thailand- its culture, its people, its vibe. When I was 10, I went on a 5-6 week holiday to visit my uncle who, at the time, lived and worked in Thailand. It wasn’t the typical holiday you imagine when a 10 year old says they went to Thailand. My parents took me everywhere- we went up north, out to the River Kwai, down south to Phuket (of course)- taking our time on the way to each destination. Yes, it was a package tour- it made sense for us- but it wasn’t entirely sanistised. I wasn’t in a resort enclave the entire trip. I was exposed to real poverty. I was exposed to the sex tourism industry. While I didn’t totally understand, I knew that what I was seeing was wrong and that sparked a life long (thus far) passion for the marginalised and voiceless. 
And ever since, I’ve wanted to go back and do something on the ground. 
Why TFH?
When I decided to just DO this thing I’d be dreaming of forever, I started researching different options for volunteering. There was a lot of voluntourism options where it seemed like the focus was on getting through the hour or two you were with the kids so you could go travelling/drinking. Or, they were 1-2 week stop overs where you ticked the “good person” box and got the necessary Insta pics with the adorable children. 
Neither of these options appealed to me for a variety of reasons and please understand that I’m not passing judgment on either of those options, they just weren’t for me. I didn’t want something short term or easy to get. I wanted a vigorous screening and approval process. I wanted a program where I was working and helping an existing organisation who would appreciate my help and where my help would last beyond my time there. I wanted my help not to be a hindrance. 
Thai Freedom House seemed to provide all of these things. Their program looks vigorous. I look like I’ll be actually helpful. I think I’ll provide skills that they can use! I think my own skills will be nurtured and grown.

I’ll be thrust out of my comfort zone in very real ways and Thai Freedom House also gives great support to their volunteers. 

I know my money will go toward incredible work and not to advertising and brochures.
Why now?
In 2015 I had a quarter life crisis, 1 year early, and I felt like I had stagnated. So much had changed in my passions and life since school and yet I was still there. In a different role, yes but still.
I decided to look for a new church at the same time. 
A lot of my friends were getting married which not only increased the feeling of stagnation in my perpetually single life but also made me feel a little isolated because my own stupid brain told me they didn’t need me anymore- and that was purely me.
I started a uni course in desperation and unenrolled just as quickly as I enrolled when I realised I was running and not trusting God.
Then I decided that it made sense to finish another year at school- but in a slightly smaller role to allow myself to rest a bit more and not fall into my highly perfectionist trap I laid for myself- and then move on from my perfectly controlled life and give it to God. And what better way to do that than to go and live and work O/S- in a non English speaking, developing nation.
I didn’t have any obligations, no boyfriend, no debts, no loose ends… just an open door and a God who was whispering that He had me and I just needed to let Him take the lead. 
And so I saved like a monster. Gave my notice at work. Started the process of applying for TFH and now it’s here. 
And I’m ready, most of the time. 
If you’d like to follow my adventures and learning experiences please keep an eye on Facebook and this blog. I’ll be posting life updates, work specific stuff, fitness posts, faith posts, personal posts and travel posts.
I look forward to going on this journey together. 
Please pray for me, if you’re the praying type. I’ll need strength, the ability to rest, friends, an escape from my obsessions with exercise and food which occasionally rear their ugly heads and help to stay focused on the one constant- my faith. 

Come with me, it’ll be one hell of a (non- elephant) ride. 

The Gap Between My Legs is Closing – A Poem.

the Gap between my legs is closing

                                                                      and with it- the gap between my eyes and my size. I know-

most-

…some

of the time

that I Look:

                STRONG

                HEALTHY

                WELL

                HAPPY

I Am:

                STRONG

                HEALTHY

                WELL

                HAPPY

 

but

sometimes

my eyes still glaze and the haze of “flashback fog” takes me back to no rack-
ed plates on barbells
and jutting collar-
ed shirts that don’t swell
and space between thighs
and try as I might

the head doesn’t always win over the ghosts of ill fitting sizes of obsession

 

BUT

it’s worth it when it does because my cheeks are flush
and my hair is –annoying!— but lush
and I can sit without pain and I can
lift without shame
and I can run without needing to
and I can rest without feeling…                                                                                                                                                                                                                               too
lazy.

And I can take my own advice
to “look after yourself”
instead of shelving it on the “not for me” shelf”

… most… some… Sundays.

And I move ‘cause it feels good
and I eat not just because I should
and I eat well not just because I said I would
I want to, I want to, I want to and it’s just
the best.
And I don’t fear anything…

most… some… meal times.

                                                                                       and the gap between my legs is closing
and with it, the gap between what I say and what I write and what I think when I look in the mirror

is,

slowly, most times, sometimes…

closing too.

//

This is a hard one to press publish on. For all sorts of reasons. It speaks of my no.1 biggest sin- my need to control my life instead of giving everything over to God. It speaks of my no.2 biggest sin- finding my identity in things other. But it also speaks of a struggle for so many women and girls and boys and men. It speaks of this need to be thinner or leaner or whatever and that anything that gets you there is worth it and that lean = the best when actually, lean doesn’t necessarily equal healthy or even that fit. It also speaks a little to comparison and the way we distort ourselves when we look through a warped mirror like that of social media, or even the people around us. This isn’t an issue for everyone but I know that I can very easily fall into the comparison trap and it plays into my natural competitiveness. But I need to reject that and focus on what’s important in my life:

My God
My health
My purpose

And all of these things point to the same ultimate conclusion: stop looking at yourself. I was going to say “stop looking at yourself through a distorted lens” but I think it’s more poignant (for me) to simply stop being so concerned with the perception of ME and instead be focusing on what God’s doing through me, what I’m doing to help others, what my gifts and talents are and instead of focusing on something so fleeting as my physical appearance, instead be focusing on things of a more lasting and even eternal nature. I am still always going to care about my health and my fitness which will be reflected in my body, but it shouldn’t be my number one priority. My priorities should be my relationship with God, my relationship with others and my relationship with the world around me. And in each of these priorities my love of fitness and love of healthy food plays a part.

Let me explain, if I truly value my relationship with God, I truly value every gift he has given me- including my body- and I believe He wants me to be physically fit and strong to do what he has designed me to do. I know I couldn’t have lost the weight I did, the way I did, with the ease I did, without Him. I not only lost weight but other things in my life which had a hold on me were shed too. I also think He took me down in order to demonstrate the hold control had over my life, even when I didn’t realise it. He continues to work on me in this area and I know fitness is somewhere in this plan. 

Secondly, my relationships with others have developed and grown and my fitness has played a part in that. I’ve been told countless times that I inspire people and that I spur people on. I like to think I’m encouraging and a good friend. I hope I am and that my love of fitness can help others come to a similar place. I also think my “journey” has enabled me to better understand people who are coming from a similar place at both ends of the scale. While I was never a full blown victim of an ED, my thinking around food, exercise and my body was not healthy and I think I can relate to people better for it.

Thirdly, my relationship with the world around me. There is so much to be done. So much to get passionate about and to change. Today is National Sorry Day. We continue to reject refugees and asylum seekers. Racism and sexism is rife. People live in fear. I want to be a part of this change and community engagement is part of that. Food is part of that. Fitness can be a part of that. I believe my purpose is to use my passions- writing, food, fitness, education, social justice, faith… to affect some of this social change- even if on a small scale. I want to make my students think about their words. I want them to think about their vote. I want them to think about their voice. I want my students to make ethical choices. I don’t want them to buy into the economy of fear. I don’t want my students to hate themselves. I don’t want them to make others hate themselves. I don’t want my students to compare themselves to others. I don’t want my students to live unhealthy lives. If I can be a role model- I can change lives… I hope. 

So… even though posting this was scary, I hope it did something for someone. 

Lessons from Mum- a poem

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Hold my hand when crossing the road

Hold on to the swing

Hold the door open for everyone.

Unless they’re too far away— it gets awkward

Don’t spend longer than 10 minutes on hold

Don’t hold onto your pee too long. It’s bad for you

Maximum hold hairspray is only for special occasions

Hold your breath when using maximum hold hairspray

Hold on, I’m a coming

Hold your head up high

Don’t hold onto people who aren’t trying to hold onto you

Hold faith

Hold yourself in high regard

Hold the people in your life to high standards

Hold yourself to higher ones

Hold your bag across your body

Hold the line

Hold dinner parties

Hold up those who can’t hold up themselves

But make sure someone is holding you*

*I will always be holding you

Hold on tight

Especially when you think you can’t hold on anymore

Hold fast

Hold out for the right man

Don’t hold back

If someone promises you something, hold them to it

Don’t hold back your tears, emotions or thoughts. They all have value.

Hold that plank a little longer

Hold everything in perspective

Hold my hand when crossing the road… and the path… and the raging river and the slow stream and when you’ve gone ahead across the ocean and when we’re only a metre apart and when you don’t want to and when you don’t need to and when you do and when you try and when you’re not sure and especially when you just don’t know.

Hold my hand and don’t ever let go.

~

Thank you for holding me in your womb, your arms, your respect, your esteem and in high regard. I hold you dearer than you will ever know.

Love, Amy

Boot Camp for Burma!

One of the reasons I started this blog was to get me into the habit of writing regularly. Why did I want to write regularly, you might ask? Well, beyond the obvious benefits of improving my writing flow, fluency and depth, improving my vocabulary, strengthening my voice and developing my online presence; I wanted to start writing on the reg so that I continue this habit when I go to Thailand later this year.

Image result for thai freedom house

And later this year is rapidly approaching. Last Friday was the 3 months to go point. That’s less than 90 days. Writing that made my heart skip all sorts of beats. It’s been such a long process and now that departure is getting closer and closer to being here, everything is starting to feel extremely real. I’ve paid for the majority of my trip (the only thing I have to pay for is food, activities and accommodation in the places I choose to “hop off” at during the travel portion of my journey, and my flights home), I know when I’m applying for my visa, I have my cards and phone sorted, my gym membership is set to finish on the day I leave (last minute bootcamp, yes please!) and I’ve started figuring out the points of my journey which I linger over and those which I’ll breeze through. That said, I want this plan to remain flexible enough for unplanned excursions to take place and to allow for locations I never knew about to capture my heart and never let it go.

While all the travel planning is desperately exciting, what I am most looking forward to is my time at Thai Freedom House which will make up the bulk of my trip. The Thai Freedom House is a “non-government, not-for-profit, language and arts community learning center in Northern Thailand dedicated to assisting families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and members of minority groups of Thailand.” They work specifically with these people to ensure that they don’t become victims of exploitation, trafficking, harassment, gang violence, or the poverty cycle. There are plenty of complex reasons behind the mistreatment of Burmese refugees in Thailand and I encourage you to pay the Thai Freedom House website a visit to learn some info about the issues inherent in the refugee/immigration situation.

I have always had a heart for refugees and asylum seekers and the way our own (Australian) government treats these marginalised and often highly damaged people disgusts me. I refuse to sit back and watch and am hoping to one day work more closely with community groups to raise awareness, advocate and educate. My decision to work with such a grassroots group instead of a more well known, “voluntourism” organisation is a part of that process. I want to learn from the people I’m working with, not just provide a few English lessons a week.

I also went with the Thai Freedom House because of their volunteer program and the fact that all the money I spend on said program will go straight to those I’m teaching, not on shiny brochures. It’s transparent and it’s real. It’s also got real needs. Receiving no government funding and only earning money from donations and their on site café and op shop, Thai Freedom House struggles at times to pay rent and ensure the minimal staff receive payment.

This is also the reason I held my “Bootcamp for Burma” earlier this month! I knew I wanted to raise money for TFH and I love fitness so I decided to combine my two passions and run a charity “pay what you feel” boot camp on Labour Day!

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I had about 15 people come along to get their sweat on while simultaneously doing a good deed, as well as multiple other people donate money even though they couldn’t attend due to being away (or not willing to workout- which is FINE!)

It was an incredible session and everyone gave it their all, spurring each other on and encouraging their friends and team mates to push just a bit harder.

Not counting the donations people made directly to TFH online (which I have no way of tracking so THANKYOU if you did!), I raised about $500, all of which is to be donated directly to the organisation.

Thank you so much if you came along and donated, or if you just donated! It was such a great morning and I hope the sore muscles were an acceptable price to pay in exchange for knowing you’ve improved the lives of vulnerable children and families in Thailand.

I’m hoping to do another boot camp session before I go to raise more money for the program so please stay tuned and stay awesome.

Amy xx

she stands- a poem for IWD.

I stand-

Bold, posed, tense with all the
best of intents
in front of her- the girl who knows-

who has seen, she who is me, I-

build and grind
and work-
I fought
and sweat
and stunk and sunk
and pushed and climbed and fell
and clawed my way back to some semblance of her- the other girl in the room

the warrior//

until-

a noise snaps against the locked out world and breaks-

loaded with unheard and unsaid and unintended?

Pinpricks

Glass shatters in all the wrong ways

 

she who is me who is I is pierced

deflates

shrinks

to

smiling sweet soft simple shapes
of smallness all cheeks

no cheek//

-am I in your way- sotto voce statements not questions because by being here I am

Or at least that’s what I’ve been told

I glance- the warrior in shattered states stares in disdain and the shoulders upon which I stumble slump in disappointment

Shards of eyes flash as sliding shame overcomes the corner I’ve relegated my self to and banishes the legacies of those who came before from existence.

Discarded because-words not said by him who invaded-

No, who I let invade-

No, who I was told would-

No, who may have inv-

No- I don’t know whose fault this is but now it is mine and that is not what she taught me but is what I’ve been taught and now I don’t, cant, wont but want to

Stop.

The shattered warrior with scars mirrors my twisting, enchained limbs
sighing

Why do I let- accept- fault blame shame overtake when
warriors who came before

Did not

Would not

And they:

My muscled footholds
my petite proforma
my mouthy platforms
my softly silent soap boxes
They flew
into the glass I stare

At now and didn’t care who saw

Their strength

Or bruises

Or cuts

Or tears

Or weakness

Or fears because it was all

Theirs to own

//

The Sound that Shattered
continues in a buzz- unaware of power and shame-

Metal against iron

Clamping down
measured breaths of purpose and precision

Planning and decision

The soundtrack doesn’t bother the shattered warrior and

i-

she who is me-

have turned it up for long enough

 

untwisting- she who is me- I stand

 

and own the action and the feat and the fact that

I owe my ownership to those who heard the noise when it was meant to pierce drums but kept beating

To those who read warnings on packets and pickets and strode deeper, thicker
to those who played the game

And forged the ways I walk

in

on

through

with

no shame- shattered or not-

paths taken and rocked-

words spoken and mocked-

legs shaking and locked…

they walked.

 

so it’s the least I can do to

stand.

 

5 minute Friday- Breathe

If you’re a regular reader, you know the drill. Friday is my day to take 5 minutes to do some free writing based on a prompt provided by the wonderful Kate Motaung and share it with the whole 5 minute Friday community. Today’s prompt is breathe.

I want to be a tree.

Why?

Because the state of the world today is infusing within me a deep sense of uncertainty, confusion, despair and shame.

I hate observing these images of tiny children made smaller by the weight of ravaging survival pulling them closer to the depths

I wish I could block out the fear mongering speeches of men- and women- who have known nothing but red hot privilege- relative though it may be- as they point their ringed fingers at those who are seeking just a fraction of those hands hold

I wish I could stand as a shield and absorb the proclamations of hate which respond to the shrill dog whistle broadcast by those who cannot claim ignorance but target those who, in vulnerable bliss, do not need to

But I can’t.

All I can do is make like a tree;

breathe in this toxic air and breathe out life, kindness, fact and hope that those who need it most will fill their lungs with deep, gulping, gasps.

5 Minute Friday- control

If you’re a regular reader, you know the drill. Friday is my day to take 5 minutes to do some free writing based on a prompt provided by the wonderful Kate Motaung and share it with the whole 5 minute Friday community. Today’s prompt is control.

Oh boy.

Hold.

the clock counts down
and
i
can’t
stop
it
no matter how hard i try to hold the hands it trickles
down like/

sand
of old into nothing and everything
all at once.

reminders of tick tocking, mark docking rulers of old life
and future strife
and i strive to not become one of those
stealers of the most precious

value of a second when it’s paused/

3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1…

/is infinite but elusive and your fiction is my fate and now all i

must

do is wait and revel in my lack of watches and the constant waves

i feel- for that is all that matters now fact is stagnant- the swelling sense of

no time not on time no direction nor any protection and no way to escape the inevitable breaking of

/barriers long stacked up and backed up/

and it’s obvious what’s being done but i

still

just want to wind up holding//

 

maybe You can hold my hand instead?