Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Confessions, a Train Ride Home

I have  been thinking about writing, and how I am not.

There is a part of me that wants to blame medication, even though I stopped writing before the medication ever came into play. This is not unfair as it has shifted the way I think and feel. The heart does not howl any more, or, I have forgotten how to listen to it. I think this silencing has in turn silenced my need to write, to capture and tame my storms with mere words, precise words. And this should not be a problem, but it is very close, only a step away from, having nothing to say.

Which is not true, cannot be true, yet is very true.

If the need to express a voice does not come from within, then, given all the noise being forced into the world already, how can I possibly justify adding to it? If I have nothing that I need to say, then output must be because there is something I believe others need to hear. The audacity and arrogance aren't mine, not comfortably, to assume I have the authority to decide this. Even though I may choose the platform so that the choice to consume lies with the reader - no. There is already too much noise out there. There is nothing I can say that has not already been said.

There is no requirement for need in the writing of fiction. Need in the writer's voice can lend power to a story, but it is not required. I could write simply because I want to. But when the power of need has fuelled you for so long, action by want seems pale and trivial by comparison.

All that occurred in my life was for writing. All the learning and heartache and new experiences; all grist for the mill. It would all out in the stories one day. But now I don't need to cast my trials in such a light in order to make them palatable enough to see through, my lover stands by me throughout all fire and flood. It is enough to simply spend my days with him. But is it? Is a life that is enjoyed but to no end of any purpose? Writing was a purpose I gave my life in order to keep my life. Now that I am in no such danger, the purpose is no longer required, and yet to simply live is not enough, would be such selfish and wasted time.

I have already lost so much time. To waste more will lead only to self-disgust. Still, I cannot underestimate fear and the scars left by physical pain and emotional anguish that come into play. I lost my future, one I did not even know I projected upon myself, and so all I have and had done became untethered. Echoes of this singular horror I've heard from those struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is not for me to self-diagnose, but it would be remiss of me to overlook this one and only echo.

To confront my identity as a writer, to consider reviving it, is to also risk the possibility of losing it again. Hope is such an awful creature. I had to give her away. She cost me too much. To survive I had to give her away. I had to.

Even from now, this place of strength, I can't dip into this subject matter without feeling it in my nerves and knowing that I will never be strong enough to survive the loss of my identity again.

There most probably lies the heart of the matter. Not all the medication and emotional well-being in the world will help me finish a story if I am afraid.

And I am so very afraid.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

That Which Makes You Stronger

For three years now I have, before getting out of bed, before even sitting up properly, popped tablets from blisters and tossed one, two, maybe three back with a mouthful of water. Across time zones and continents, in transit, when accidentally away from home, when knowing I'm about to go straight back to sleep, when fighting off nausea. The image of all those pills sitting in one gigantic pile has just hit me. Green and white capsules, white round bitter coins, and clay tablets ranging from terracotta to stucco. Three years worth. Every day.

I can tell you that these magic medicines have kept me from suicide, alleviated my physical pain levels to manageable daily levels and lessened my depression. Because of these tablets I am living an absolutely amazing life, and will continue to do so. There is a lot to be thankful for.

And yet, even still I must every morning force myself to take them. Every morning it is a conscious decision to break the foil again. Some mornings I will lie still for minutes, putting it off. Pretending I don't need them.

Three years is not enough time to accept. Three years is not enough time to wear out resentment. 

A lifetime may not be enough.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Closed Circuits & Their Joy

Three decades is, I think, enough time spent bowing to such doubts. More than enough. Time to kick dat bollocks to the curb! Three decades is also enough time for such thought patterns to become well and truly entrenched, and even though I well know such thoughts are untrue and unfair, such fears are rarely rational and are not easily dismissed with logic.

The usual refrain of no one will come, no one will want to come, people will only come out of pity, they'll have an awful time, it will be awkward, everyone will leave to go do what they really want to do, how arrogant are you to think anyone would want to spend time on an event for you, you're so self-centred they have so many other things they need to do etc etc etc. Nothing surprising in there.

It took incredible audacity on my part, jaw-dropping brazenness and sass, to pick a date and send out casual invitations on FB. That was all the organisation required of me. This bar on this day. It'd be cool if you could come but no sweat if you don't. Really. If you can't come, or whatever, that's fine. I just want everyone to be comfortable. Really. Really. Really. Please come.

People changed their routines, flew down from interstate, drove up from the coast, came alone and out of their comfort zone. People I tapped because I enjoy and treasure their company. People who matter to me, dearly. 

On the day of this informal laid-back thing, I was near sick with doubt. That litany was a diseased eel frothing around in my stomach, unable to escape because there simply was no escape. Either people would come, or they wouldn't, and I was oh so very fixated upon the 'wouldn't'. Despite knowing who would be there, in all certainty, people I adore and with whom I would have a most excellent time. These fears have voices that can cut diamonds, there is no overriding them.

Of course, a great many people came, more than I had anticipated. All people I was utterly delighted to see and spend time with. I introduced friends to friends and when distracted by other friends I would look over and see those who had been strangers laughing together. It's a strange and rare treat, that. 

It occurred to me more than once that the people in my life are truly exquisite, sublime, fascinating, intelligent and entertaining entities. Nearly all of them maintain the capacity to surprise me, no matter how long or how well I may know them, and that is just excellent. It's incredibly good luck to have found myself immersed in such quality company.

Shine Theory was posted to the Girls Club mailing list a little while back, and while it is angled particularly toward women, it is a practice I think I may  have unwittingly been committing across the board for some time now. 

As such, I would like to confirm that surrounding yourself by people you enjoy and truly admire is a marvellously enriching experience, and it is hard for insecurity to get a foot in the door when it is being dazzled by ridiculous banter and chortles.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Last night was the birthday celebrations of two wonderful people, who in turn invited a lot of other wonderful people, including a face painter.

It's an interesting request with which to be presented. You can wear the most unobtrusive mask possible, and it is intended to draw attention to your face while making it hard for anyone to see you. There were foxes, cats, tigers, monsters, flowers and arabesques walking around, everyone so colourful and flambouyant, everyone become fantastic. Even knowing the people wearing the paint, the presence of the paint made such a different in how I read the minute inflections of their face.

I asked to be made a glacier.

That aqua paint does not come off easy. And glitter, don't talk to me about glitter.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


On this, the eve of my...uh...thirty-sec-ond? Thirty-second? Thirty-second, yeah, my thirty-second year of life on Earth.

Dad's right, birthdays mean less and less the more you have.

This time last year I was working a shitty shit shit job in what has become the most precious place in the world to me – Ullapool, in the Highlands of Scotland – with the knowledge that my lover would be at the end of my fingertips within a week after years disguised as month apart. Pretty great way to show in the era.

Since then, we have been a we (we counted and are pretty sure that in the past year we've only spent three nights apart (not counting those nights when either party was perhaps out being a menace and didn't notice the sun come up)), have travelled to the Faroe Islands and seen massive colonies of PUFFINS!!! and watched an ocean of clouds crash against and up over the cliffs while gannets ghosted across the ocean below, and then we got lost on several islands and were rescued by wonderful locals several times. We put a tick beside the "our first flat!" and it was indeed a complete and utter mould and mildew-infested, draughty, freezing, dank, dark, cramped, fetid, stagnent crapbox in a tenement for which the front door didn't lock and the corridor light didn't work and used syringes, bent spoons and half-eaten pizzas were regularly left outside our door and bedroom window. I've managed to not completely suck at freelance editing which my confidence enjoys. We've done Iceland (again!), Amsterdam, Nordland Sweden in deep winter, Paris in a diamond-cut crystal winter, Kiev in a lazy winter and Chernobyl, oh goodness, Chernobyl. Vancouver in a wet but gentler winter.

And home.

And back to the Monday to Friday, and back to the office cubicle and the same bed every night, the same streets and the same trains and friends who were there and are there now.

And gosh it's nice.

And possibly, maybe, I'm actually settling down. Or still riding the adventure high. I just don't feel as restless in my heart and lungs, there's not that same sense of urgency to chase every horizon.

Or, maybe I'm just tired.

Anyway. Got my love. Got my families, my friends, my dogs. Got my happiness. Got a pen and space in a notebook. Got shit to learn. 31 was pretty damn amazing. Looks like the forecast isn't going to change for 32.

Thank you, my sweet random microclimates. 

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Girls Club: Self-Love

I almost wonder if I shouldn't wait a couple of days to compose this, instead of leaping onto write up a post the moment I get home. Give the thought some time to stew and get rrrreal tasty like.

This month's meeting  presented us with quite a range of exercises which would enable us to break down some mental blocks, reinforce some obvious strengths, help us identify perhaps unhealthy aspects in our current environment and generally help us to be happier within ourselves.

Self-love, self-worth, self-esteem; these things are all ridiculously personal and tied up as much to our immediate surroundings as to our upbringing and history. While we may all suffer from, say, the idea that we're just not good enough, the paths that have brought us to this conclusion are surprisingly varied.

As a result, there is no one way to address the issue, as each person's demon is tailor-made just for them.

For example; affirmations. I've never used any sort of affirmation, as when I hit my late twenties I used up my "I hate myself" tolerance, decided that all this self-loathing used too much energy, and promptly stopped. (Which is not to say I'm happy with myself, I simply don't spend much time beating myself up. Benignly indifferent? Is that a stance I'm allowed to claim?)

However, for others, forcing yourself to write and speak a simple statement that they do not initially believe to be true can be effective. Just as you can't move a hill with only a single shovelful, you must repeat the action to break through. Many shovelfuls later, the hill is moved.

The advice given was to choose an exercise that perhaps didn't appeal to you, precisely to get you out of your comfort zone and challenge something that is perhaps too deeply entrenched. Me Dates are something I've been lax with of late, and so I've already blocked off a few nights in my calendar for TEZATAIM, and they will probably involve nothing more than sitting in a cafe with a notebook, but I'm already looking forward to them. I've written before about my Happy Caps folder, but I'm going to start another, purely for professional validation.

I've a horrible feeling what I'm going to be left doing is PR for myself, as an exercise.

Have to admit, Deb and I shared a small look of horror when we discovered this exercise. Promotion of the self is, for better or worse, become a Must Have skill for writers at the moment, and shows no sign of changing. One of the blessing curses of the internet is more exposure and reaching more readers, which unfortunately means more exposure. Writers, being solitary creatures for the most part, usually suck at this. Not as a skillset - a great many writers I know are excellent at their own PR - but it takes so much from them, it's a beast that devours their time and mental and emotional resources. The idea of doing PR when I don't actually have to seems nigh daft.

Another exercise I found interesting was letting go/reaching out, the idea being that if you have identified a person in your life as not being great for you, you let them go. However, for every person you let go, you should in turn identify someone who has a positive effect on you and try to strengthen the relationship with them.

Balancing my social wants to my emotional wants is something I'm grappling with at the moment. Melbourne is so full of wonderful and interesting people from whom I can learn all sorts of things and have all sorts of fun, and I want to spend time with these people!

I also want to spend time reading and writing.

Being as my one great fear is depression, I'm probably too good at cutting people who may be detrimental to me from my life. But figuring out how to cut down the number of awesome people around? This is possibly a zero world problem- wait. There are no problems, only challenges. This challenge indicates I have it pretty good, but holy shit it is hard to figure out.

A last exercise I shall do is the maintaining of the Reverse Bucket List, ie, a list not of things you want to do, but of things you've already done. And man, I have heaps. HEAPS. Piles even! And when I'm sitting at work, on the train, at home, being frustrated at the limitations of my life, I'll shove this list in my face and remind myself not to be greedy and patience is a virtue. You are quite good at making things happen; thus, things will happen.

Look on my works, ye mighty, and be amazed.

(I was on Young Talent Time as a kid, STICK THAT IN YOUR REVERSE BUCKET.)