This prompt of ‘Sudden moments’ from Poets and Storytellers United.
I felt lousy for days. One of the endless head colds I copped back then, in my thirties, when every period meant my immune system crashed, and the bugs my kids so generously shared from school crept into my body. This one came with a cough-cough-cough.
My partner was fed up with my coughing. I coughed when he came to bed at 2am, fresh from a night’s computer programming, and ready for sex, sleep, and a home-cooked breakfast(every morning, thanks, because he’s the bread winner, so no store bought bread). So it was a perfunctory goodbye as he went to work.
I made the bed. Coughed. Swooned on it a while, covered in sweat. Coughed. Dusted a shelf. Coughed. Must carry on, be tough, prove to him that I’m worth his time. Cough.
Something sharp jabbed me in the side, and tingling pain spread through my back, my ribs, up into the nestle spot of my shoulder, my neck. Breath held, pain dying away to a dull ache. Breathing – pain, and more pain. Stabbing, an odd rustling in my chest, strange gurgle from somewhere around my liver.
I couldn’t lie down because getting up off the couch or bed was pain. Couldn’t sit. Couldn’t stand for long. I leaned against the wall. Coughed. Pain. I climbed onto the kitchen table, lay there, because at least I could slide off that to standing.
He telephoned mid-morning.
“I didn’t like the way you looked this morning. You looked sick for real.”
As though all those other times, I’d faked it.
“I coughed, and something’s wrong,” I said, croaking, coughing, groaning in pain.
He took me to the hospital. Nothing wrong. Ribs fine, lungs fine, everything good, good, good, we’re not keeping you in, go home, rest.
Two days later, I see my chiropractor.
“I almost didn’t recognise you,” he said. “You look that bad.”
My coughing had thrown something out in my spine, and my ribs. Painful clicks, and I could breathe and think again. More crunches, and the coughing stopped. I wept in gratitude, threw my spine out again. Another click.
That spot, years later, still goes out but obstructs rather than stabs. I don’t get quite the range and ease of movement I want when it’s being foolish. A few chiropractic clicks, and I’m fine, but no adjustment in the world gets rid of the scar tissue my ex-partner left behind – heart, mind, back teeth, scalp, ego.
Five years ago, he tried to make contact, saying we were friends. I disconnected in a short sharp stab of time.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
From an interview with Ingrid Laguna: “I’ve always been driven. I’m a passionate person and I throw myself into my work, whether it’s drumming, teaching or writing. I still have a school report from when I was twelve where a teacher wrote: ‘Ingrid needs to learn to control her natural exhuberance’. Who says that to a kid?”
Well, dear Ingrid, you look a lot younger than I am, but I can tell you now that I unnerved teachers with my very focussed ambitions: writer and astronaut, most likely combining the two to be the first writer in space, and part of the first Mars colony, as chronicler.
From age 12, I made a resolution each January 1 to be that little bit more dedicated to my writing. What that looked like, I couldn’t and can’t say. Presumably, write more. Which, as I edged towards 16, became ‘get published’, then ‘get published professionally’. Had all that in the bag just shy of 18.
Capricorn Sun, Mercury and Mars, bitches.
I also had a school report that said: “Almost too conscientious.”
Who says that to a kid? Who says that, full stop?!
Yes, I do find it a bit of a bugbear these days when I’ve signed up for about 20 courses, and have done maybe 1/3 of one course. Conscientious me wants to complete them all. The greater, lazier part of me wants to say ‘fuck it’ and look for the next Good Thing.
OohShinyGirl says I have ADHD as an autism side dish. Could well be. PTSD has set off the behaviours that were likely lying dormant when I was younger.
So yes, dear Ingrid, I can assure you that teachers do say stuff like that. They write it in reports too. My Year 11 Physics teacher wrote: “Works hard for no result. WHY?” Fuck you, Mr Wragg, and be a kinder teacher. Oh well, you’re probably dead now, so nothing to be done. But I hope that in your old age, you gave thought to your younger self, and how fucking smug you were. Probably not, though. You didn’t strike me as the sort of man who’d think twice about his smugness, his casual humiliation of students, and his ‘you figure it out’ attitude. Not helpful.
I have an image of you standing on the shores of the Styx, and no one giving you a fucking clue that you need two coins to pay Charon the boatman. Good. It means you’ll still be there when I arrive, and I can kick your arse.
This spread saved, with gratitude, from an interview conducted by TypeWriter Tarot.
Honouring Your Creative Time and Space.
How can I detach from other life activities when it’s time to create?
How can I invoke the creative spirit when I set out to create?
How can I honour my work before I enter the world again?
The interview was a really nice one, and I recommend TypeWriter Tarot. I subscribe to the newsletter, thus I get notifications of new interviews.
This was from Cosmic Rescue Episode 3, an interview by Cecily Sailer(founder of TypeWriter Tarot) with Claire Campbell.
To apply this spread to myself, I’m using my Slow Tarot, created by Lacey Bryant. It’s not a deck I use often, but as a reminder to myself to slow down (I love to pile up the Monday tasks), I dug it out today, and all over again, I’m astonished by the beautiful, detailed artwork.
I took Claire Campbell’s example and opened my writing session today with a tarot pull. 5 of Cups. I am slowly going through all my old unpublished stories, the unfinished ones, the ones that have little more than a few notes, and seeing what I can apply my mind, sewing scissors, and patches to. In the card, a small boy crouches on the floor, crying over several broken teacups. Two whole teacups sit on the table behind him. A mirror reflects a closed door. The scene beyond the window is hazy, almost as if it’s raining, but there appears to be a figure in a cloak and top hat outside. A black cat washes its paw in the corner. Was it the one who knocked the cups over, and the boy believes he will get the blame? The cat is looking pretty smug: “Yeah, I did that, so what?”
I’ve been pretty sad over the years at the amount of first drafts, unfinished stories, bare bones ideas, and stuff I never followed through on that are in my writing files. I only had to look into Writing: Fiction: Short Stories, and get to the A’s before I found the first old, old story that I’d never rewritten or done anything with.
No use crying over what’s past, the broken cups. There’s still 2 full cups. It’s up to me how I sell the situation to myself. I can continue to bend over the broken stuff, or I can say: “The fucking cat did it”, point to the whole cups, and say: “But look at these whole ones. There’s still good stuff here.”
I’m not at the stage of allowing this fiction out into the public yet. It’s still pretty smelly stuff, that needs cleaning up. But that possibility, of the public seeing what I’ve written, is out there beyond the window. Hazy, but there.
So that was my solace to myself as I opened today’s writing session.
Now to the 3 card spread.
How can I detach from other life activities when it’s time to create? 8 of Cups. Walk away and shut the door. A figure walking away from stacked tea cups. 8 geese flying overhead against the full moon. A long road ahead, but the decision is made. Walk away. I did this just today for the first time – announced to my daughter and husband that I was starting work at 1.30pm, and wouldn’t be available again until after 3.30pm.
How can I invoke the creative spirit when I set out to create? Queen of Cups. Go with my emotions and intuition. I feel like this one says ‘make a water offering to the female creative Goddess of your choice’. Well, that’s what sense I can make of this. The shell is very Aphrodite, but She is not a Goddess to whom I would make devotions when it comes to creativity. Love and lust, yes. Brigid is a Goddess of poetry, but she is a Fire Goddess. And this is definitely a Queen, not a King or Knight, so I’m not feeling Apollo here. My instinct, looking at the face of the Queen of Cups, is Saraswati. She is someone I have worked with in the past.
How can I honour my work before I enter the world again? 6 of Swords. Safe haven. The journey across the sea to the lighthouse. The sea isn’t calm, but it’s not threatening yet. The cloudy sky indicates challenging times ahead. Well, I don’t switch well from creative world to mundane world, so yes, it’s always a challenge to pull my head out of the well of creativity, in whatever form I’m playing with, and turn back to the ‘real’ world. How can I honour my work? A moment to recognise that I went deep, and moving to quiet, pleasurable, safe activity to ease my way back in. The last thing my anxiety needs is me wildly swinging my consciousness about, as I am wont to do. Gentle retreat, and a slow journey back to ‘reality’.
Claire Campbell also finishes her creative sessions with another card pull to close the session off, using a question like ‘what have I learned”?
So, what have I learned from today’s creative session (which was doing a quick and dirty rewrite of an old 1000 word story, and then blogging here).
Balance: “Equity, harmony, executive decision, liminal times, impartial perspective, ritual.” “The world is only in balance because everything is always in flux. What this card demands is for the Seeker to acknowledge the external forces arrayed against them and to react in a dispassionate, measured and deliberate way.” Today, I planned my working session. I didn’t drift into it, without telling family and friends that I was going to be working. Thus, I wasn’t disturbed. I asked my creative buddies to co-work via zoom with me, so I showed up, and was accountable. Thankyou UnicornGirl, and….dammit, I’ve forgotten what I’ve dubbed my other friend. AmericanScatter will do today. I set up my doors, shut them, and invoked the space in which I would create. I knew I’d be doing this today, because it was on the calendar, so my mind was ready to work. I drew a tarot card to invoke the session, and in I went. I thought I’d be spending the whole time on one story, but the rewrite was quick, so I could bring in some of that ‘flux’ by shifting to blogging instead, which is still writing, or writing-adjacent. The girl stands in what looks like a wheat or corn field. She is holding a chalice and a candle. there are glowing sigils on the haystacks. Above her flies the raven, messenger from the beyond. The card is painted in yellows – the colour of Air, the element of the mind.
I’m well settled into the schedule of two treatments a week now. Tuesdays and usually Wednesdays for an hour each, still bi-lateral.
Alas, I have my anxiety back. Not as bad as it was, but it’s getting to the stage of me being too fraught to front appointments. I cancelled a myotherapy session yesterday, because I was late getting to lunch, and couldn’t face the rush of eating, then driving admittedly only 1km to the appointment. Dammit, this is not on! Not on at all.
A reminder that I have well and truly slipped with my visualisation, and breathing techniques. Time to use my hour in the chair to get that going again. If I don’t own my own doing in this situation, I’m a fool. I have chosen, over the past few weeks, to skitter away from writing and art time, and use it to go out in the world. Mainly to drag around shopping centres and do nothing with my days, then call myself busy. What am I distracting myself from?
Certainly the uncomfortable fact that my writing is going nowhere much, and I have not fulfilled my hopes and dreams for myself. Getting published professionally in a newspaper at the age of 17 was heady, and head-inflating. I’m surprised my ego fitted through doors. However, I have not carved out the shining, award-laden career I thought I would. And now anxiety has seen to it that it’s difficult for me to settle to writing sessions. And when I do, I tell the story in the first draft, and my mind says ‘done with that story now, on with the next one’. Rewriting, and crafting, and submitting until publication – not part of the deal. And I’m not just being babyish about it. I have real weird blocks here. Possibly a pouty toddler or teenager moping that ‘the story’s done and if it’s not perfect first time out, well, leave it behind’.
Anyway, this is all to say that anxiety is starting to creep back, and it’s impacting, and has greatly impacted, on my ability to write, rewrite, edit, submit, and publish.
The past three months, I’ve forgotten to write and enter the Furious Fiction contest. Once again, the deadline slipped past, because of the torrent of emails that come in. I spent a productive 4am wake up stupid o’clock unsubscribing from many many things. Now it’s a case of working my way through the backlog of stuff and once again trying to ‘zero my inbox’.
Anyway, here’s the Furious Fiction prompt that I’m going to attempt to poem.
“The story must take place as some type of contest. It must include a character who forgets something. The story must include the words PRESS, FLING, and GROUND.”
What’s stuck in my mind is the most recent episode of my favourite WebToon: Lore Olympus. So, some idle ‘watching the work guys put up my new side fence’ time, and then into a new a poem.
I usually write the first draft at home or in my office, at my desk, in the afternoons. If I’m really struggling, a change of location helps, so I frequent a local coffee shop or very occasionally the library (when allowed).
I must hide away and do my second draft in an empty office, because I read the whole thing out loud.
I usually red pen a hard-copy of the third draft on an airplane, things often arrange themselves so I’m traveling at that point in the writing process (when traveling happens). But sometimes I don’t have time for a print pass, in which case I will change the font.
I used to go over the copy edits with my best friend on the couch in her living room with much companion hilarity, these days I’m usually too rushed.
Because I couldn’t think of what to write today, I asked my Facebook crew to come up with topics. HypnoCat wanted to know my weirdest science fiction convention experience. We know each other through Star Trek fandom, dating back to the 1980’s.
I attended sf cons, mostly media cons, back in the 80’s, and a little into the 90’s, when Aussie conventions were small affairs – a committee of locals throwing a three-day convention with maybe 200 attendees coming in from all over Australia. The Guest of Honour was usually an overseas tv star or writer. However, there were times when monies were not to be had to import a GOH, so we made do with local talent, or simply a Fan Guest of Honour, some local Big Name Fan who was shoved up on stage to talk about their role in fandom, and whenever their Good Old Days were/are.
However, my weirdest experience….. hmmm, some would say the very fact that I attended sf cons is weird. So be it. I got my start as a writer in Star Trek fanzines, got nominated for several fan writing awards, won one, and was a…well, not a BNF, but a Medium Name Fan.
I have two incidents for you, both from Denvention, the 2008 World Science Fiction Convention, and the first con I’d attended in many years, and my first time ever outside Australia.
Picture the first day of the convention. I’ve registered, and am now at a loose end. I know exactly 3 people at the con, and they’ve all fucked off to do their own things. GodzillaMan and MothraBabe are at the art show. My room-mate, RatMother, is doing whatever she’s got planned. I’m at a loose end, so I decide the best thing to do is volunteer. I get on the escalator, heading upstairs to where Volunteering is. I idly look up. There is a large, and I mean very wide, short, hefty in a Stonehenge sort of way about 12 steps ahead of me. He has long white hair and a long white beard. He is wearing a kilt. He is not wearing anything under his kilt. It takes me about 20 seconds to register what it is I’m seeing. A very broad, white arse, with hair on both butt cheeks, and his dangly bits featured in shadow. His legs are wide. I know it’s hot in Denver in summer (I experienced it as a nice late Spring), but wow, put your legs together, man. Thirteen years later, it’s still emblazoned on my memory.
And from the same convention:
How about my first Denvention room party, where I’m talking to an American man who, seriously, has a sort of lurex shirt on, open to the waist, and a fucking gold chain with medallion on it nestling amongst his chest hair. He’s not even wearing it ironically. I can scarcely contain my excitement that this sort of cliche actually exists.
He’s telling me all about himself, and everything is hugely hilarious to me, but I don’t show it. I sit there, looking interested, which, to my delight, only encourages him. He tells me that he wants to get out of America, and Australia sounds all right to him. His plan now is to marry an Australian woman and, as he seems to only work part time, be mostly supported by her. What a catch! I tell him that it could be challenging for him, because all Australian women are mated from birth. The government chooses our mates for us by lottery. And he actually believes this. I sigh and say that because my first marriage ended in divorce, I am now awaiting the divorcee lottery, and be assigned my new husband in October 2008. Thus, I was having a last few months as a single woman before being remarried. I didn’t tell him that at this point, I’d been divorced since 1995, and that I hadn’t remarried in that time. He didn’t need to know that.
He was disappointed, and asked if I had any girlfriends who might be interested. I said I had my doubts. He gave me his contact details, and said he’d be grateful if I asked around.
I suggested that he come to Australia for the Sydney Mardi Gras (a huge gay pride event). That it was a chance for those few who were single to perhaps find a mate whose name they could suggest to the government. I said: “Someone will see you right.”
I’m sure some nice man would.
There you go, HypnoCat, are they weird enough? I’m afraid cPTSD has rendered quite a few of my early convention memories in a very mixed light, not accessible, or very ordinary compared to later experiences.
As I begin my journey into KEEPING HER KEYS by Cyndi Brannen, I meet a Goddess who I have been afraid to work with. The reputation of Hekate precedes her, although, when I think of Her call to me, it came even before the call of Diana. I became obsessed with the children’s book JENNIFER, HECATE, MACBETH AND ME. The name Hekate called to me, and it was Her name that let me know that the book would be witchly, and thus, of interest to me. I can scarcely remember the book now. I should reread it. I think I read it around the same time as I read GRINNY, and the covers and plots have become entwined.