The Spark Prize 2022

The Spark Prize is a writing prize offered by Hardie Grant, and RMIT for a new book of narrative non fiction. The prize is development of the idea, the book, coaching, and mentoring. $5000. Bienniel.

I have a number of things swirling in my head.

Foremost is: can’t do it, can’t do it, can’t do it, not ready, not ready, afraid, afraid, back off, next time.

Then: omg, detailed chapter summaries are required.

Then: The third draft of the ThirtiesPerson memoir is still a big amorphous mass.

Then: I’m a fragile wee thing, scarcely able to do anything these days, damaged, damaged.

Then: if not now, when?

Then: what if I get it, and can’t follow through?

Then: help. I need help!

Then: I’ve just read Lisa Curry’s memoir LISA, and I admire her focus and determination, and I’ve just said to several friends ‘shall we be the best we can be?’ And here I am, two days later, backing off from that due to fear, and doubt, two things Lisa doesn’t seem to possess, or if she does, they weren’t my take aways from the book.

Then: Feel the fear and do it anyway.

I’ve sat frozen on my bed for the past half an hour, consumed by fear and doubt, since reading the requirement of detailed chapter summaries, when my memoir doesn’t have any chapters, and is 135000 words of ‘this, then this, then this’. It is narrative non fiction in that it tells a story. I finally have my ending, after years of sitting with this.

I’ve eaten 1/3 of a big Freddo Frog as comfort food, want to eat the rest, then drive to the supermarket and buy All The Cadbury Chocolate I can carry.

About 8 months ago, in a secret facebook group for Australian women writers, I had quite the run in with women writers who questioned my right to write the story of a little boy in Western Australia with severe autism. His mother is a friend of mine, and wants her story told, wants his story told. There was a lot of screeching, and having a go at me for taking this story, instead of letting the lad tell his own story (which he is not capable of doing). It was suggested that someone on the spectrum should tell this story, at the very least. I pointed out that I am on the spectrum. “Okay then, don’t fuck it up!” I was told. Along with several women saying that they were ‘super triggered’ by this. I left the group. It’s not the first time this sort of pile on has happened in that group. It’s not a very good group for supporting neurodiverse women writers, it seems. (I’ve just read the memoir of the lead gang member. She’s a shitty writer. She can get fucked.)

Do I have the right to tell ThirtiesPerson’s story? Well, if I don’t, no one else will. And it’s my story as well.

It’s lunch time now. I am going to eat, and then do some yogic breathing, and fucking well make up 20 chapter headings after luncha and bloody well tackle this. Why not me? Lisa Curry, please send some of your muscle and grit my way.

Poem – I Lived With A Book In My Hand

Prompt from Poets and Storytellers United: “Your mission for today, should you choose to accept it, is to be inspired by a favourite book or books – to describe it/them, and/or the effect on you; or to retell the story; or to invent a sequel, a prequel or an alternate ending; or to attempt something in that style; or to let it lead you in some other new direction of your own. Don’t forget to tell us the source of your inspiration!”

My children climbed all over their father’s new

secondhand boat,

while I floated on a thrill of horror.

Pages turned quickly,

my forefinger wetted over and over,

me oblivious to any falls my kids might risk,

as the stories unfolded.

The man who died with a felafel in his hand,

the underpants sniffing housemate,

the girl motorbiking the wrong way

up a one-way street;

the utter awfulness of share housing

in Australia,

in Queenland,

in the 80’s.

Me, safe in Melbourne,

in a house I shared

with my family,

but almost in love

with the ghastly, student-filled lives

of people I’d never met.

I wanted two hundred tales of my own,

of squalor, and anti-glamour,

just to appear that world-weary,

and cool,

not realising I had two hundred tales of my own,

of raising disabled kids, of a strange and distant husband,

of the rental house we lived in,

the ghost, burglars, the neighbour with the bird whistle.

I sat in the sun,

reading a book,

relishing that it was not me

crammed into a house with ten strangers,

and a festering soup pot left in a cupboard for six months.

*****

HE DIED WITH A FELAFEL IN HIS HAND by John Birmingham.

Poem: The Ritual

A writing prompt from Poets and Storytellers United:

“I find that when things get a little bit crazy, it’s good to have some reliable little rituals in place. These are small touch points in our day-to-day lives that can act as moments of calm, mindfulness, or even just a break when we need it. No one should be surprised to learn that I consider my first morning cup of tea to be an important personal ritual.

For those of us who would like a prompt to work with, I’d like to suggest writing poetry or prose about the small rituals or daily routines that make up our lives.

5pm, and my old orange cat shouts

for second dinner, and third.

Shouts at me to put on my pyjamas and climb into bed,

so he can get in with me.

He must be in and out of the blankets thrice

before he lies down,

slowly, minding his sore hips,

knobbly backbone,

the wings of his shoulders.

He purrs deep,

vibrations lengthening until he’s as close to sleep

as he comes.

I must read, write,

eat my dinner from here,

holding my bladder,

my thoughts,

my life,

to suit His Majesty.

If only I could purr,

I would.

Shopping addiction

I’ve spent half an hour this morning making piles of non-fiction books. Some are going to various girlfriends who want them. Others are going to my closest secondhand bookshop. Witchie books, tarot books, a few other non-fics. My ridiculous brain will no longer let me read and absorb and learn from non-fiction books. I recently read KEEPING HER KEYS and cannot tell you one iota of what it said, other than it was about Hecate. This is no way to live. My unread bookshelves groan with the weight of them, and I groan with the effort of pretending they’re not there. So, here I am, facing facts. The books have to go. And I will be reading fiction from now on.

Over the past two years, I’ve examined my habits, and come to the conclusion that I’m stuck in the routine of heading to bookshops when I’m bored, or just want out of the house for a bit. Which leads to book buying. I started doing this in my early teens. Mum washed my hair on Sunday mornings. I had hair to my waist, so it was a real ordeal to hunch over the bath and have her wash it, then get it combed out.

After Mum did my hair, she wanted me out of the way so she could put the Sunday roast on, wash and set her own hair, and generally sit for a bit. Dad would be tinkering with his car, which is where I learned to swear. “Ah, carm orn, you bastaarrrrrd!”

I took myself up Centre Rd, in Bentleigh, to Benn’s Bookshop(which is still operating 35 years later) and pottered. Looked through all the science fiction books, a few classics, books on nature, and then whatever else took my fancy. Haunted the occult section for books on ghosts, UFO’s, pyramids, etc. I never had the money to buy any, but I sure read a few, either standing up in the shop, or sitting on the floor in the childrens’ section.

Now, one problem with this. And this may be TMI. After a while, breakfast hit my guts, and I wanted to poop. But there was no toilet. The toilet block nearby at Moorabbin library was locked on Sundays. So, I held on, and let out horrid farts. The sort that would kill a horse. The sort that you couldn’t drop and leave in one spot of the bookshop. They followed me around, like I was trailing veils. Veils of stink. A miasma.

When the griping in my guts got too bad, I’d waddle home, and after a hideous time in the toilet (we had an outdoor toilet, attached to the outdoor laundry), I had the rest of the morning to kill. So I reread all my old books, and dreamed of the day I could buy whichever books I wanted.

That day is here. I can buy all the books I want. But brain is saying no these days. I can buy them, but my concentration waxes and wanes, and says absolutely no learning any more.

If I add to this dilemma that I don’t need any more clothes, I tend to wear one pair of shoes until they die, I don’t need magazines, dvds, or anything else much, my challenge is that I need to get out of shopping centres as distraction and live a life more in the world, when I feel the need to be in it at all.

Consume some nature, Satya. Watch trees and clouds.

Just not today, dear blog. Melbourne is experiencing a ‘polar blast’ and it’s cooooold. I do not like the cold. My body doesn’t like the cold. Any nature I experience will be front gardens as I take a neighbourhood walk. At least I can’t buy anything while I’m stickybeaking in gardens.

Poem – pain

This is just to say

I have taken

the pill

that was in the packet

and which

we were both

hoping

would bring relief

Forgive me

the pain knifes on

so sharp

and so hot.

(After reading ‘This Is Just To Say’ by William Carlos Williams)

*****

I have body pain. Loads of it, ranging from a low level grumble I can ignore, right up to lower back screaming, and the traffic sounds of a two tears in my rotator cuff.

WTF Tarot Spread – My health

Light Seer’s Tarot.

Situational: after all the medical tests, but before I hear the results, and consult with Dr Anjana again.

  1. The face of my challenge: 10 of Wands. All those responsibilities. The burdens I carry, and choose to bring along with me, seeing them all as important, and equal. The mountain in front of me is huge, and badly lit, but it IS lit, and like everything, I can take it one step at a time. I note the assistance I have – the yak. The mountain seems like unrelenting grey, and I am fearful of my old depression rearing up again if I upset my health apple cart too much. But there are hints of brown, which indicates fertile soil.
  2. The crux of what hounds me (What The): 2 of Pentacles. The juggler card. Balancing all the needs, expectations, responsibilities. I still do it well, but why? The grey is behind me in this card, which indicates that my TMS treatments are still working. I’m afraid to sit down and be still, because then I will feel the weight of it all. Which is what came up in therapy last time we met. That I haven’t allowed much quiet and stillness, because I feel I’ll be crushed by the enormity of it all. I look pulled about in this card, the two pentacles being blown about, and I’m grabbing at them to maintain some degree of control. I look down, because I don’t want to see what I’m actually managing to do.
  3. What is real about this (Actual): 8 of Pentacles. What is real about this is the fucking hard work. This is traditionally the apprentice card. Oh please don’t tell me I still have more study and learning to do. I’m getting rid of all my non fiction books, because I simply can’t take in information in that way any more. Please tell me about mastery and skill. I am seated, looking at the green candle. Green for healing, growth, nature. Yes, I do need to be in nature much more than I am. I do need stillness, and scrying time. I need to see the light in the situation. This card speaks of ‘I’ve come so far, and I need to take stock of that, try to see the shape of it’. The memoir was doing that, but I don’t have the heart to go back to it. Or the energy.
  4. What is wrong about this (Fuck): The Emperor. Well, the easy answer here is my male-born offspring, ThirtiesPerson. An easy reach is my ex husband. An easy reach is poverty back in my 20’s-40’s. An easy reach is being dismissed by male doctors. Emperor speaks to ambition realised, strategy. Relying on traditional medicine only is a mistake. Hopefully, seeing an integrative doctor is a step in the right direction.
  5. Where do I need more info (?): The Sun. Nurtured by sunlight, by creativity, by feelings of success, a sense of abundance and gratitude, seeing my own inner beauty. I feel like I can access all of these from different sources, and it’s too exhausting to do it all. “Each minute particle comes bundled with tiny bits of information”. I can’t go running through my days, my life, from this appointment to the next. I need a clear path that will provide it all. Dear Universe, I need a clear path that will provide all that I need. So mote it be. The Sun is a positive card, and one interpretation could be that I don’t need any more, that I’m good as I am. Well, if that’s the case, why do I still feel like rubbish? Postive thinking will go a long way towards me finding the path, and I note that the girl in this card is barefoot on the ground – grounding.
  6. What can I do? (!): 6 of Swords. Look at this card. Run away. That’s my urge. Run away to sunshine, beach, quiet. Get the hell out of town and away from everything. The problem is, I come home and it’s all still here, with nothing changed, nothing solved. The Knights are about various forms of movement, action. An expression of doing. The Swords are the Air element, so this speaks to mental action. What can I change about my mental landscape to relieve the burdens, or my perception of them? Fast action, streamlined decision making, competitive resoluteness, action, get on it.

Busy busy busy

It’s a frantic time in the Priya house. My husband, PizzaBoy, was in a car accident last Friday, while I was in hospital having a day procedure (TMI: gastroscopy and colonscopy). He’s okay, but has lost confidence, and his car is a write off. So it’s new secondhand car time, and they’re at a premium. If he wanted a new new car, he’d have to wait up to two years. Thanks covid.

So, I’m holding space for him in my emotionally autistic way, and trying to be there.

We also have 3 out of 5 support workers out with covid, so I’m doing a bit of filling in where my offspring, ThirtiesPerson, needs to get places, and keeping the house running.

All this makes SatyaPriya a bit crazy.

I took myself off to Robinson’s Bookshop yesterday for a cup of tea, a cake, book browsing, and moping. All those published books, an absolute nonstop torrent of them. And none of them mine. 5 novels, 3 memoirs, scores of short stories, hundreds of poems, CNF – you name it, it’s all hiding in the confines of my laptop.

If my ridiculous brain would calm down, and my body stop thinking it’s 98, not 58, that’d be great (thanks, meme), and I’d be able to calmly go about finishing, editing and rewriting, polishing, sending out, and generally doing the working writer thing. But noooo. Right now, all my senses go into overdrive as soon as I start looking at a call out.

One poem. That’s all I ask. One damned poem sent anywhere at all.

No. Too hard. Let’s reread a library book, and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

Then again, I’ve just come through 2 years of covid lockdowns, and my body is telling all sorts of trauma stories, so maybe I should give myself an effing break.

I did make 2 phone calls this morning, get on a zoom call, and send two emails. So yay me for doing that.

I just wish…..sometimes I wish I was neurotypical, and built to live in the world, and that I could Get On.

If wishes were horses, the neurodiverse would ride, if the horse’s texture was okay.

So, that’s me at the moment.

Poem: Executive Dysfunction

Monday Monday playing sweetly,

and I’m fifty eight,

while Papa John Phillips was sixty five when he died,

with a huge career behind him.

My list of Things To Do

is a butter-slicked mountain of round rocks,

and a packet of cotton wool balls,

and bubbles out of my reach.

I talk my legs into taking me to the bathroom.

I tell my bladder to let go.

Young Girls may be Coming To The Canyon,

but I cannot keep my lights on,

for even if I was at the head of the canyon,

I’d stand there swaying in the breeze,

knowing I should stroll in,

but feeling, uneasily,’

that I no longer know how to move.

I can see those young girls walking,

and I was one of them, once.

I know how to walk,

but I don’t, can’t, shan’t,

oh forget it.

There must be ways to end this poem.

I’ve ended poems before.

Easier to just sit,

watching McGuinn and McGuire catching fire,

along with everyone else.

*****

Full Moon In Scorpio Eclipse Tarot Reading

Spread from @TypeWriter Tarot.

Deck: Oak, Ash and Embers Tarot from Three Trees Tarot.

  1. The portal I am currently moving through: 4 of Wands traditionally means a union and a happy one, with a couple standing under a chuppah (wedding canopy). Here, two red dragons swing and play around four flowering staves. I am stepping through a portal of flourishing. So, what does that mean exactly? Am I moving from growth to a time of being fallow. It certainly feels that way for my writing. A mighty push for the beginning of the year has lead to the well being empty now. Am I moving from a planning period into one of flourishing and growth? That could also be the case, as I am about to begin a Sacred Doll Making Course with The Sacred Familiar, a whole new adventure for me. Either way, it appears to be an easy passage, as the dragons are playful and happy. Given that it’s Wands, and the Fire element, indicating action, rather than thought, I am hoping it means I am finally on the right track in terms of my health, and that the integrative doctor I’ve just consulted will sort me out and get my energy levels back, dissipate the brain fog, and generally have me on the up and up. Oh, I hope it’s that.
  2. My guide through this portal: Wheel of Fortune. The surety that nothing remains the same. Change. Well, I have changed doctors. This sweet little dragon is looking up at a butterfly, the symbol of transformation. There are both autumn leaves falling(very true in my part of the world, right now, with this being the last month of autumn) and flowers are blooming(a few of my winter bulbs have put up their first tendrils). In yet another corner are the bare branches of winter. All four seasons are represented, as an indication that however my body is, however my mind is, however my writing, and craft attempts are, nothing remains the same forever. Change, change, change, all is change, every day.
  3. A message from my dreams/intuition/unconscious mind: Ace of Pentacles. A new beginning for the body, the physical self. This doctor does seem, then, to be on the money, and the tests she ordered will bear fruit. The small dragon here is offered a single coin by a turtle. What will either of them want with it. It’s an opportunity for growth. I’m not going to say a money-making opportunity, because I’m not in that frame of mind, but it does seem something is being offered to me, and I hope it’s the renewal of my vitality and health.
  4. Something I must shed to pass through to the other side: 3 of Cups. These 3 dragons are having a lot of fun around three small cups. It’s a celebration, which is what the card usually represents, and can indicate sisterhood. I must shed friends? Sisterhood? Fun? Collaborations? Community? I can’t imagine that, on any level, the tarot, or the Goddess, would advise I shed any of those things. In fact, She would be saying “Listen, you stick in the mud Capricorn, Saturn-ruled woman, more fun, more sponteneity, more sisterhood.” I’m puzzled by this one, I’ll confess. Reliance on others? Well, shoot, it’s only recently that I’ve admitted I can’t do everything alone, and have asked for help and support. Does this card WANT me to have a full on breakdown?
  5. Where I need comfort/support through this passage: 8 of Swords. Seriously? Am I sure these two cards aren’t reversed? This little dragon is on the ground, paw over eyes in a gesture of surrender or giving up. Swords aimed from every direction, but no one holding them. The dragon is not trying to get out of the situation, and perceives that they can’t. I need to lose the idea that my health will always be this crummy, that my writing career is gone and will never come back, that I’m a lousy craftswoman, that most of my life has been a failure. Help me, please, family, friends, support workers, to remove my paw from my eyes, lift my head, and rise up from the sword points. I have wings. Why aren’t I using them?
  6. The portal’s most important lesson for me: 6 of Cups. The web-footed dragon swims amongst the reeds and fishes. Nostalgia, memories, healing, comfort, sentimentality, familiarity – suggested interpretation by Labyrinthos. The dragon and the fish look like friends, and the dragon is giving the fish a flower. Charming. The message here is to say yes to friends, and to take time to feel their emotional support, which I admit is hard for me to do. I always feel like I’m taking too much, and being too much. This is obviously my mind’s own confection.

TMS update – 14/5/22

It’s just over a year since I began my TMS journey, and as of 2 weeks ago, I finished up treatment. I spoke on the phone with one of their in-house psychiatrists, and we agreed that I’d see how well my brain holds on to the changes TMS has wrought.

It’s a little anxiety-making to finish up, as I’ve continued on for the past year with fortnightly treatments, scared to let go. However, I have other health concerns pressing on me that could use the money injection that TMS soaks up, and it’s time to see exactly how well TMS treated me.

My last treatment was two weeks ago, and I should have had another one this week. However, the week came and went, and I have not fallen in a huge heap.

I no longer feel depressed. My mind just no longer goes there. There’s no suicidal ideation, or if there is, it’s momentary, and an old habit, rather than an on-going Idiot Cockatoo voice in my head yelling “Hang yourself!” I find I have those slip-ups when Im feeling overwhelmed and tired. That’s my mind’s easy to-go as a response, but I can now say ‘nope that’s enough of that bullshit, and not fucking helpful’. And I shy away from the thoughts like a nervous horse, and realise I’m tired.

The anxiety….is an ongoing story, one that I wish I could say has been as successful as the depression side of things. I had a blissful month during my acute treatment phase, when I floated along, not anxious about anything. But I was also not asking anything much of myself, just dealing with the headaches and exhaustion that comes with starting TMS. After that first month, I said: “Well, this has been fun, but I can’t put my life on hold forever”. And the anxiety started creeping back in, mostly registering around 2-3.

I’d say now it’s about a 5, which is still a damned nuisance. I do tend to pile far too much onto my plate, due to ongoing brain shouting: “We must do all the things before we die!” (As if any of it really matters anyway.) I am learning, slowly, to moderate what I pile on, and thus manage my anxiety better.

It’s at the stage of preventing me going to certain things, because I’m tired. Which may not be all anxiety. I suspect my thyroid meds are not doing what they’re supposed to, and after this blog entry, I’ll be following up a recommendation Flirty Belly Dancer gave me to her doctor, who looks at the whole thyroid picture, not just the usual tests, and treating T4 only.

Well, that’s it for this series of blog posts. I have kept you updated on my TMS journey, and I hope it’s been helpful to those of you who have followed along, and who might be considering TMS for themselves. I’d say, do it. It worked for me, and I was sheer bloody minded that it was going to work.

Ciao for now.