… one of our tasks in the creative writing course is to write an autobiographical piece about where we are now, and post it to the class’s online forum for comment. Other students are then supposed to comment on the author’s ‘voice’.
Even after writing a blog for so long it was a little nerve wracking to do: my (few) readers here all know my backstory. It’s a different thing to suddenly tell all of that to 100+ fellow students. And I’m trying hard not to let my judging mind get in the way (thank you, months and years of ACT [Acceptance Commitment Therapy] ) but I do sometimes get intimidated in class by these kids who seems to be so talented and have such amazing ideas… arrrgh!
Anyway. Here’s what I posted:
Right at this moment I’m sitting with the laptop balanced on my knees, in my tattered purple armchair in my lounge room in Toowoomba. There are baskets of washing that need sorting and putting away; the ironing board is up with books waiting to go back to the library piled on it next to the iron; and a cup of milky tea is going cold by my elbow. My husband is typing at his laptop over to my right, having just resigned from an online forum that has taken up way too much of his time; our toy poodle is curled up on the ottoman in front of me, so I can’t even put my feet up to get comfortable. That last is unfair – she doesn’t do it on purpose, she just likes to be up out of the drafts in our little old weatherboard house. Except I forget – you don’t call them weatherboard up here, you call it VJ or something, don’t you? Betraying my southern roots again. I’ve been here since the end of 2003 but I still feel like a newcomer some days.
I’m not writing at a desk because we’re still in the process of recovering from the flood. You don’t have to say which flood in Toowoomba – The Flood, the January 2011 flood. Our house didn’t get hit, since it’s on stumps, but our shed – it’s nearly as big as our house, our six by nine metre studio, where all our computers and musical equipment and most of our books live –is on a slab, and all the stormwater runoff that rushed down the hill to our yard ran through the shed at a depth of about six inches. We lost bookcases, clothes, magazines, so much stuff… even though on the day my husband tried so hard to save things. I ran around taking photos so we could prove to the insurance company that we weren’t flooded, we were affected by stormwater runoff. Just as well I did.
Anyway, the aftermath involved moving lots of books and paperwork and things that normally had a home in the shed to the house, and the room that was my sewing room and office was lost to – well – stuff – until very recently, when Mr Beloved (I don’t like giving out my husband’s name) has felt well enough to tackle the giant project of reversing the move that happened so quickly, and taking things from the house back to the shed. I’m supposed to be taking part in all this and yet… I’m still procrastinating and generally not doing my bit in the project.
Partly this is because my mental illness has been acting up. That makes it sound likes it’s something separate from me, doesn’t it? I tend to treat it that way still. I live with a chronic physical illness that flares up sometimes too, and I don’t like thinking about that as an integrated part of me, either. Not a whinge, just facts. Something you often hear when you’re hospitalised in the psych ward and have to do non-optional group therapy is ‘I wish I could turn purple when I was sick, so people would know’ – or sometimes ‘…so that I would know ’, because mental illness can be sneaky and catch you unawares until you’re really, really sick and out of control. ‘Stupid mental illness’ I think to myself when I am feeling particularly judgmental and unkind, ‘couldn’t you give me some warning?’ But it is what it is. It’s taken a long time and a lot of therapy to get to that point.
And university is such a lovely excuse when you want to procrastinate, too. ‘I really should be writing’ I tell myself when I look at the carpet that needs a vacuum. ‘I’ll just see if anyone’s posted anything new on the forum’ (they haven’t, but I look anyway). Today I’ve spent time reading a textbook about writing and staring into space thinking about writing but not actually writing – does that count? (sadly, no).
I have no idea what to write for my two thousand word assignment. The idea I thought about earlier seems silly now. Should I give in and just write memoir? The only things I can think of there seem too sentimental and perhaps too personal, and again, I don’t want to seem like I’m whingeing. *sigh* Looks like the fantasy/ sci fi piece might have to be it. The only thing for it is to apply bum to seat and fingers to keyboard and get going.
Maybe after tea.
So that was it. So far only one response from a fellow student, who said my voice felt ‘dark and wistful and shy’. Hmmm. At least not whingey.
And I really have no idea what to write for the 2000 word assignment. It’s just not coming easily. The 500 word description piece just came whoosh, I knew what I was doing, but this? Arrrgh!
And we had to call the police on the neighbours AGAIN on Friday night. What part of ‘No, you do NOT have the right to play your stereo as loudly as you like whenever you like’ do they forget between one police visit and the next? It’s not like it’s a long time between seeing the nice officers, after all. *headdesk*.
I had an interesting talk with my psychologist last week, about how we’re all hardwired to reach for three different types of reactions to stress (she calls them the three lifejackets): anxiety, depression, and anger. ‘The problem I see with your mixed episode bipolar reactions is that you’re constantly shuffling between all three lifejackets, you don’t know which one to put on, and that makes all of the stresses that much worse.’ Yep, I think she’s got something there. And while I’m doing my best to try and practice ‘Observer’s mind’ and grounding techniques (these are more ACT terms, but essentially boil down to trying to slow things down and observe, compassionately, what is going on with your mind and body) mixed mania just SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUX!
And now I think I will go hang out the washing. Because life has to go on. And then I’ll think some more about what on earth I’m going to write for this 2000 word piece… arrrgh!