Word by Word

ANNE LAMOTT – Bird by Bird

“I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this.”

Much can be read from this line that comes from the book on writing and life advice by Anne Lamott.

1: Her mention of Jesus makes one think that she is religiously-inclined, that it is a significant part of her life, or that it plays a pivotal role in her daily decisions. From what I have read, that would be correct.

2: The fact that Jesus himself would become an alcoholic based on the things she says, kind of paints the picture of an insanely articulate yet unhinged, hilarious writer whose bark is worse than her bite, and who manages to make the darkest of themes, like even death, humorous.

From what I have read, that would also be correct.

Lamott has a wicked sense of humour. From the outset, I could tell that I would like her. Her witty, sharp, insightful remarks and views on the world, ability to poke fun at herself and allow us to see and hear all her very real insecurities and jealousies about being a human, and about being a writer, made me immediately sympathetic to her story. She’s honest and real about the struggles in a writer’s world, and let’s face it, trying to get into it in the first place, yet despite her stark frankness in the matter, suggesting that only a small number get to go on Letterman, she has put together this book in an effort to encourage and help aspiring writers, as she has often done in her writing workshops.

“The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. Even if you never publish your work, you have something important to pour yourself into.”

This book made me laugh, and it made me cry. It gave me some good hard advice, as well as some awesome little snippets and ideas on what I can do in my writing life to just generally be better at it.

So let’s begin Anne’s writing class. (I usually call writers by their surnames in my reviews but after reading this book I feel like I know her so well).

SET THE MOOD

“I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it…”

I got quite a few good tips from Anne on ways to improve my writing environment. Firstly, it seems simple, but using some kind of external trigger, like a candle, and the act of lighting it, when done repeatedly over time it can serve as a kind of switch for your writing conscious to kick in. This excited me because for my birthday I got given this beautiful candle in a glass jar, and the wick actually crackles as it burns (I actually picked the candle for myself and my parents paid, but same thing). As if I didn’t need further reason to get it, the lady behind the counter said “when the house is quiet, light it and listen to it crackle as you read a book.”

Um, what about write a book? God if she knew. So that will be my thing, the candle, in particular this most awesome-nest of awesome candles, the wicker-crackling candle.

And speaking of the conscious mind. The rational mind is probably our worst enemy. Second guessing ourselves, reading over what we’ve written, trying too hard, sticking to plans and not letting things flow – this all obstructs the natural story-telling and writing process. She says that characters are created in our unconscious mind, the area in which we have no control over, so it would come to reason that we should relax a little, try to listen to our intuition more, and just let the unconscious do its thing. She uses the metaphor of broccoli for her intuition, but whatever ‘voice’ it is that you can’t control within, as long as it works for you. I love the metaphor and vision of the butterfly, and it has significance for me on many levels, and with its random yet gentle fluttering, I’ve decided to watch this creature in my mind’s eye and follow where it leads me. Just as a green vegetable will work for Anne, a transformative insect will work for me.

Preparation-wise, Anne has index cards placed pretty much all over the place at her house, in her car, she even takes them with her on walks in case an idea, thought or inspiration strikes her. I have to say, when I’ve had a great thought and not had the necessary pen/paper/mobile to capture it, I whole-heartedly agree with Anne when she says:

“That is one of the worst feelings I can think of, to have had a wonderful moment or insight or vision or phrase, to know you had it, and then to lose it.”

There’s nothing wrong with needing a prompt to remember things. Being a mother herself, she offers a great insight into one reason you may need these cards in your life, something that despite my uber-organisation, I can totally relate with:

“When a child comes out of your body, it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand, like those babies born clutching IUDs.”

There will be bad days. You will have writers block, which she says is less about being ‘stuck,’ and more about ‘filling up again.’ She tells her students to try to write at least a page of something, anything, dreams or streams of consciousness or memories, every day, and that on bad days to try and do this just to keep their fingers from becoming arthritic. And in the event of being ‘empty,’ to go out and fill up again.

“Writer’s block is going to happen to you. You will read what little you’ve written lately and see with absolute clarity that it is total dog shit.”

HOW TO WRITE

E.L. Doctorow once said “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” It was interesting to find this quote in Lamott’s book, because I had just finished reading Loon Lake before getting Bird by Bird, and it was in fact this precise Doctorow quote, reading it literally before his death, that rang very true for me.

I didn’t do a whole lot of research, or any writer’s workshops, or join any online writing groups when I first started on my book. I just went into it, with a handful of characters, some strong themes, and a round-a-bout destination in mind. I knew A, I knew somewhere E was going to come in, but then I didn’t know anything in between, just a rough Y and a hazy Z. It’s always comforting when you read that someone you aspire to, such as a successful writer, does the same thing you do, or confirms something you’ve always thought to be true. I never really thought of a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write, I think we all just do what works for us, but this above metaphor that applies not just to writing, but to life, rang so true to me. Because from my A, B C and D sprang forward, and just by writing scene by scene, character by character, a whole story formed, and I surprised myself on multiple occasions.

You don’t need to see the path to your destination, nor even see your destination at all. Anne talks about ‘Short Assignments,’ and when you struggle in your writing to just think of getting one memory, one scene, one exchange out in front of you, enough that would fill up a one-inch frame. Focusing on one thing at a time is far less overwhelming than worrying about how your protagonist is going to confront the bad guy three chapters away.

“Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other.”

Writing can be a very difficult experience, something she admits for herself and for most writers she knows. Getting by is to write a shitty first draft. In this stage anything goes, even phrases like:

“Well so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?”

You just need to get anything down, no matter what it is. Her friend said:

“the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up….And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

 “Vonnegut said, ‘When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’”

This is so comforting.

You can even liken your writing to your dreams – the way one absurd scene just flows into another, so too must your writing be “vivid and continuous.” In discovering plot, Anne says her characters know where they are going, she just needs to stay with them long enough. She needs to care for them, polish them, and then suddenly they will show her the way. Another way to think of it is this:

“they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.”

What about me then? I need my characters to do everything for me because my handwriting beats that of a doctors!

In writing, you need to revoke all control you have. You may be focusing on the fence, but the yellow sparkling flower in the corner of your mind-frame starts to sparkle and all of a sudden, it’s stolen the show. You must explore that.

“If you stop trying to control your mind so much, you’ll have intuitive hunches about what this or that character is all about. It is hard to stop controlling, but you can do it.”

Anne says that when she starts writing she wants to fill the page with witty insights so that the world will see how smart she is. Whoops. Where I fall into step with the favourable Doctorow quote, so too do I have to begrudgingly agree that I sing along with this writing flaw. But as you write, you want your characters to act out the drama of humankind, which doesn’t include your witty and ground-breaking life insights.

“…the purpose of most great writing seems to be to reveal in an ethical light who we are.”

FUNNY STORIES

Anne made me LOL so hard, that in my re-reading of notes I was still laughing out loud. Oh geez.

The two below cases in point I think really paint a great picture of the dual character-traits she encompasses. Take the story of when readers were surprised to hear that she didn’t love to garden like one of the characters in her book, that she had in fact been researching it heavily and ‘winging’ it instead:

“’You don’t love to garden?’ they’d ask incredulously, and I’d shake my head and not mention that what I love are cut flowers, because this sounds so violent and decadent, like when Salvador Dali said his favourite animal was fillet of sole.”

Oh my fucking lord. I love it.

(I was on a swearing frenzy following Loon Lake, so screw it let’s go).

(Let’s not make much of the fact that one quote on my calendar once said ‘Swearing exposes weakness not strength.’)

A second moment, where she is talking about paying attention to the world around you and using religious metaphors in doing so, displays the heavy theme of God in her life, while also reminding us that she doesn’t give a shit:

“There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation. Or maybe you are not predisposed to see the world sacramentally, to see everything as an outward and visible sign of inward, invisible grace. This does not mean that you are worthless Philistine scum.”

Her chapter on jealousy is refreshing. If a writing friend of hers is successful with writing, sometimes she wants –

“for him to wake up one morning with a pain in his prostate, because I don’t care how rich and successful someone is, if you wake up having to call your doctor and ask for a finger massage, it’s going to be a long day.”

These images are so clear and paint such a humorous picture, and the fact that she does it all, making it appear so effortless, makes you realise how great of a writer she really is.

I can re-type countless funny moments and stories of hers, but I just need to do one more, I promise. I love the following mental picture. When researching for the name of the ‘wire thing’ used for wines, she called a winery to try and found out its proper name. The receptionist there didn’t know the name of it either so she transferred her to:

“a two-thousand year old monk. Or at least this is how he sounded, faint, reedy, out of breath, like Noah after a brisk walk.

And he was so glad I’d called. He actually said so, and he sounded like he was. I have secretly believed ever since that he had somehow stayed alive just long enough to be there for my phone call, and that after he answered my question, he hung up, smiled, and keeled over.”

Oh God. I love it!

Okay, back to the serious writing stuff (clears throat). Writing can be hard (duh Fred). Even for published professionals such as herself, there is still a lot of staring at clocks, staring at blank screens, and yawning. Making phone calls and distracting oneself with other tasks other than writing, is very normal. Sometimes voices would continuously harp at her, and she’s use a tactic a hypnotist once suggested to her, to imagine all the voices as mice, and to one by one drop them into a jar, turn the volume on the jar up and then down, and watch them claw at her as she then muted them. It’s interesting she mentioned this, since I have a kind of different picture, just something I use for when someone I can’t stand is driving me insane in my head. I imagine them as a ball, and with a baseball bat (for some reason it’s baseball, maybe because the ball appears to go very far during that game) I strike it so hard and so out of view that they are no longer seen, or heard.

Perhaps slightly violent, but it does the trick. You can use that for yourself, tell me how you go.

Anne talks of the publishing fantasy, and how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She mentions the early draft process, and when she gets her friends to initially provide her feedback on her work. When she doesn’t hear from them by the next day, she starts to think –

“… about all the things I don’t like about either of them, how much in fact I hate them both, how it is no wonder neither of them has many friends.”

When she gets to sending her writing to her editor and agent, her thoughts are equally as insane and hilarious, if not more so. She convinces herself that they are in cahoots, laughing their arses off over her book, now proclaimed the worst book ever written.

“At one point your editor is laughing so hard that she has to take some digitalis, and your agent ruptures a blood vessel in his throat.”

But it doesn’t stop there. On the date of publication, the blow to the ego comes when your phone ISN’T ringing off the hook, and the 5 people that turn up at your book signings, as well as the review that likens your book to dog poo, just makes it all seem not worth it. Additionally, dealing with people who ask “have you written anything I might have heard of?” while others claim they read everything and yet do not know your name, leaves little to be desired in the world of publication.

She makes the process sound quite shit. She is a great writer after all.

SAD STORIES

Just as I laughed, so too did I cry.

The sad moments made me tear up, quite bad, punching me hard in the heart. Perhaps some of the saddest material came in her section on ‘Letters,’ where she suggested that if you’re stuck in your writing, write an informal letter to someone you know. This has not only been a beautiful present to the person in question in her own life, but has captured a moment of time that will never be forgotten.

The three letters she speaks of are the ones she wrote to her Dad, her best friend, and the couple of a boy who passed. The first two ended up being published books, with both her Dad and best friend getting to read her book dedicated to them, before they passed. It was especially hard for me to read the part of her Dad dying, since I have someone in the immediate family who died from the same thing that struck her Dad. It was shocking, and frightening, to say the least. The fact that she got to write something for her Dad and he read it, and it got published, is heartbreakingly bittersweet.

I was almost crying my eyes out at her third example of an informal letter. A couple she knew had lost their son at 5 months of age. He had been called ‘Cloud Boy’ by his mother’s friends: because he had been resuscitated at birth, he was neither here, nor there. She wrote a piece about him and it was broadcast on radio, and the fact that I had earlier been very cranky with baby girl, just broke my heart. My note on this read:

‘Makes me feel guilty for getting upset earlier at baby girl –big hug later :)’

Page 205, has quite frankly the best story of giving, EVER. It is so painfully moving and inspiring, that I cannot will myself to re-tell it here, in fear of butchering it to death. So just do yourself a favour and get the book and read the damn thing, especially page 205.

Finally, the following poem is one she re-tells, as having thought of it in regards to a student of hers who wasn’t doing so well in his writing. Its fragility is touching.

“Above me, wind does its best

to blow leaves off

the aspen tree a month too soon.

No use wind. All you succeed

in doing is making music, the noise

of failure growing beautiful.”

LIFE

The title of Anne’s book Bird by Bird comes from one of the best stories, in my opinion, to come out of the book (apart from page 205). It is so relevant to life, that I’ve found myself quoting and muttering it ever since I finished reading it.

Anne tells of the story of when her older brother had a report due on birds the next day, which he had had 3 months to write. Close to tears, surrounded by bird info, and overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task, his Dad had put his arm around him and said “Bird by bird buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Now I find that I’ll be doing something and I just go ‘bird by bird.’ Some passer-by may think it means I’m collecting the aviary kind, but the significance is just so great, I can’t help but to say it out loud.

She discusses libel, which is one of the most memorable and humorous lessons in the book. If you must make someone horrible from your life a character in one of your books (God help me, I threaten every twerp I meet in my mind with ‘oh you wait ‘til I make the world hate you in my novels, mwa ha ha!’) change all their traits so they can’t sue you, and make them impossible to trace and identify from the people in their life… and of course give them a little penis so they won’t come forward even if they’re suss on you.

It’s Okay. Anne says this every so often, and always with a capital ‘O.’ There is some significance, and I’ve been trying to work out what… suggesting that Okay is a state of being, holding much importance, it all goes back to being alright…. You got me, I’m not sure. But just remember all you writers out there, it will all be Okay.

She talks about all the great things about being a writer, which hey, we all knew already, right? (And if you didn’t, what kind of masochist are you?) Even though she says that publishing is in fact, a fantasy, telling her students that in writing “… devotion and commitment will be their own reward,” she also says:

“But the fact of publication is the acknowledgement from the community that you did your writing right. You acquire a rank that you never lose.”

Writers “get to stay home and still be public.”

Something I’ve always believed: you get the best of both worlds. I did come to question myself, as I have on so many occasions: why do I do it? Why write? Why do I feel the pull, the need, the obsessive urge to get everything down on paper? I journal passionately, having captured my entire pregnancy, the first year of baby girl’s life, and I have since continued, picking up from where I left off years ago and beginning to journal all of my life again.

There are many reasons. First, so we are not lost. One day we will die, and all that will remain of Hubbie and I, which our children will be able to hold onto, are photos, memories, and this. My journals. My journals will give them a view into our worlds like no one else can. Despite our absence, our stories that we’ve passed on to them, and my words, will still be alive.

This is something that I find so magical. That I can be reading ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ written by Shakespeare, and laughing out loud over the lines he wrote hundreds of years ago. That is amazing, that is inspiring, that kind of life-transcendence, for a story to be living and making people feel long after you’re gone.

Of course, I love to write. It is almost an obsessive urge in me, where I need to get stuff down. Additionally, I have a tremendous story in me that just needs to be told. I believe so whole-heartedly that it will resonate with people out there, that I simply must do whatever it takes to get it heard. I will try.

I don’t always love to write. But I always have to do it.

“But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion…”

The world will always need writers. Stories have existed from the beginning of time, and will always be a necessity. You don’t have to write just for yourself: “Risk freeing someone else.” Make someone else’s day, help someone going through the troubles in their life, by telling them your story.

One of the greatest things her father taught her was to pay attention. And that in itself is beautiful. Going somewhere with a sense of purpose, noting things down, whether because you’re going to review it later (a restaurant you’ve been to, or a book you’re reading) or simply to capture the details for a written piece, either fictional or personal.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”

In closing, this is a tremendously inspiring and informative book, one all writers should read, published or not. I’m not sure whether it is better than Stephen King’s ‘On Writing:” that I would need to read again, since his I read during my writing book process, and Anne’s one came much later in the game. But both are equally entertaining in their own way, and really, we should be grabbing ALL the advice that successful writers send out to us, and not question it! Take it, absorb it, memorise it, and then with your arms full run for the hills.

I want you all to take these two quotes I present from Anne’s book, and use it to fuel your story, your passion, and your purpose.

“All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.”

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

And now run.

Please let me know your thoughts on Bird by Bird in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 😊

How to get by in life in very tiny and easy to achieve steps

Quick fixes.

Drink a caffeinated beverage. Tea, black, green or COFFEE.

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Put on loud music. Freddie Mercury Live Aid 1985.

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Look in the mirror and LAUGH at yourself. I dare you not to smile.

Look out the window. Dream.

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Take 3, slow deep breaths. Do it now.

 

Make a date.

Schedule girl time. Or boy time. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Go to the beach. Go to the forest. Go to the mountains. Connect with Mother Nature.

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Put yourself in another environment. So if you are depressed at home, go out. If you are depressed at work, well… go out. Take a sickie. Yes I am saying take a sickie (then maybe think about finding another job if you are depressed more often than not).

Watch something you love. An old tv series, movie, youtube comedy clip… put on that which makes you smile.

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Sit under a tree.

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Take a nap. Some shut-eye really can bring you clarity.

 

Self-care.

Meditate. Sit in silence and try to quiet your mind. Or let it wander. See where it leads you. Don’t get worked up over what pops up – just observe.

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Stretch. Do some yoga. There’s nothing like concentrating on the breath that takes you into a different zone.

Write it out. Have you ever done free-journalling? Sit with a piece of paper and get it all out, don’t stop for 5 minutes and keep the hand moving and the words flowing with whatever crap random shitty unusual scary thoughts come out of your head. When your 5 minutes is up, burn the paper.

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Go for a walk. Around the neighbourhood… around the shopping centre. Whatever. Walk aimlessly, and let your feet lead you.

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Long-term.

Talk to someone. A partner, friend, family member, colleague… even your cat. You think stroking their fur doesn’t help? You clearly don’t have a pet.

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Take concerted time out to make yourself happy each and every day. Make it a priority, write it on your to-do list, make it a MUST, just like eating, sleeping and hygiene are in your day-to-day.

Drink water. A lot of it. Our bodies are made up of between 50-75% water, so we need this vital substance to keep us sane and moving.

Finally, remember to keep things in perspective. At our core we are made up of atoms. Energy, air, and yet in human form all we see is hard matter. Think of all those who have come before us. Think of the future generations who will follow. Imagine the Universe. Imagine God. Just imagine Mother Nature if that is what you please.

And then see yourself as this tiny little invisible dot on the world map that is living an existence in amongst all of the shared past, present and future histories of anyone who has ever passed a breath.

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Sure, you matter. We all do. But how much do your problems hold weight?

If they still hold you down, speak to a professional. But if they seem pointless and irrelevant, take a deep breath and put up the music.

Every day is a chance to start again.

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Something else out there

I can’t remember the correct timeframe, or how old she was. Everything is such a blur when you’re a new Mum.

But I had just come back home from one of baby girl’s Maternal Child Health Nurse check-ups. They are so frequent at the beginning – they visit you at home a couple of times, then there are weekly visits, they go to 2 weeks and 4 weeks and 8 weeks… maybe it was even MORE frequent. I can’t remember.

I think some things you choose not to.

I had been trying to breastfeed her for so long. She was just so little, and still learning. She was soooo little. Born at just under 2.5 kilos, she truly was a doll.

I had been told at the previous visit, based on her good weight gain with the formula milk I had been giving her, that I could try to wean her onto the breast, and rely less on the formula.

Which is what I did. It was really hard, and that is a whole other story, but I did it.

So when I came for my next MCHN check-up, the nurse was surprised to find… she had actually dropped in weight.

A couple of hundred grams is a lot when your baby is only weeks old. The nurse was actually quite nice, not judgmental, and didn’t question my tactics… yet I saw the concern on her face.

She suggested perhaps my breast milk wasn’t strong enough. Try some cheese, a handful of almonds before you breastfeed, she said.

She looked at the previous record and this current one, repeatedly, comparing the two and wondering if there had been a weighing error the last time.

She tapped her finger against her chin, thinking of what to do, wondering what was going on, and scheduled me to come in and see her again sooner than was necessary.

Through my haze of confusion and intense worry, I could see the answer, and yet it couldn’t come forth for me to speak up. It was too far away to catch, distant amidst all my sleep deprivation, anxiety, intense mood swings, and adjustment to life that I had not been prepared for at all.

I had only been somewhat prepared for the labour. That was it. None of the BEYOND. None of the important stuff.

I thought I had turned a corner in my breastfeeding, and that finally, I had succeeded at something. To have all of that questioned, to hear that my little baby girl was losing weight, NOT gaining weight as needed, especially as she was so petite, was the tipping point.

I don’t know how I drove. A friend was desperate for a group catch-up. I hastily wrote “it’s not a good time at the moment.” And I went home and bawled my eyes out.

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Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Baby girl was asleep. I remember sitting on the table near the kitchen, feeling so alone. Those first few days, weeks, months, ARE LONG. You are waiting for your husband to come home, to help you, relieve you, hug you, love you, and tell you it’s going to be ok.

They go to work every day. Oh how lucky they are to leave those walls. To walk out the door and go back to some sense of normalcy, to speak in proper conversations with actual adults, when all the while you are dying at home and wondering when it will all end.

I was sitting there, and actually begging. I was begging God to send me someone to save me. I sat there crying, feeling so alone, and yet unable to reach out and call anyone.

It’s awful that in our worst moments, we are unable to reach out. To ask for help. To seek advice, a shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear when it is most dire to our wellbeing.

I was an absolute mess for what felt like the longest time… but maybe, it was really about an hour. Watching the clock, crunching on almonds, hoping someone would call, or Hubbie would come home early.

Soon, the phone rang.

Help had been sent. It was my sister.

She listened to my tears. We worked out what I had tried to grasp earlier, but couldn’t amidst the shock of the news. The formula was heavier than the breastmilk. She naturally dropped in weight as I went to exclusively breastfeed her, and within time, it would go up again.

She would regain it all.

And she DID. Being at one of the lowest percentiles at birth, can you believe this petite angel of mine is now in about the 90-95th percentile in height and weight?

People constantly tell me how tall she is for a 4 year old.

I never would have imagined.

But this is not the moral of the story. It’s got nothing to do with the breastmilk, early Motherhood or even how much you should listen to nurses…

It’s all about the sign. The help. The call out.

I had called out, and I had received help.

I’ve always believed in something greater out there… and this to me was further proof.

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Photo by Maranatha Pizarras on Unsplash

I don’t know what has gotten into me lately. Something is not right. I can’t get excited. I don’t know what it is, or why or how this has come, because I didn’t think, other than the normal crap that life sometimes throws at us, that I had anything that was weighing me down.

All of a sudden, I was DOWN. Not in the gravitational pull sense.

I mean FLAT. Uninspired. Losing interest. NO focus.

I don’t like to use this term casually, but even… DEPRESSED.

I started to worry. Was this a hormonal cycle thing? Was I just having a bad day?

I woke up after my first bad day, my DOWN day, and… was still DOWN.

Day 2…

Day 3…

Day 4…

No interest. Lacking motivation. Feeling hopeless, for no apparent reason at all.

When I realised I wasn’t looking forward to anything, I started to worry.

Because this wasn’t like me. I always had something to look forward to. Even when I was sick I’d be looking forward to getting better. I would even look forward to work, believe it or not. I had many things to look forward to, and even amidst shit people and events and spanners thrown into the mix, I would find a way to look past all that and look forward to something bigger and brighter in the future.

I think of things now, and my mind goes blank.

I actually have no reason to feel this way… that concerns me too. Nothing notable or significant has happened to make me feel this way, and yet there is this niggly, annoying feeling at the back of my mind, there is something weighing me down, making me feel moody and lowly and telling me that all is not right.

It is a scary place to be.

I didn’t ask for ‘help’ while I was at work yesterday. But I was thinking a lot about the state I was in, and getting upset and emotional within myself. Because each time I spoke to someone, and they asked me how I was, I felt like I was trying to convince myself, more than I was trying to respond to them. 

“Yeah,” I replied nodding, thinking. “Good.”

No, I was not GOOD.

I went through these emotions, this thinking, ALL DAY, trying to get myself out of the funk, to no avail.

And then without any kind of request, other than me asking myself “WHY?” a series of small interactions occurred.

Because within a 5 minute period, as I packed up my belongings for the day, I came across three women. Not necessarily women I see or talk to often at work either. And all three of them expressed great interest in me, in how my life was going, and they had such big smiles as we spoke, that it was hard to not get affected.

Now don’t get me wrong, a simple chat wasn’t enough to take me out my funk. I was still a bit helpless. But I had gained a bit of something that I talk about often here.

HOPE.

I don’t know why, but that series of small chats made me feel like there was something, or someone, trying to get through to me and lift me up. Those three women were thrown at me, so unusually, and with such force, that it was difficult to deny that there was something other than divinity at work here.

Someone or something, had responded to my unanswered question.

Life can be hard. No, Life IS hard. We are fortunate when we call out and receive a response to our cry for help.

Other times we may not ask, but we get assistance in unspoken form.

And then there are times, when we need to seek it out ourselves.

There is no shame in asking for help, or telling people we feel like shit. It actually takes all the courage in the world.

And whether you believe in a higher power, a greater good, or NOT, that is also ok… as long as you seek what you need when your soul is crying out for it, because every now and then, we all need a lending hand.

And maybe, just maybe, you have somehow been led to this post, and I am lending my words of advice, my experiences, and my Hopes for something greater, to YOU.

If you or someone you care for needs help, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or click here.

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Photo by Paola Chaaya on Unsplash

 

 

 

How to vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey

Here’s the thing: the outcome of Australia’s same-sex marriage postal survey will not impact me greatly.

I do not identify with the individuals who will be negatively affected in a possible majority ‘No’ vote.

I am straight. I am happily married – we said our vows in a church. And I have a child.

However, I do identify with them, as a fellow member of the human race. I am a member, and they are too.

Firstly let me start by showing you how I have voted:

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(and you will see that I have taken care not to include the lower barcode in this pic, in fear of the vote being deemed invalid, or risk of it being used by online scammers).

And now, a bit about myself.

I was raised in a fairly traditional European family. I was taught to respect and listen to elders, do as you’re told, and work hard.

We have a large extended family unit, and this only grew as the years passed. Family came to Australia from overseas, and so too the numbers went up up up.

When I was about 16 someone in this family unit came out.

It was my first time, being in the proximity of this knowledge. This ‘kind.’

Maybe I had been sheltered. Maybe it was a different time then. Maybe because it was so close to home…

… But the news really shook me. I felt altered. This person, who I had grown up with, who I had looked up to, who I had made some of the best childhood memories with –

was not the person who I thought they were.

Maybe because I was almost 16, maybe because it was that oh-so-pivotal and dramatic point in my teenage years – but I seriously felt lost. I didn’t know, what and who I knew anymore. The history that I had between myself and this person, didn’t appear to exist anymore.

To quote Gotye, they were “somebody who I used to know.”

Time went on. I still saw this person. They were still a part of my life.

And an important realisation surfaced. Through the continued interactions, continued laughs, continued memory-making…

… nothing had actually changed.

This theme grew stronger and stronger throughout the years, when I entered the workforce, and met more people who were gay and lesbian. And to date, I have lost count of the number of people in my life, both in personal life and at work, who are gay or lesbian.

I learnt a lesson very early on. There was nothing wrong with these people.

And this told me something. The sexual orientation didn’t make the person; the character did.

There were straight people who shit me.

There were straight people who I loved.

There were gay people who shit me.

There were gay people who I loved.

And lately, these gay people that I love (and some straight too) have been getting very vocal online. They’ve been getting vocal, because they want the same rights as every straight couple has, to be able to get married in Australia and have their union recognised legally.

I was sitting quite impassively on the subject for a while. I always knew how I would vote. But like I said, it didn’t concern me.

A quote sparked my interest though, and took me by surprise.

It was questioned, that when our children asked us in the future how we voted at this time, whether we would shy away and feel guilty, or whether we would be proud and say we had made a difference to the way people live their lives.

To the way people are able to live their lives.

That’s what it comes down to. Gay and lesbians do not have a say, nor do they have a right, to make their relationships official in the court of law.

I couldn’t help but think of women’s rights, and how it took so long for women to be able to ‘acceptably’ work… AND to be able to vote.

I work, and I vote. But if I was born before 1902, that wouldn’t have been at all possible for me. People back then made history, allowing me and every other woman in this day and age to do what shouldn’t just be a privilege, but a basic human right.

Think of the Aborigine people. We have come a long way, but in some respects, we still have a LONG way to go.

It has been progressive, has it not? People will argue either way, and yet if we look at the rights that Aborigines receive nowadays, they are vastly improved from how it used to be.

But for gays and lesbians, NO.

I didn’t think I needed to speak up, to give them a voice. It didn’t affect me, you see.

I read another story about a gay man preaching his case. He said under current Australian law, his brother, who he hasn’t spoken to in years, would have rights over his remains and his estate if something happened to him… his brother who he is estranged from. Who he clearly does not have a relationship with. Who he does not want anything to do with.

His brother would have rights, and yet his partner, who he is happily committed in a relationship with, would have none.

I read that, and I thought “that is just not fair.”

And then days earlier, the clincher.

The church where Hubbie and I got married, well they sent me a text. In summary, they were asking everyone to not be pressured and bullied by the same-sex marriage vote, and to vote NO in the plebiscite.

A direct quote:

“vote no to protect the holy sacrament of marriage, the family unit and the future generations.”

I was stunned. Stupefied. I told Hubbie, and we had a good, LONG discussion.

How dare they? What has it got to do with them? Gays and lesbians are not asking to be recognised by the church. The churches can continue to dismiss their relationship and deny their wishes to be married in their ‘sacred’ house… gays and lesbians are wishing for their unions to be respected and recognised legally.

By law. In the courts. Not in the church.

Marriage will still be sacred… because what is sacred, is LOVE. Let’s not pretend us ‘straight’ people are perfect. Divorce, adultery, abuse, both mental and physical… need I go on? Whose to say we are the only ones that can do it better? Straight people have been screwing it up since the beginning of time.

How will the family unit be affected? In what regard? From what I know, I’m fairly certain you don’t really have a choice to be gay or straight. You’re “born this way,” as another artist sings. Whether your parents are straight, or gay, I don’t think none of that will affect the family, or how their children will orient themselves sexually.

Straight couples produce gay children. Case closed.

And, future generations? Don’t we have an overpopulation issue? Like really? Will us ‘straight’ couples not be able to produce enough babies because of all the sudden gay and lesbian couples popping up everywhere?

Give me a break.

If anything, “church.” I am even more pro-God, anti-church establishment, than ever before. The man-made restrictions constantly placed upon the general population by the churches shits me to no end.

This law, isn’t going to make gay and lesbians go away. It isn’t going to make them disappear. And they shouldn’t have to. They are people, they have dreams, hopes and wishes, and theirs is to be respectfully recognised if they choose to marry the person they want to spend the rest of their life with. They have a basic human right, like so many of us.

They have a right to be recognised.

Like Aborigines do.

Like women do.

We all have a right. We have a right to be respected. We have a right to be heard.

We deserve the right of freedom. We deserve the right of public speech.

We deserve the right to marry who we want to.

We deserve the right to not be discriminated against for our race, colour, or gender.

We deserve the right to not be discriminated against for our ethnicity, work place, religion or geography.

We deserve the right to immunise our children, how and when as we wish. We deserve a say in this also, highly debatable topic, and need to be respected and listened to, our concerns understood and discussed, not pushed away in the corner and off to the ‘too-hard, crazy-person’ basket.

We deserve to be recognised by law, when we love someone. Let it not be based on gender, race, geography, or religion. Let it be based, and guided by, only the heart. 

And this is how this post came about. I was passive about the topic of same-sex marriage, still voting ‘YES,’ but neither feeling here nor there…

But then I realised, my voice was even more beneficial, because I was part of the middle group. The group that didn’t know how it affected them. The group that lay undisturbed from the decision. The group that would sleep well after the votes were cast, either way.

I am NOT a lesbian gay activist. I am not one way or the other. But I do believe in a person’s right to do as they choose, especially if they are not hurting anyone.

And they are not hurting anybody.

My voice is as important as every other humans out there.

And for the gays and lesbians, their voice is as important as MINE.

Please be a part of the ‘YES’ movement. Make a positive difference to our ongoing history. Be someone your future children will be proud of.

It feels awful to say it. But give the right, of basic human rights.

P.S And oh, just so you know…

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WordPress votes ‘YES’ too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavenly Surroundings

God’s Kitchen
53 Barkly Street Mornington

(Visited April ’16)

We called ahead on night 2 of our Mount Martha stay to find out which restaurant would be best suited for us to dine at with baby girl. We booked with the kitchen of the Gods, after hearing they were kid-friendly. Loud, we were advised, with the commencement of the nearby band by a certain time, but definitely friendly.

Loud, did you say? Loud enough to drown out any of her complaints? We almost high-tailed it over to the bar/restaurant, a grasshopper’s jump away from the Main street.

Luckily we had booked. The round, dome-shaped conservatory-type room we were led to wasn’t huge, with other tables already full and our table with high-chair waiting. God’s Kitchen is based around a heritage-listed church from back in the 1800s, the church itself used as the space for live music by local musicians, with diners able to eat casually at the garden bar, the conservatory type room with the Bohemian-looking chandelier, or at the front courtyard. It was already loud as we arrived, so we felt immediately at ease.

I soon ordered a glass of Stonier Pinot Noir from the Peninsula itself, while Hubbie ordered a sweet beer, off tap.

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We had to call for service because we were forgotten amongst the rush of it all, but because the waitress was so nice about it she was immediately forgiven.

We got some Prawn and Ginger Gyoza with Ponzu to share, and even though I couldn’t taste much of the ginger they were still really good.

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Baby girl’s meal came before ours as requested, and even though crap photo in the dark quality doesn’t show much of it (what you get from dim lighting and simple camera phone), she really did LOVE her Pasta. We were amazed that even though she wore a pale pink top, it remained untouched with sauce stains the entire time… until the last 2 minutes of her meal of course.

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She happily slurped it up.

Soon our mains arrived: my Pumpkin and Chickpeas Curry alongside rice and warm flatbread

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And Hubbie’s Grass-fed Rib Eye steak from Gippsland, atop mash and greens

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Mine was definitely a comforting dish, and was pleasing, however it just felt like a carb-fest. I would have appreciated some tzatziki or yoghurt to offset all the warm flavours and heavy textures. I’m a carb girl, through and through. But it was just a bit imbalanced on the plate.

Hubbie enjoyed his steak, saying it was cooked to his liking, and the accompanying sides were just right. He also enjoyed pecking at my carbs when I was done getting overfull!

Baby girl was doing well, meaning to say we had discovered the best way to occupy her was to set up a constant stream of Wiggles on youtube via our phones, and this kept her happily entertained… which is why we were able to have this: Churros – chocolate-filled Spanish doughnuts

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These were doughy, and also, amazing. I’m not an expert on the churro, though they’re so good I should aim to be, but I had just imagined them to be crispier, whereas these were softer… maybe having the filling leads to the softer texture, whereas a traditional plain churro is crispier? Someone inform me. Otherwise, crispy/soft, they were really yum. Moorish, and really easy to eat.

It had been a great night, in comforting yet loud surrounds, right up our alley with baby girl, and we had even gotten some interesting info from our main waitress who had a distinct accent. We told her we were planning a Sea change, and she told us she had done the same from overseas but to a neighbouring suburb that she loved. It was comforting to hear and discover, and more than a coincidence we thought, that we should be served be her 🙂

Food: 7/10. Decent. Nothing to particularly rave about, but it matches the bar atmosphere.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Really loud with the live music blasting from the adjoining church! Having a vocal baby girl, we loved it.

Staff: Really friendly. Both our accented waitress and another shyer waitress were terrific with us, we couldn’t have been happier with the kind and genuine service.

People: In our space there were many families, young and old dining out, whereas as you left this room to go outside through the church area, it became a typical pub scene, with heaps of teens hanging out rocking to the music. I was surprised that such a diverse group of people occupy the same space, yet somehow, it works.

Price: $120: consisting of 3 alcoholic drinks, an entrée, child’s meal, 2 mains and a dessert. Perhaps a bit much for what we received, but we’re on the PENINSULA now you see. Still slightly overpriced. My wine was $12 on its own.

Advice: Book ahead, because we’ve learnt that everything on the Peninsula gets booked out: all the locals head out on the weekend, and if you’re from out-of-town you need to compete with them to get seated!

In a nutshell: I enjoyed this restaurant due to the casual atmosphere and live music, it definitely is a fun place to be on the weekend. I’d love to try those churros again, and have some brekkie outside in the courtyard on a warm sunny day. There is no 5-star food here, but it does the job. Being the location of a former church makes it all the more picturesque. Still, it’s a heavenly location.

Gods Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato