I’m turned thirty a few weeks ago. And I love it. Somehow I feel like this invisible shift from twenties to thirties has changed something essential about me. I feel more confident in not only who I am but also how I am. But how I spent my birthday weekend illuminated an unexpected awareness about not only my creative life but also my general lifestyle.
I spent my birthday weekend at a writing retreat at The Home of Compassion, a convent in a seaside suburb of Wellington city. We drank a lot of coffee and spent the days writing in sprints and longer stretches of focused words work. I went walking and counted Mary’s. Wise peaceful looking stone women waited for me around every corner.
I was productive that weekend. I figured out the end of my novel. I wrote about 3000 words all up which meant I met my personal daily best for word counts. But I also discovered, to my surprise, that writing all day is not actually my life goal. Here I was, with lovely vegetarian catered meals and a community to belong to and, while I did good work, I also felt like I did not fully belong.
For the last eighteen months I had been so focused on words that I had let these other interests slip. I was so focused on being a writer I was even all set up to enrol for Graduate School in writing. But then I spoke to a friend and we mused on the principle of life-long learning. This conversation made me feel uncomfortable because it was something I had been trying not to think about. It felt in many ways easier to take the well-trodden path of a Master’s degree.
But then there were my concerns for an uncertain future coloured by climate change and dwindling natural resources. This world meant that having a garden and growing some of my own food felt like a necessary security. There were the opportunities in Wellington for my art. Emails from festivals and art schools asking me if I wanted to teach embroidery.
Was this a sign from the universe to take a different path?
By not going to graduate school which serves as a silo of interest and endeavour, I feel like I am better able to be the woman I want to be. She still writes (she will always write) but she also stitches and teaches and digs and grows and cooks and makes.
In light of the shift of intention in my life, I will be retaining this WordPress site for a professional web presence; but this will be my last blog post on this site. However, I will soon launch a new blog focusing on my work as an eco-lifestyler. Called Heart to Hearth, it will showcase my interests in sustainable living and activism through domestic action.
Keep an eye out on my social media for the link to the first blog post!
I haven’t blogged for a long while. Longer than I thought now I’ve opened the tab in my browser and see that it was November 2020 when I last posted…
It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have been. I’ve been writing a lot. I’ve been working on my debut novel. I’ve been working on a long piece of short fiction; 10 000 words – now submitted. I also wrote 30,000 words of a second novel for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month to the uninitiated.) I’ve written about 20 poems. I’ve written many shopping lists and menu plans because I have a budget to keep to.
I’ve written so very many emails. Emails for work in several iterations of client service and administrative roles. But also, for my own business. I’ve written query letters to literary journals. I’ve written to literary festivals to offer my time as a volunteer. I’ve written exchanges with the publisher who is publishing an essay I wrote. It is a piece I am immensely proud of but it is also one that I am equally terrified about because it is so intensely personal.
I write A LOT. And I love it. I am not one of those writers who hate what they do but feel compelled to do it all the same. Even on the hard days I still love it. My devotion to words almost never wavers.
I am committed to words in a way I have never managed to be in a romantic relationship. I’m not fully sure if this is because of my wordy devotion or if its just that I have yet to meet the right person. Either way, while I wait, I have words. And words bring me so much joy I know I will be okay as long as I am writing.
I guess today is a bit of an accountability post. It is a record of me stating that I want to post more regularly. It also me telling the world that I also want to write in a more real way.
My blog will still be curated. I will still chose to create content for specific contexts and readers. But I also hope it will act as a real record of my creative and intellectual lives. That means the worries and the woes will be there as well as the wonders.
My Worries and Woes today were about feeling fatigued (a much more wearying state than just being tired.) They were about wanting to help other people but not feeling like I had the capacity to do so in the way I wanted. They were about feeling like I had too much to do even when I desperately wanted to slow down . They were me feeling like I had read the simple living texts but not understood them properly.
However, My Wonder today was coffee with a colleague from a previous job where I did more listening than talking. And even when I was talking it felt like it was a more considered conversation than my usual rapid Lorelei Gilmore style rambles.
My Wonder was vegan cake for lunch and not caring about the calories.
My Wonder was walking in the early Autumn sun up my hill towards home and not worrying about trying to catch my breath. I had the faith it would return to me when it was ready.
I locked down solo back in April. At the time I felt I had to dampen down my feelings about The World as a way of safely negotiating the global order. The world is still a mess. Even if Aotearoa is less of a mess than most. I thank The Winds for Jacinda and her communications degree words of kindness and clarity during crisis.
New Zealand is now over a month back at Level 1 of our Covid alert system after the blip up in Auckland. We are doing well in a weird world. Life feels like it is pretty much back to the new normal once again.
I go to work in the mornings at my university library job. No longer do I have to rhyme my way through contact tracing duties ‘Please swipe and take a wipe.’ This rhyme amused me initially, but it got old fast.
Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger photos of terminator hands (think clawed metallic fists) remain pasted to the bathroom walls beside the sinks. These film-still photos serve as a reminder to wash our hands thoroughly every single time. I know it is meant to be funny. And it is. But it is also really not, because of the fearful intention in which it has been displayed.
The worst of Covid-19 increasingly feels like it was A Very Long Time Ago here in Aotearoa. Time has acted weirdly in this sense. The weeks of Lockdown flashed me by like a movie on fast forward. I pick out a few discernible points. Pages and pages of typewritten text to represent the many hours spent writing. Most of it for money. These pages represent creative output but also the financial security of still having work to do and the safety of a fortnightly wage.
I also appreciated the security of seasonal changes. The gentle pull back of the light as the days shortened towards Winter. I also loved the slightly magical way of soft toys appearing overnight in windows and how their stitched smiles lifted the spirit of my inner child. She, who made blanket forts and had rhymes for safety at bedtime.
During lock-down i choose the comfort of things that could fly. I went about postering my bed sit with pictures of birds and butterflies. Some, I made myself. Others, I collected from op shop calendars and picture books. I decided I liked living in a paper aviary. I consider myself very lucky that the soft calls of real-life Ruru from the Sanctuary across the fence continue to sing-song-sing me to sleep every night.
Plants have also played their part in helping me through the pandemic. Not only in getting through it but also supporting how I feel at home not just in a physical place, but also in my (slightly muddied) skin.
I spent the first day of lockdown digging up my lawn with my landlord’s permission. He even lent me the spade. My first plantings failed to grow – novice gardener here – I hadn’t turned the soil enough and the heavy clay dirt held water in its thick clammy grasp.
With some advice from my landscape architect mother, I removed the first set of failing plants and spent two hours digging the dirt deeper and turning and turning the soil. I added leaves and coffee grounds as I went to improve the soil structure. Then I dug the soil some more.
As I turned soil I thought about relationships. Some faded during lockdown. The distance affecting our connections and the technology somehow not quite being able to bridge the gap. Others had been newly developed online or were reaffirmed through video call apps and a more conscious awareness of making an effort towards connection.
I talked Tiny Houses and container gardens and donut economics and helicopter payments from the government as some sort of attempt at universal income. What had been a more theoretical interest in environmental issues, local food and sustainability, has, with the pandemic, become a much more practical desire to be able to live more on my own terms.
I was going to write independently, and yes, there is a certainly a large element of self-sufficiency, but it is also about community connection. Learning from others about the things I don’t know. Like soil science, soap making and crochet to name an immediate few.
It is also about not so much solitary actions as it is about collective intention. We might all have been in our homes making our bread and planting our gardens but there was also, I think, (and really hope), a wider energy of change towards a different way of being in the world.
Once turned anew I planted my lawn-turned-garden-bed with bok choi, cavolo nero and rainbow silver beet. I added a layer of mulch to help retain moisture and nutrients. I then watered and fed the plants diluted bokashi fertiliser brew on a weekly basis. I regularly checked for signs of disease. And with my steady care, I was pleased to see my plants grow green and strong as they reached up towards the sun.
I now harvest garden-grown-greens most nights for my salad dinners. They taste better than anything bought. I take great joy in heading to the garden with a basket to harvest my dinner. Not only is it as fresh as it can possibly be, I also know it is grown not just chemically free, but also with a loving intention of caring for both soil and for soul.
Gardening has been a new hobby for me since Covid, as it has been for many people concerned with food security in an unstable world. I’ve dabbled before in growing herbs, but gardening is now becoming an activity I increasingly want to do more of. Not only because it makes me feel great on my good days. It is also how, on my Bad Days, when writing doesn’t even help me feel better, going into the garden soothes my spiky spirit.
The New Normal for me, post-Covid, is about up-skilling and learning how to be more sufficient in providing for my own material needs. It is also about connecting with other people who want to do the same thing. As companions we all face the New Normal together. New does not have to be bad though. It can even, if considered carefully, be an opportunity to make the world better.
While the arts keep us sane throughout the lockdown
They’ve kind of been forgotten now we’re allowed back in town
Government subsidies have been given out
It’s not enough, The Opposition shouts
Health versus economy, the dollars, the cents
Everyday people, we’re all fucking tense
The budget is announced, it is heard
The nation hanging on Grant’s every word
Unemployment, state housing, a tourism industry boost
Encouraging people to spend, their dollars are loose
Heralding the call of the spender
We’re all waiting to hear back from the lender
Lives saved of a business lost?
What will it all amount to?
How will we measure the True Cost?
Masks and scarves worn as protection
Anything we can do to keep away the infection
Worried eyes gleam dark over the mask
Shopping has become a dangerous task
Safety is the question we all ask
Squirt of sanitiser, we clean our hands
We’re happy we live in so-called Distant Lands
Aotearoa is a place far-away
We’re protected as long as border restrictions stay
Tourism providers ask, how long til we open, if i may?
Cafe orders made, social distancing rules
There’s two metre spaced out bar stools
Pick up and collect, will this be the new norm?
It feels like a nice piece of ordinary after the Covid storm.
I wrote this poem in friendly creative competition with my father towards the end of the month-long Aotearoa New Zealand 2020 Lockdown. I utilised rhyme schemes and cultural reflection to communicate both personal and political views on the Covid 19 situation at the time.
I hope this poem is both of its time (a snapshot of a person in a historical moment) and that it can also be read as a more universal reflection on a world changing event.
So, I’ve spent the last fifteen minutes crying about Iron Man (aka Robert Downey Junior) dying in Avengers: Endgame. It wasn’t just the odd tear trickle about a hero sacrificing his life for The Greater Good. Nor was it about watching his wife, Piper (Gwyneth Paltrow with great hair), and his little daughter grieve for him along with rest of The Avengers – their broad-muscled shoulders suited in black. This was a different kind of crying. The scared kind. But also (thankfully) the sort that leaves you feeling way better when it’s over.
I hadn’t realised how sad and stressed and scared I’d been feeling until I watched Robert Downey Junior die. His death gave me an excuse to cry. And heck did I need an excuse.
It also came with an instrumental soundtrack to set the mood and pretty actors (Paltrow) weeping but their eye makeup didn’t run. My eye makeup did run. Lines of black tracking down my cheeks. I’ve spent the last five minutes fixing my face.
Covid-19 has changed our world. Life for me, personally, is not too different. Yet. But I am braced for things to get worse before they get better. News from overseas tells us of the lockdown going on for weeks and the emergency panic buying (hello- toilet tissue tussles!) It also tells us about the deaths…
Ten days ago was my twenty ninth birthday. I started the day with yoga. I sipped tea while reading Emily Dickinson poetry. I went to work where I shared individually wrapped chocolate (hygiene awareness) for mutual celebration.
I met my father at The Botanic Gardens for lunch. He zombie walked towards me. I karate kicked at his zombie in a gesture of joke protection. This, these jokey, not-touching, ways of greeting each other are our new norm. Apparently, a tourist smiled at our antics. I’m glad I made someone smile that day. It feels like a small win for the world.
My father and I found a park bench on a crackly-yellow-water-starved piece of grass and watched the city below sparkle in the Indian summer sun. I drank tea from a unicorn patterned thermos. I ate a banana. My father said, unusually seriously, how he wished I didn’t have to live through This Time. Because things were going to get ‘pretty fucking grim.’ I cried inside at these words of care. Mainly because of the love in them. But also because of The Fear.
I know anxiety.I’m much better than I was, but some days I do feel pretty intensely what I term ‘the-butterfly-belly-beat’ of worry and anxiety and tension and just that feeling that something-really-bad-is-going-to-happen.
That Really Bad is happening. And I’m surviving it (so far.)
I am however surviving not thriving at the moment. But that’s the best most of us can do right now, I think. I’m better than I thought I’d be in a crisis especially as this crisis seems like it might last for many weeks… if not months. I refuse to think of it in terms of years.
It helps that I have been a philosophical ‘Prepper’ for a while. Don’t worry I’m not a full on ‘stock-for-the-apocalypse-prepper’ with their canned goods and guns and bomb shelters. I’m not quite as hard-core those found in some online corners, especially on fundamentalist Christian homemaking blogs.
But I do have a good personal library of grow-your-own-veggie gardening books. I know how to bake (badly) and cook (much better than I bake fortunately) and sew and knit and make compost and mend things. I know how to make do with the ‘Not Much’ of both dollars and material possessions.
And because of this knowledge of ‘Not Much’ I also know about how I (and I think many people) actually do need much less to thrive than they think they do.
Right now, for me anyway, to get back closer to equilibrium, it’s about rationing news so I’m not constantly barraged by pandemic information. It’s about me spending time outside with my plants. It’s about listening to music as well as news bulletins. It’s about journaling in my sketch-to-scribble notebooks.
And it’s about me watching movies that make me cry to help release some of the Fears and Scares. I’m not a very good crier normally. I usually release stuff in words and art. But sometimes I think we all need a good cry to feel better.
Sometimes strength is, I believe, showing a level of weakness. Not the kind of weakness that is bad because it leads to broken things. This is a different kind of weakness. One that is about acknowledging all our emotions and feeling able to express them when we need to in whatever way we are able.
So, cry and watch Robert Downey Junior die.
Laugh at cat videos on your newsfeed.
Listen to songs that make you want to move.
And I ask you to listen to that call to dance.
Dance into the next day with a compassionate heart for yourself, your whanau and your community. Do what you can to get by now. And help others do the same. Also have faith that there will be better days in The Bad. And that at some point The Better Days will outnumber those we class as Bad.
(…and yes I’m referencing kids TV show ‘The Land Before Time’ – clearly I was a 90’s kid!)
NOTE: this post was written prior to the Level 4 self-isolation nationwide lock-down set for Aotearoa New Zealand on Monday 23 March 2020. Lockdwon is due to begin at midnight on Wednesday 25 March 2020.
Not even a week after my last blog post about reducing and reassessing my social media use Covid-19 became a Global Thing. Suddenly social media seemed like a pretty good way to not only keep up with what was happening in the world but also as a key way to stay in touch with people as we all socially distanced and many self-isolated.
So, I’ve been lured back. I’m now posting photos of my bushwalks for my friends and family unable to go out anymore. I’m taking pictures of my city-to-sea view. I’m sharing my craft and sewing projects on Instagram to show, I hope, creative ways of passing the time. I’m doing it for the friends and family with health and immune system issues who are now self-isolating. I’m also doing it for people like my grandmother. She is over seventy and now largely housebound.
I guess there HAS been a re-assessment in my social media use. I feel my posts are less about status, both literally and symbolically. I post a lot less about writing awards and publishing wins (See: status.) I also feel less like I care about what these kinds of posts signify. You know, career success, awards, external signifiers etc.
I’m here on Facebook for the slow stitching groups whose art works inspire me to slow down and take creative time for myself every few hours. There’s nothing like boro stitch to inspire a few moments of self-care for me.
I’m here for the community pages where offers of aid to those who need it are growing in posts and comments and shares. These gestures of generosity give me hope for humanity.
I’m also here to show my slightly blurry photos of trees that I hope make my FB friends experience the same sense of calm I felt when out walking amongst The Green.
The world is storming right now. Maybe not literally in the climate changed way we thought would be our next challenge. But humanity faces a huge dark storm cloud that is called Covid-19. That is called community transmission fears. That is called self-isolation becoming social-isolation…
Social media (along with The Trees…) is helping me feel calmer about this shit storm. It feels weird to say this but it is true. It’s the connections to my friends; the video messages and texts and shares that show care that make me feel less alone. Social media is, also, I hope, helping me calm others through what I choose to share too.
I feel it is this idea of sharing that will get us through to the other side of this Thing. And the language of social media sets us up for The New World Order. We ‘Like’ things. We ‘Share’ posts. There are more love heart emoticons than angry or sad faces.
This gives me hope for the world, as we, at present, largely retreat to virtual worlds.
I am glad we have emoji kisses and cat icons to send each other when we are lonely. It may not be as a good as a real kiss. Or a real cat. But I know that I, for one, gather the glitchy love hearts and grinning Cheshire cat ready to Share them and hopefully pass on a gesture of goodwill to those who need it.
I don’t seem to have ‘Gotten’ the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) gene. While I’ll admit to having posted more selfies than necessary on Instagram and my online following gets a fair few pictures of my escapades in sock darning these are not exactly the status enhancing posts, I think FOMO usually applies to. No one else really cares that I now have warm feet. Or that I now know my best angle.
I’m actually trying really hard to wean myself off FB as a personal Thing. I waste far too much time scrolling and staring. Yes, I sometimes get a laugh out of a cat video. More often than not though, I’m left feeling upset about environmental crises or cancer kids.
I swore to be rid of FB in March last year after a gun attack on worshippers at a mosque in the Southern city of Christchurch here in Aotearoa New Zealand. FB didn’t have the courage, or the capacity (so they say) to prevent the video live streaming to the world. I didn’t want to condone this lack of technological ownership. Let alone the lax values of human decency I felt this attitude supported.
I posted to say I would be leaving FB last year in March just after the attacks and right before my 28th birthday. I said I would have a three month phasing out so I could make sure my contact details could be shared with those who wanted to stay in touch.
I lasted three weeks. And then I was back. Back because I DID (despite myself) experience a bit of FOMO. Not because of the photos my friends posted about their alpine tramping trips or adventures overseas or dinner dates in KILT dresses.
What I was missing was the digitally enhanced connections to RL events. You see I found my main use of FB was to say I was ‘Interested’ in events and activities happening in and around my city. It was 50/50 whether I’d actually end up going but I liked being able to calendar an actively interested life with candle making workshops and tree plantings and charity knitting events.
So I went back to FB. I said to myself I’d just lurk occasionally to check out the events listed. But again, the more pervasive use snuck in and after not-very-long-at-all I was back to scrolling screens way too often.
The thing is this. I don’t like who I am on FB. She cares too much what people think. She’s more than a little self-obsessed. She tags articles to read about worthy things like Trump’s America and Climate Change and then gets distracted by less worthy things like shoe sale ads and the best filter to make your skin look great.
So, here today, with about a week until the anniversary of the Christchurch Terror Attacks and ten days until my 29th birthday, while I’m not going fully FB free, I am going to make another attempt to reduce use and re-assess how and why I use this social media app.
One thing I do want to do is increase my online presence in a professional capacity as a Creative So, I will utilise FB’s networks of connection with a professional page. This will be my main use of FB from now on. I also plan to still continue using Messenger (which is usefully actually a separate, although linked App) for direct contact with already-made friends.
I want my online presence to be less about ‘Me’ in a selfish-scrolling-time-waster kind of way. This might seem oxymoronic (isn’t that what the internet is all about?) but I want to try and re-work my relationship with the web-based world.
This attitude is built partly on societal context, that looming Awful of an event anniversary. It’s also informed by a workshop I attended about copyright which led us into exploring ideas of web publication and by association rights of ownership of content.
This discussion made me reflect on the images and words I’ve posted and how, although I have written them and they are about me, they do not really belong to me. You could say the same of this blog, I guess. But I treat this blog as an out-reach and connection medium to others. In contrast, FB, has, until now, had a more personal life update function for me.
I plan to have my public professional FB page where I post links to blog posts, news on any publication happenings, any relevant events I might run and/ or be interested in supporting such as book groups, writing workshops or poetry readings.
I have also already gotten rid of Twitter. Not that this is a big step. Not like with FB to which I have become quite attached. I never could get into Twitter properly. I’ve tried three times to become a ‘Proper’ Twitterer. And three times I’ve made accounts and then rarely looked at them. Twitter is just not an interface that works for me.
So, I’ll blog at Geographic Hearts and try to do so much more regularly in 2020 than in previous years.
I will have a professional public Facebook page as mentioned earlier.
I will also be more active through email to keep in touch with the people who I want to engage with. And to be totally honest, these are the people who are the ones commenting on and Liking my posts anyway… The medium might change. But the level of connection will remain much the same, I think.
I’ll also endeavour to update my LinkedIn Profile as a grand professional gesture. I will endeavour to actively keep it current.
All this refinement and review of my web presence and social media accounts will, I hope, give me more time to do what I want to do most.
And that is write. Write blog posts. Poetry. Short stories. Essays. Finish my debut novel and get it ready for assessment by a publisher.
Reading a great deal more is also up there on the time bought back from social media lurking. That is reading Things (books, feature articles, poems, even recipes) rather than social statuses and the starts of things that I Bookmark and then never finish.
This idea of reading more relates directly and intrinsically with the goal to become a better writer. For, to write well you need to know about the tools and skills such as grammar and syntax. A lot of this I feel can be picked up by regular exposure and considered consumption of the written word. There are also the intricacies of figurative language if you’re a poet (a moniker to which I wholeheartedly identify with.) I also feel the need for a wide knowledge of the world, both the time and context in which I write and from which I was born.
My time, my era, my generation, is one I think, of over-sharing and under-reflection. Contextually, we live in a world of servers burning through vast amounts of energy as we all bounce efforts at connecting with each other in a desperate multifarious way.
The essential question I believe, is no longer who you connect with but how? I also believe that this is the wrong question to be asking a lot of the time.
Instead I ask:
Who are you?
Who am I?
Who am I to you?
And, who are you to me?
These, all questions of identity and relation which I feel are important as we consider where we are and where we want to be.
Lastly, I ask how best can we act to make the world a better place?
Sometimes, I feel, it is through not doing something that we can make the biggest difference. Through the absence of one thing we make space for a different kind of better.
How they together watched the Union solders march by
Always marching, marching by.
I tell him I’d be orange if I were a colour.
It’s less overwhelming than red.
And not everyone can wear it, I say.
He smiles at that.
I feel safe within his smile.
As I do in the presence of his nasal drawl.
But the questions are kind.
There are queries about religion and creativity
(creativity is what you want it to be!
he says vehemently)
We compare deer and dolphins as endangered species
And as spirit animals.
We discuss scarcity mindsets in the middle class.
I realise as we talk that I feel safer still
as a reflection in his eyes.
This poem was written at the Kahini Writer’s Retreat 2020 held at Waikanae Beach in Aotearoa New Zealand. The bare bones of it were written as a 10 minute free-writing exercise in response to interview questions attendees exchanged with another participant.
Many of the things and featured in this poem (Alan Rickman, Union Soldiers, the colour orange, dolphins and deer) were answers from my interviewee. I then added in some of the beautiful natural setting and the wonderful meal we had on arrival at the retreat.
Note that i used creative license (an artist’s best friend) to craft a poem with what i hope has a wider and more considered significance than just a random juxtaposition of elements.
I believe poetry is both about specific things and everything. Both at the same time. I hope this poem conveys a sense of this..
Fires run raging and ragged in the land across The Tasman. Animals have lost their lives and their lands. People have lost their homes and their geographic heritage. We all can’t seem to see the fire for the smoke.
Meanwhile, I sit with a dashed punctuation mark of a mouth; it is paused, it is hesitating, as I see photo after photo after photo on my news feed of bright red skies, burnt marsupials and the ash streaked faces of The Fire Fighter’s and The Survivors.
This post isn’t about the wider issue of climate change that is driving the current state of Australian emergency. Nor is it about political inaction to address this cause and make appropriate actions to mitigate the worst of a changing climate. A changing climate induced by the Anthropocene era.
It’s about my Fears for The Worst. Because things ARE going to get worse climatically. Even if we all dropped what we were doing today and started making changes at all levels of individual action, community outreach, national policy and international agreement, there is still going to be a serious degree of climatic warming that will have huge impacts upon human life on earth.
I’m also not going to write about The Science. Many other people can do that much better than I can. Namely, Scientists. I’m just a poet and aspiring novelist after all.
What I want to do today is give you a story. One of my stories. It’s about living in a very worry inducing world with a certain degree of anxiety. As in, mental disorder level. I manage it pretty well most of the time. Much better than ten years ago when my belly felt constantly like it were full of squirming kittens and I was taking sedative medication just to get through what felt like very long days. But I do still have bad anxiety days. Sometimes I lie awake worrying about the fact I am worrying and how because I am worrying, I’m not sleeping and that not sleeping isn’t good for my mood maintenance. It’s a panic paradox!
Linking into the bush fire crisis, fire is something I fear with an almost pathological intensity. I’m a Pisces. A water sign. Its elementally opposite in the Zodiac. At least three times a week at work I will worry that my house might burn down while I’m out. Hence, the OCD-like checking of stove elements and electrical sockets. I laugh about this with my friend who has the same fire hazard checking habits but underneath the laughter there is a cold blue fear that one day we will be proved right.
I’m lucky that I live in a damp Pacific city. Fire risk is generally quite low even in a dry summer. This has not been a dry Summer. We’ve had moody rainstorms drench the streets and water-misted clouds swirl around the hill suburbs. This soothes me. Then it doesn’t. Because all I want to do is be able to blow the water across the Tasman to Australia where they so desperately need it.
Instead we send fire fighters and well wishes. We send prayers.
As for me, to deal with both my upset and my anxiety, I am turning to what got me through The Fear last time a decade ago, when worry kittens beat my belly bruised. I’m getting my Art On. A FB acquaintance is organising sewing bees for the wildlife injured or orphaned in the bush fires. I’m going to sew and knit and crochet The Awful out of me.
I’ve long been a believer in getting the messy hurtful feelings out of our hearts and heads. Whether it be making art. Sewing a dress. Writing a melancholic poem you show no one. Baking a cake you decorate with icing rose buds and then devour. Running so fast it feels like you’re flying. Dancing until you are dizzy and fall to the ground.
I’m going to be doing all these Creative Things to a certain degree as my Awful about the bush fires is large and amorphous. I’ll make roo pouches and bat slings. I’m making paintings featuring Gaia type women whose bodies grow not just babies but also flowers. I’m upcycling a dress as a bit of a rebellion against the environmental costs of the fashion industry. I’ve written a poem where I rhyme fire with liar (maybe a little dig at a certain international political figure there…) I’ve not baked a cake but I have made muffins. They cool in a lovely yellow way on my kitchen bench as I write this.
I went running on NY day. I listened to metal in my headphones. The singer’s screams spurred me on to run fast. Then faster. I’ve also booked myself in for a special summer session of my dance class. I’m going to spin around and around to African drumbeats and I hope that after falling to Earth when I get to my feet, the world will have righted itself again.
One of the New Year’s Resolutions I make every year is to buy fewer clothes. I’m an emotional op shopper you see. Feel sad, bad, mad… I buy thrifted clothes. The colours and fabrics help. The kind woman at the shop on the corner who asks how I am with a smile in her voice also helps. As does the idea about how the me who wears these clothes will be different to who I am today. She will be a woman of tomorrow.
I’ve tried to justify the op shop habit to myself. Its recycling. Its supporting charity. It’s cheap – you won’t blow your budget. These things are all true but it’s actually about a weakness in intentionality. And that is something I beat myself up about. Over and over and over again.
2019 was a year where on the surface I did Great. Work was good. I shifted to a different team and that turned out to be a very positive change. I acquired an extra part time role in community work that I love. I also started a small freelance writing and editing portfolio side hustle. I considered post graduate study in another city on another island and after travelling there in The Winter I set that future aside (at least for now.)
I had a poetry review published by the New Zealand Poetry Society and have another one due for publication in in the Autumn. I even had my first piece of paid writing accepted for publication. An essay about parenting (or not) in my case when you live with a disability. This was a huge Thing for me as I had put my heart and soul into that piece. That was also why it feels so hard. It’s making me super vulnerable to the world. But I think the benefits outweigh The Fears for I hope it will make readers re-assess some common assumptions and maybe feel (and think about) ability and disability things in a different way.
This essay, titled ‘Good Enough’ was in essence about some of the less good things of my 2019. Well, its themes were longer reaching back in time, but last year I found myself re-visiting the motherhood question in relation to my chronic health issues, my chronic singledom and a re-assessment of my wants and desires. All these things coloured by the approaching big 30… And none of these particularly easy things to think about anyway.
So, while on the surface 2019 was a Good Year. Digging a little deeper, I realised I’d actually been feeling less-than-good rather more than I’d been feeling ok. As I often say to a friend – I was somewhere on the ‘ok-ish’ scale. I could function as a semi-competent adult. I could go to work. Cook dinner. Clean my flat. Watch disaster dramas on TV (I’m a big 911 fan!) and keep most coffee dates with girlfriends penned into my diary.
But the ‘ish’ part meant I went on few romantic dates because of anxiety. It meant I had several weeks of time totalled across the year couched with pain from my Fibromyalgia. It meant sometimes crying in public toilets because getting home again felt so hard. It meant I snapped at friends because of my pain when they were just trying to help. Or sometimes I’d forget to take my morning meds and the world would be slapped grey and everything would feel Bad.
I loved where I lived. But still thought about moving away often. I knew that doing yoga on a daily basis helped. But I didn’t always do it. I held off on taking pain killers to test my Strength of Will. This just resulted in lost sleep and grumpy moods.
So yeah on the surface it was a Great Year, going a bit deeper, Not So Much.However, I had the best New Year’s I’ve probably ever had. I invited two new friends over to my hilltop house and we communed with the Kaka (New Zealand native parrots), ate healthy nibbles (toasted nuts, veggie sticks, rice crackers) and ordered pizza from a place called Hells. Like me, they are minimal drinkers. We laughed a lot. We had deep and meaningful conversations. We watched silly You-Tube videos. We planned to write affirmations and paint the pages with flowers and stars.
This NY was a stark contrast to some in the past where I’d been left feeling deeply lonely. I might have been with other people but felt set apart because of Health Things and having to leave early. I’d spent the last two New Year’s immersed in books. I read historical fantasy novels where lonely woman were seers and soothsayers. They could see different futures even if they didn’t know which of these would come true. I remember I’d liked the poetry of this.
This 2019/2020 New Year’s I was anything but lonely. For even after my friends had left and I was sitting out with a solar lantern on my deck in the summer dark handwriting in my journal I felt such a wonderful sense of abundance and positive energy flow through me. I felt like the next year, fuck, the next decade, was going to be different. I won’t say The Best (I’m no Soothsayer) but I would work hard to make it Better.
As a Woman of Tomorrow, I wrote that I would be more social and instigate more events.
As a Woman of Tomorrow, I wrote that I would better connect with my artistic self and get back into painting and sewing. I’d try to actually make a few completed works from the many visual diaries I’ve filled over the years. Draw every day. Maybe try and sell a few pieces too…
As a Woman of Tomorrow, I wrote that I would finish my debut novel and submit it to a traditional publisher for consideration.
As a Woman of Tomorrow, I wrote that I would live better in the Today that was Yesterday’s Tomorrow.
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