Socially Awkward Writers Society

I had a long chat with a sister writer today. We are both socially awkward writers. Meet me on paper and I’m witty, wild, full-on. Meet me in uncurated person and you’ll realise I’m the group doofus who will suddenly announce, in a silence: “Don’t eat polar bear liver. It contains a lethal dose of Vitamin A. In fact, I think most predator species have that going so, so don’t eat predators.”

I suppose, in some ways, my super power is my autism. I’ve been high masking all my life, so what’s one more mask, right?

I was a bookworm, introvert, smartypants, nerd, geek, and all round low-rung girl in high school. I couldn’t wait to leave. When I walked out of that last exam on a warm, humid November afternoon, in Year 12, I literally muttered: “Goodbye shitty old life” as I left the school grounds. I was done wi,th my teenage self who got bullied, got ignored, got dropped as a friend when football, boys, or more normal girls came along.

My first day of university, I stood in the centre of the lecture hall building, watching people racing around me as they got to their first class of the year. I stood there in my sweet summer dress, and cork-soled heels, a pair of bell-shaped tiny earrings dangling from my ears, and just a drop of Chimere perfume on my wrists. The quintessential Nice Girl. Adult learners, teachers-in-training, and the Arts department students who were easily spotted swarmed around me. I took a breath. I could continue being a Nice Quiet Girl, and mouse my way through university, or I could woman up, and find a different part of myself. So I took another breath, and walked up the most unusually dressed woman I saw and asked where Lecture Hall 230 was. She was a first year Arts student like me, 3 years older, with short crimson hair, wild leggings, and red boots. We walked to the lecture hall together. This was how to get on. Step outside my true self, put on the sociable mask, and be Out There.

I’ve pretty much lived in that persona for the rest of my life. Even when I have to take days to recover from being socially out there. Even when I’m talking too much and being too loud and I know it. Call it a mask, a persona, my Gemini Ascendant, whatever. Call it the advocate loudmouth self I had to become when I had two kids with disabilities. Call it cranky older woman if you like.

But it’s served me well when it comes to gushing over the work of fellow writers, being brave enough to go up to someone famous and introduce myself, to friend sister and fellow writer folx on social media, to interact with them online and sometimes in person. Even if I’m quailing inside, I do it.

Writing is a lonely business.

I figure that even if I’m dorky, geeky, nerdy, sometimes far too much, sometimes not enough, I’m still a human being, or masquerading as one, and I might as well make the best of it, even if Imposter Syndrome sits on me like a fat hen. So I shake hands with Lee Kofman, I ask for Robert Silverberg’s autograph, I verbally admire Lois McMaster Bujold’s jewellery, I admire architecture with a famous agent, and….oh dear, teach dodgy lap dancing at a publisher’s party. I admire artwork and ask to meet the painter. I sit and happily watch people create jewellery or whatever they’re doing.

I dunno. Maybe they’re all thinking ‘who is this schmoozing creeper?’

Mostly, the relationships are what they are, and I hope they get as much out of it as do I.

But every now and then, someone knows someone, and puts me in contact with just the right person to ask a question of, to read a book that I needed to read, to be lead down a new path. Even more occasionally, there’s a book blurb or some such that comes from this, for which I am profoundly grateful.

But mostly, it’s me careening through the galaxy like one of the hippos in Fantasia, tutu rustling, mouth open wide, and spouting information about polar bear liver. Even if inside I’m dying, I still do it, because the friendships are worth it.

How I Read Oracle Cards – one card pull instructional

Good morning. Executive decision to not go to dance class this morning, and concentrate on writing stuff. If I want this publication, writing life AS my life, creativity, digging deeper, spilling my mind into the world thing, then I have to make space for it. A growing urge since art therapy last week – lots of frustration came up over this old, old pattern of distraction.

Card: What you want is wanting you.

I asked for guidance for this morning’s writing session, with that decision in mind. I used the Sacred Rebels oracle: artwork by Autumn Skye Morrison, words by Alana Fairchild. (I get peeved with Alana’s decks, when the artist isn’t mentioned on the box. Just sayin’, Alana.)

  1. Looking at the card: a young person, hair streaming/floating, is looking up at the shape of spiral shell formed from their hair. They are white with brown eyes, dark hair. The background is blue sky with clouds. Colours are browns, whites, and blues, a hint of orange as shadow.
  2. Without looking at the book’s interpretation: this feels like a big yes to my decision to….I won’t say run, because that’s not my speed these days, but perhaps float or sail into the possibilities being offered by the various writers’ newsletters I receive, the opportunities offered through Writers Victoria, and my own research into various journals. I can only presume that my resurrected desire to be in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction means that they too desire to have me in there. Perhaps the world is waiting for my prose and poetry and creative non-fiction just as much as I want it out in the world. After years and years of thinking ‘no one cares’, this is complete turn-around of thought and energy, and brings to mind the lessons from E-SQUARED by Pam Grout. The universe wants to give me what I want. Okay then.
  3. The book meaning: “If you have been shamed, judged, made to feel guilt for, or denied your natural desires or pleasures in any way you may have developed and very tricky and complicated relationship with the yearnings of your heart. We often learn to distrust our desires and come to believe that they are something to be overcome or avoided. We may even try to want second best, disbelieving that we are worthy of our first choice….First, trust in what you truly want, what would bring a sense of passionate, playful purpose and fulfillment to your life….If you genuinely don’t know what your heart wants, you will very much enjoy the process of exploring your desires by making gentle and persistent enquiries of yourself….what is it that truly moves you….Play with what it would be like to be fulfilled right now.” All good thoughts from Alana Fairchild. Dream big, dream often.

The spiral in the card is a representation of the Goddess for me. The beautiful circular, sacred spiralling nature of the divine feminine. Look to the Goddess for inspiration, resolve, and bigger dreams.

The element of Air is strong in this card, with the floating hair, and the sky as background. Thought, inspiration, The Sword, The Mind.

I’ve mourned my pre-25 years old life, when I had a burgeoning writing career. I was publishing professionally regularly, wrote regularly, kept sending stuff out. I was confident that my work was good enough. Publications include: Starlog, Meanjin, Mattoid, Australian Short Stories, Far Out, Aurealis, Orb, Pandora, Westerly, Southerfly, LINQ, The Age, The Weekend Australian. I was an emerging writer.

Break to get married and have children – post-natal depression (undiagnosed).

A few more publications in Aurealis, and some overseas non-paying lit mags.

Five year gig as a columnist for NOVA, with appearances in Spellcraft, Circle, and some other USA pagan publications including Green Egg.

Slow fracturing of spirit and mind.

Current state: 42 sessions into TMS treatment (see my posts about Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy), art therapy, lockdown slow life, and suddenly, I feel like writing, and publication are possible.

This card says YES in a big way.

The Problem is the Problem: the stories we tell ourselves

Last year, and earlier this year, I was seeing, online, Narrative Therapist Nicole Hind, of Unveiled Stories. Once I started Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy acute treatments, there simply wasn’t enough time in the week for TMS, therapy, and life in general, so Nicole and I put our relationship on hold.

However, I did sign up to her ‘From Bashful To Bold’ online course, which is do-at-your-own-pace. This usually translates to ‘never do’. I do have a large cork board that all the courses I’ve signed up for and not completed are written upon, and I decided today to take another look at From Bashful To Bold.

I’ve just listened to the 3rd class, on the labels we slap on, or have slapped on us, and how to reframe those stories.

The example Nicole gives is rather than saying: “I’m bad at maths”, which puts the onus on her as being the malfunctioning thing, saying: “Maths is a problem”, well, in that case, the problem can have a solution that doesn’t weigh her down or blame her.

I have never ever said: “I am depressed” or “I am anxious”, or “I am mentally ill.” Even without this Narrative Reframing, I felt that I would be taking those labels deep into me and making them who I am. I’ve always seen depression and anxiety as things that have come to roost on me, like fucking annoying roosters or vultures. “I have depression” implies the possibility that I won’t one day. Saying “depression is a problem” makes it not about me at all. Yes, depression that huge black dog, that hungry vulture, that black crow, that Cthulhu from the abyss is a problem, and it’s currently visiting me, but problems can be solved.

Now that feels like I have room to move. That shift in what I’m saying feels more spacious, less blaming, less victim-y. Depression is a problem, the same way that mosquitoes are a problem. I wouldn’t say I suffer from mosquitoes, and I certainly wouldn’t say I am mosquitoed.

Language can change thought. Think about it.

PS: This whole conversation makes me think about a guy I met via Plenty of Fish, back in the infancy of internet dating. His handle was ‘Unloved’. I asked him why ‘Unloved’, was it a ploy to get sympathy from women? He said he had to call himself ‘Unloved’ because: “I am love.”

Yeah. Wut? Get out of here. Wanker.

The Daily Blog: Dear Artist

Dear Artist Self:

Who told you that you are too much, and thus must put too little of everything on the page? Can you remember back?

Dear Satya:

I remember an early passion for pastel colours instead of brights, despite deep jewel brights suiting me better. I am ‘deep earthy soft’ according to one stylist, which makes me sound like damp earth, or manure.

I used to spend art class at school mixing up pale yellow paint, scoop after scoop of it. Not painting with it, just mixing it.

Dear Satya:

I’m scared that if I put too much of anything on the page, I’ll ruin it, I won’t be able to take it back. There will always be the smudged charcoal mark, the imprint of the pencil, the blobby paint. I’m so scared, I’m frozen.

Dear Artist Self:

Does writer self also hold herself back?

Dear Satya:

Yes.

Dear Selves:

You know that only by being too much, by going to end of our being, will we find the true gold.

Dear Satya:

We’re scared.

Dear Love:

What shall we do?

Dear Satya:

Hold them.

The Daily Blog: Why Am I Crying?

It’s Easter Sunday, and fair dinkum, neighbour, how on earth are you still edging your garden after 3 days? Good Friday, you mowed. Saturday, I don’t know what you did, but it was noisy and to do with the lawns. This morning, it’s edging. How can you possibly still be going?

But that’s the topic of the day. I’m reading ONE LAST DANCE by Emma Jane Holmes. The memoir of a funeral director and lingerie waitress. Well, thus far, lingerie waitress. I suspect she ventures further into the adult industry as the book goes along. “My life in mortuary scrubs and g-strings”.

Why am I crying? Because, when I separated from my first husband, I had no idea of how sexy and beautiful I was. I still had unlined skin, looked younger than I was(30), had a great figure, and long reddish blonde hair. Instead, I threw my assets away on scoring the next man and the next man, in my desperate search for the one who would rescue me, and support me, and my kids. I used sex, and my body, and my bubbly surface personality. A couple of years, and broken hearts later, as I descended into deeper and deeper depression, I started cleaning houses for the City of Monash. I thought I wasn’t even worth the easy jobs, but that I deserved the ‘first person in to clean in three years’ jobs.

I did it super-tough, because I thought that’s what I deserved.

If I had known that all I needed was a decent body, a great string bikini, and stripper heels, I could have been making wads of cash in hand as a lingerie waitress in pubs.

Oh Satya, if only you saw in yourself then what you see in old photos now. The pale skin, brown sparkling eyes, the wide smile, the amazing legs shaped by ballroom and belly dancing, the only slightly rounded tummy that some gym work would have solved, perfect breasts. I was gorgeous. Why couldn’t I see it then?

I learned in high school (I am on the autism spectrum, so I learned how to high mask, and to do what it took to appear normal) that the way to blend in was to not be too brainy, to struggle in at least one or two subjects, and to put yourself down. I watched girlfriends put themselves down, and garner friends and attention from boys. Oh, so that’s how you do it. That’s how you survive.

And because school scarcely interested me, except for the books we needed to read for English and English Literature, and facts garnered in Science and History, I muddled along, my grades gradually falling from Year 10 onwards, except in English. By Year 12, I flashed around my D’s in Biology and Politics, and thought I was part of the mob. I’d learned to wear baggy sweaters nicked from my Dad’s closet, and to poke at my hips, sighing.

I had a perfect hour glass figure. I ‘killed it’ in a bikini. I was smart, strong, and walked 5km a day.

What hope does a girl have? Society tells her to cover up, that she’s less than she is. The advertising industry tells her she’s ugly. She doesn’t fit exactly into Target clothing.

Oh Satya, no wonder you’re crying. No wonder you admire a friend of a friend who embraced prostitution during school hours, through a brothel, and made a bundle. Last I heard, she had put all three kids through private schooling, invested well in the stock market, had a house in Bentleigh East, and a holiday home in Sorrento, and another in a European country(maybe Switzerland). And when she got sick of that, she took to the phone sex lines, once the kids were in bed at night, and during school hours, and made more money. And she never regretted a moment of it. She did what she needed to do, and did it wisely, avoiding the pitfalls of drink, drugs, STDs, and self-loathing.

Too late now. I am 57, and well past the age of being a lingerie waitress, prostitute, phone sex worker(I tried it in my 40’s and just started laughing at the fantasy of ‘I’m lying on my bed wearing a red teddy, and I’m really horny’ and the reality of me chopping up vegetables for soup), or even returning to professional belly dance.

But oh, what could have been if I’d taken several paths less travelled. If only I’d seen my own reality, instead of what society thought I should think of myself.