A Dialogue in Good Faith

I haven’t said it here, yet – there are a great many things I’m yet to speak about here on the matter of finding my way back to myself – but I started freelance work this year designing event flyers and administrating the Twilight School website.

The Twilight School, run by Bruno Lettieri (of Rotunda fame, one of the most amazing and generous people that ever lived) is the community outreach project of the Salesian College Sunbury. The Salesian College sponsors something quite unique: an after-hours education service providing classes, guest speakers and other community events, at low-cost, for the Sunbury community. Most of these conversations involve literary personages and community health workers, and the classes run from cooking to writing and gardening to photography. The Twilight School also sponsors the Good Man Project, which is about fostering and developing healthy and open emotional dialogue with, between and among men. Barn Owl Journal is another of Bruno’s pet projects for getting creative writing out into the community, and you can read the current issue here.

(For an event example, you can go and see actor, comedian and writer John Clarke this month for $10 plus drinks, and all you need to do is bring a plate of food for the communal table. We’re talking an evening with a seriously famous, at least in Australia and New Zealand, seriously clever satirist for $10 and however much it costs you to bring a plate of sandwiches or cake. If you’re in Melbourne and this interests you, book now, because places are filling up. If I were living anywhere reasonably close to Sunbury at the moment, I’d go.)

I can’t overstate how important this sort of thing is. The Twilight School is offering and allowing real connection, expression and education in a world where the privileged have an infinite number of avenues in which to communicate yet we are still discouraged from being honest and vulnerable in the company of others.

(When your feminist goddess of a friend is telling you that she’s not sure she should have written about her experiences with depression and anorexia because it’s not appropriate to tell that kind of intimate story, on her own damn website no less, we have a problem with communication.)

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A Philosophy of Natural Movement, Part 1

This is a long multi-part essay on the experience of being autistic, the process of gaining the label, and the nightmare (especially the last two years, especially especially the last nine months) it’s been being an undiagnosed autistic person being treated for depression, anxiety and chronic pain in the Australian healthcare system.

So, of course, I’m going to start with my ongoing love affair with metal music.

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Marriage equality, you ask?

So I’m sitting on the couch watching morning TV because I’m sick as, and then a blue sketch image, vaguely resembling ice, flashes up on screen. I can make out the words “sex” and “marriage”, but not until the presenter starts talking do I understand that the scribble on the tip of the iceberg is “same”. Oh, wow, clever metaphor. Who knows what hell lurks underneath, right? Three minutes later, I get a second advertisement, because it’s not enough that I’m reminded once that I’m a secret danger to the fabric of society, no: I have to endure it again.

Great. I already risk homophobia when I step outside the house, go online, watch a TV show or open a book – now I have to get it in the advertisements as well? What happened to government-sponsored political spots about workers’ rights and attempts to flog toothpaste and muesli bars?

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Fiction: Their Courts of Crows

Genre: Fantasy

Word Count: 4, 200 words

Content: The aftermath of and discussion about battle, war, transphobia, murder (it’s complicated), death, familial violence and familial conflict; also modern necromancy, modern zombies, a battered warrior prince and one hell of a mother.

Author’s Note: I don’t know about the habits of non-Australian eagles, so just in case this is a phenomenon that only makes sense to Australian readers: wedge-tail eagles (Aquila audax) are often seen by yours truly (as someone who has travelled around a great deal of mainland Australia) on the ground or perched on a fence/trees/telephone poles surrounded by a few, several or even an entire murder of crows.

This story happened because I was pondering the Evil Necromancer And Her Hordes Of The Risen Dead trope, a la Magic the Gathering’s Liliana Vess. It’s been a while since I’ve written a short story that doesn’t involve Steve and Abe, never mind a short story that’s not fluffy, so I thought I’d post it here in my quest to get back to Doing Things That Scare Me. It’s rather rough and I’ll probably go back and edit it later, but I want to get back into posting things.

Also, I’m well aware that necromancy in its traditional meaning is to tell the future via communing with the dead, and you bet I make a comment on that in my novel-in-progress, but since the archetype I’m playing with is very much Liliana Vess, I’m merely making this comment to be that fantasy writer.

(Although I haven’t been not posting from avoidance as much as I’ve just been sick, hurting and completing the first draft of every way-longer-than-anticipated short story in Three Live Mice. Half of which is even finished to just needing a final line edit. Go me.)

He wriggles up to the ridgeline and peers over. The battlefield stretches across the valley, a mess of trampled earth, broken bodies and rent banners that looks nothing like the gentle farmland of his memory. There should have been paddocks of green wheat and golden canola bordered by post-and-rail fences and sourgrass flourishing on the verge of the road; there should have been brown-and-white cows chewing cud, girls carrying baskets and farmers driving wagons. Now the river runs red and brown around the abandoned bodies of horses and men; arrows and spears, broken and whole, stick up into the sky, forming grave markers and perches for wedge-tail eagles and their courts of crows. Fences sag beside the blackened ruins of farmhouses and sheds, and although Paide is now too far away to hear, the screams and groans of wounded horses and men trying to rise from their muddy graves will haunt his nightmares—do haunt his nightmares.

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Little steps, strength in numbers, the tales we tell ourselves

Before I ramble, I’d like to say that I know there are comments awaiting replies. You see, right now, despite the fact my rational brain knows that most people care about me, the thought of looking at comments and facing the possibility that someone might have said something that my brain tells me I can’t cope with is panic-inspiring. (There’s a reason why the words ‘social anxiety’ have been adopted by various professionals working with me … which is kind of absurd, since I get paid to fucking talk to and at people, and have just finished a course that involves, in essence, facilitating people talking to each other, largely by means of talking. But that negative evaluation thing in relation to anything I do online? Man.) Since that panic means I don’t write at all, I’ve made a deal with myself. Right now, I get to write posts, and I get to work my way back to writing posts on a regular basis, and when I’m comfortable with that as a process I can start poking at the next terrifying thing (comments, commenting on other people’s posts). So, yes, I’m deeply sorry that I’m ignoring you, and you’d better believe I feel like shit about it, and I’m grateful for your love, concern, empathy, time, effort and thoughtfulness, but … well, online social interaction is more frightening for me than talking to strangers in a classroom or at a con. I’ve actually done really well to get back to a point where my phone is mostly on and I can mostly reply to text messages!

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A return to the world of monsters

(As a prologue, this post goes out to the people of my ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – group, for their encouragement when I spoke about my blog and the fears that have kept me from writing. Also to Julia Kyle, who just doesn’t give up on me. Thank you for making me feel as though I can, maybe, re-become my warrior-writer self.)

I wish I didn’t have to begin with this literal title.

I wish it with all my heart.

At first … at first I thought it would be okay, moving back to my parents’ place. It would only be for six months or so; I’ve got a room at a mate’s place, back in my beloved Melbourne, as soon as his sister moves out. It would give me time to recover from how severe my anxiety and depression have gotten, living in a space where I have to worry less about the basic struggles of just looking after myself. It would give me time to worry less about money, at least in theory, and work on finding a second job so I can support myself with fewer stresses. It would only be for six months. Endurable, right?

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves when we have no other option!

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Depression: words on the things we lose

Of late I’ve been trying to figure out how to manage more shifts at work, a new story idea that is essentially about queers with mental illness trying to solve crime while living the stigma and erasure their diagnoses and treatments bring, the ongoing mountain that is trying to clean my house, and survival. Survival isn’t so easy when everything from TV to the wreckage littering my bed reminds me of my failure to just be a functional person.

Needless to say, depression dogs my footsteps, a snarling, smothering shadow of barely-dammed despair. Right now the only place I can escape it – where I feel capable, functional and successful at anything – is while writing fiction or handling stock/talking to customers at work, but even that comes at a cost, given the emotional exhaustion that follows shunting aside my feelings for a shift or two. Yet I can’t survive without that escape from my own head, such that the things that help me survive are making it harder for me to function in general.

I can write, and while I am lost in the words I feel almost alive, but if I write all the time I can’t do anything else: I’m addicted to that brief flash of not-depression I feel such that getting up and attempting laundry or the dishes brings on an even greater awareness of my world as it is, and there’s nothing about that awareness that is easily endurable.

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