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. 😊

My Quotes #4

“In most cases…

A problem can be lessened,

Pain can be halved,

And worries can be almost diminished.

If you –

Talk to a loved one,

Have a satisfying meal,

Drink a warm coffee, or

Have a restful sleep.

And if after any of things… all of these things,

Your heart isn’t full

Your tummy isn’t happy

Your soul isn’t dancing

And your body isn’t rested…

Then it’s time to talk to a professional.

But in most cases, and for most problems… these are the best, and most simplest cures of life.”

-SmikG.

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Unsplash

Friday night conversations #4 What’s your favourite season?

A really simple convo starter tonight, but albeit one that all people have a definitive answer to when asked.

As every year passes I find myself appreciating the cyclic benefits of the changing seasons… especially in Melbourne where we feel the drastic elements all too strongly.

Winter with its hibernating instinct, asks us all to look within, take inventory of our lives, reflect and respond, in doing so preparing ourselves for the re-birth of…

Spring. With the promise of new opportunities, ideas bloom and spring forth in our social consciousness just as much as they do in nature, and we are treated to an abundance of promising and exciting new paths to take in our life.

The dry and humid heat of Summer allows us to relax, sit in the sun and soak in the fruits of our labour. We enjoy the days with leisure, and allow it all to boil to the surface… living life in excess, taking life by the reins and RUNNING with it.

And then Autumn. We shed the past, wash away our fears, and step away from our old habits, ridding ourselves of that which does not serve us and preparing ourselves for the self-reflection in the dark and quiet months ahead.

I’ve come to realise that there is beauty in ALL these months… yes, even Winter.

(I’ve even written a big Winter post about it, so you can be sure that will be re-shared fairly soon).

But my personal fave?

Summer. 😁🌞

The leonine that I am… I love to bathe in the sunlight, watching the world go by, taking temporary pause and stock of my life, while simultaneously trying to be amongst every single Jungle event that season. 😂

What is you favourite season, and why?

Which path do you take on the topic?

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How to get by in life, during corona

From now, until forever more, we will have the phrases –

“During corona.”

“A new normal.”

“Flattening the curve.”

It’s unprecedented. We’ve never been through anything like this before, or at least no one has for a century. As we try to adjust to a new way of living, breathing and being, I thought it might be a good idea to re-jig a list I wrote last year,  and make it all ‘corona friendly.’

A lot of my earlier points I’ve re-posted here again because they still apply… but mostly I just wanted to put together a little how-to of ways to help you get by in this uncertain time, if not just for all of you… but for myself as well.

I might do gratitude in my other blog, but trust me, I need reminders too.

Because appreciation of life amidst difficulty is a continuous work in progress.

Please feel free to add things that make you smile, or help you simply get by, in the comments below. Some of us will be taking things harder, some a bit easier, but it’s important to remember we are all going through this in one way or another, and also to remember, the bigger picture.

If all you are doing is surviving, you’re doing great. Well done.

But if you need a little something else to keep your mind busy and have you looking forward, then read on…

 

Quick fixes

Drink a caffeinated beverage.

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Coffee, black tea, green tea… or just jump to the ‘other’ stuff.

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It’s 4pm somewhere in the world, right?

(Alcohol abuse is not condoned here… because if you can’t party with it you’re doing something wrong!)

Put on some loud music.

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Queen’s 1985 Live Aid performance is strongly recommended (going by my own personal pick-me-up experiences with that song) but really, anything that will get the blood pumping, your fingers tapping, and your feet dancing along.

Music is sweet, and so necessary for the soul.

Look in the mirror and laugh at yourself.

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Even if you force a laugh, you will end up doubling over with real laughter over how stupid you look when you’re fake laughing.

Or else, smile really hard. Try not to burst out laughing. No really, TRY.

Was that pimple always there?

I never noticed those lines.

I really need a brow pluck.

All valid thoughts that may arise, but trust me it’s a very awareness-producing exercise. Hell at the very least, you will suddenly know yourself more intimately than you did before.

Go through old photos.

This is bound to make you feel better instantly. What a mind-trip this can be, going back to years and years ago. Go to your memory bank of choice… physical photo album or digital device.

And if you find you don’t have a collection of properly stored photos, well that may just be a nice little project you can do… being productive, clearing and sorting memories from your life, while filling up the current space with pictures of yourself and loved ones.

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Lovely.

Take 3 slow breaths.

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Do it now. Can you feel that? Your heartbeat slowing?

Good.

 

Self-care

Meditate.

Sit in silence and try to quiet your mind.

Or let it wander. See where it leads you.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Don’t get worked up over what pops up – just observe.

Do some yoga.

Stretch it out.

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Photo by Valeria Ushakova on Pexels.com

And if you think having littlies makes it impossible to do yoga, think again. There’s a tribe called Cosmic Kids Yoga, and they have hundreds of themed yoga videos for kids, ranging from popular movies like Frozen and Spiderman, all the way to movement based off the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

More info at this link here, or find them on YouTube.

Write it out.

Having spent my whole life writing it out, I can tell you the therapeutic benefits of getting things out on paper are enormous. You don’t have to be Shakespeare… sure many are sprucing their motivations of starting the next great novel, but all you need to do is BLAH it out.

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Just set yourself a timer, and write for 5 minutes straight. No breaks. No stopping. Whatever comes into your head, get it out in front of you.

You will be amazed at some of the crap random shitty unusual scary enlightening thoughts that suddenly purge themselves from you.

If you want, burn it at the end. Or keep it as a little time capsule of your own experience of surviving this corona experience.

Yes you heard me. SURVIVING.

Go for a walk.

Or a bike ride. This is about the only one we can do now. This one is so free, and so easy. We may be limited in our social movements, but the fact that we can connect with nature so freely, so easily, just by putting on some sneakers and throwing on a jacket… just do it.

This will save us all.

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Look out the window.

Dream. Just imagine… stuff. Ideas. Wishes. Hopes.

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Make a post-corona list.

While you’re dreaming, make yourself one of these. Me and baby girl have started one of these lists verbally, and often we refer to it when we’re struggling in the day to day.

Write, or just plan all the things you want to do when this isolation is over.

Watch how excited you get!

Some on my list for example…

Have coffee in a café.

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Walk on the beach.

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Give my parents and sister a big hug.

♥♥♥

Have a massive shopping day.

Invite everyone to our post-corona party. !!!!!!!!!!

I know we’re not there yet, but thinking about it gives me so much hope.

Sit in your yard.

Sit under a tree. Or on your balcony. Lounge about on the porch.

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If you’re limited for space, just open the window when you’re dreaming on the point above.

Take a nap.

If time allows you (and let’s face it, certain family members too) there is no time like the present to get some extra shut eye.

Because when the world starts up again, you ain’t gonna wanna sleep much.

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Drink loads of water.

I shouldn’t really need to say this, but sadly so many of us forget the bare basics to keep our bodies functioning at optimal level, and this happens more often than not when we are stressed, or going through sudden change.

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Get a funky water bottle (order online through your favourite shopping site) and at least you’ll be motivated to bring bottle to lips throughout the day with something looking so cool.

Read a book.

Oh yes. Hell yes. Do it. Read them ALL. No explanation needed here.

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We don’t need any excuses to escape to a magical place away from our current realities.

Take a bath.

Hell to the yeah! Baths are sooo not just for kids. Once you hit adult-age, they become a necessity, to help replenish, restore and reenergise.

All you need to do is turn on the faucet, maybe light a candle, and if you’re feeling for it, pour yourself a glass of wine too…

And lock the damn door. You need YOU time.

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Ideas to keep us sane.

Do some online shopping.

There is no time like the present to buy things online, in turn supporting some local and small businesses while you’re doing so. And the rush you get from clicking “add to cart…” ooh. Gets me all heady. 😉

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Watch something you love.

This is so easy. Whether it’s an old tv show, a long-time favourite movie, or some comedian on youtube. There’s nothing like a feel-good watch to lift the mood.

I love watching comedians online… one of my faves, the hilariously ethnic and blatantly honest, Sooshi Mango.

HA HA HA!

Talk to someone.

With technology so prevalent in our society, this one is so easy for us all. Call, zoom, even drive by someone’s house and yell across the yard to them (on your way to ‘essential’ shopping of course)… and just hearing someone else’s voice, will be an instant mood lifter.

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(Keeping 1.5 metres distance of course 😉 )

Pat a pet.

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That’s my furry Mister F. 😉

This is easy if you have one, but if you don’t?

You can virtually add an animal into your house. Just type one into Google, (eg. lion) and when the animal shows up click on the ‘View in 3D’ button.

Then click ‘View in your space.’

Find the ‘ground/floor’ in your phone and arrange accordingly…

And voila! Animal appears in your room! (As close as you might get to patting a real lion too!)

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Sure you won’t be patting anything, but you sure as hell will be entertained seeing a zoo of animals pop up through your phone, in your kitchen!

Engage your mind with puzzles and games.

I bet no one thought jigsaw puzzles were going to rock in our technologically advanced 2020, and yet hear we are, chasing down 1000 pieces online and spending big bucks on the last Disney ones we can source…

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Whether it’s a puzzle, a sudoku riddle, a crossword, or anything else that gets your mind ticking, it’s going to keep you engaged and thinking, and that is something we should never stop doing, isolation or not.

Or colour in. If you have those mindfulness pictures, great, if you don’t, print any old diagram off the net.

Doing something you haven’t done for so long, is great for the mind and soul.

And if all that doesn’t tickle your fancy… how’s about going back to your childhood?

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Boardgames. Jenga, jenga, jenga…!

Gardening.

You don’t even need to go to Bunnings for supplies.

Start in your yard. Observe. Pick. Weed. Look around and respond accordingly.

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Listen to nature, she’ll point you in the right direction.

 

Get the creative juices pumping. Start a new project. The options are ENDLESS. 

Write a novel.

There are online courses just waiting for you, and I should know. A great starting point is the Australian Writers Centre.

https://www.writerscentre.com.au/

Draw a picture.

Take a sketch pad, or start with templates online. There is a world of creativity out there, but click the link below if you need some initial inspiration.

https://trailofcolors.com/

Scrapbooking.

As I mentioned earlier you can organise your photos during this time of iso, and there is no more creative way to do that than by scrapbooking. You can order items online from Kaisercraft or Riot, both places I have used in my own scrapbooking, and where I have accounts with both. (P.S. it’s free!)

https://www.kaisercraft.com.au/

https://riotstores.com.au/

Experiment with new recipes.

This is a great one. I’ve recently started following Jamie Oliver and Marion Grasby on facebook… Chinese egg drop soup anyone? 3 minute tomato pasta sauce? All these and more I will be making soon!

Drooool.

Leah Itsines is another local gal I follow, and her meals are easy, delicious and so easy to source ingredients for (as well as being great for meal prepping – winning!)

Type in their names on facebook, insta or YouTube to start getting food inspiration ASAP.

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Start an exercise routine. 

You don’t have to tell me you can’t hit the gym. ‘Cause you know what I’m gonna say.

Go online peeps.

Sam Wood and Rachael Finch are just two of the people I follow on insta, and there you can find video links as well as where to sign up to become members and receive further workout benefits.

It’s never been an easier time to be in isolation. We can do this, while still doing almost everything else that we want to from the comfort of our homes.

Home renos.

Uneven door? Need to fix a handle?

Having a house that you tended to yourself, will be the most satisfying thing once all of this is over.

And then you’ll be able to call your friends over for post–corona drinks, and to observe your fancy house handy work too. 😉

Purge purge purge.

If you think clearing things from your life is not a creative pursuit, think again.

The intense therapeutic benefits that come from removing old, useless, redundant items from your life, and bringing in room for new, or just giving you air to breathe, well –

It can bring a new lease on life.

Start small, always start small. A drawer, a stash of papers. Don’t think of the big picture here. When it comes to cleaning, clearing or tidying, it’s best to always zoom in on a small task that you can achieve, because looking at the entire wardrobe that needs clearing and sorting, well you’re gonna be putting that task off for months, if not years to come.

But start with the right corner of that top shelf? That is do-able. That you might be able to knock off in 15-30 minutes.

And then when you get that down, watch how motivated you are to clear the left hand side of the top shelf.

And so on and so forth.

Then, just reap the mental benefits of all that SPACE.

Learn a new/old instrument.

Alright, buying an instrument at this time might be a little tough, but if there’s one laying around your house (most people have one they’ve deserted at some point) a really inexpensive way to tinker with the thing is to look up YouTube videos. Yes, YouTube! (I may need to rename this post The YouTube guide to getting through iso…)

A world of possibilities!

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Make something.

Make a jumper or a scarf, a beanie even, for that first day in Winter (that’s most likely for us in Australia isn’t it?) where we’ll be allowed out of our homes to go do WHATEVER, WHEREVER we choose.

Pick a bright colour. Look up some knitting templates online. Here I found some for you.

https://www.allfreeknitting.com/

If you have no idea where to start, well guess what…

That ‘y’ word again. YouTube!

They have ‘how to’ videos when you have absolutely no idea where to start. (Of course they do).

So, get to it. Hell they look so good, I might just crochet me some rainbow fingerless gloves too.

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Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

 

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? All the little trivialities of our life, what has become of our day-to-day… it is hard. But how much will it matter tomorrow, next week, next year, or in 20 years?

If it still holds you down, speak to a professional. (This you can do online too).

But if your problems suddenly seem pointless and irrelevant…

Take a deep breath and put up the music.

Every day is a chance to start again.

Let’s get through this together.

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When you lack hope for the New Year

I call myself a glass half-full gal.

Lately though, I haven’t really been feeling it.

Sure I run a whole gratitude blog where I post daily items of gratitude…

But I’m feeling like a bit of a fake.

Because I realised some time ago, that I wasn’t really feeling the whole ‘new year new decade new me’ business.

I wasn’t excited.

I wasn’t happy

I wasn’t even hopeful.

That realisation stunned me. Hope is one of those vital things I hold onto, the thing that keeps me going amidst troubling times and difficult days.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressed or anything. I just think I’ve hoped for things before and been disappointed time and time again… and with my life in a current state of limbo…

Well, how could I be hopeful, when I didn’t know what to hope for? What to expect?

Why would I hope for anything when firstly I didn’t know what to hope for, and secondly I didn’t want to be bitterly disappointed?

I was saddened by this fact. How could I, the glass half-full gratitude girl, have fallen off the appreciation train, and wasn’t even looking forward to 2020?

So I set up a little project. Away from the public eyes of the world wide web, I started to do my own brand of gratitude, counting things to make me happy… in the privacy of my home.

Just for me, myself and I.

Call it a meditation. I lie down in bed at night and form an inventory of the day that has passed… and in my counting I find, things that I don’t tell anyone about, but things that I’m grateful for.

I’ve been doing it for less than a week now. But I’ve been making progress, and already I feel happier.

I feel more hopeful.

I am feeling more grateful again 🙂

What is the point of me telling you all this you might ask?

It’s many things.

Firstly, even positive, glass half-full people suffer from doubt and insecurity. Don’t be fooled into thinking the rose-coloured glasses through which they present their life makes them perfect… far from it.

Secondly. You can start any day you want to make your life better. You just have to decide when you want it to be better.

Third. You don’t even have to wait for a new year, a new decade… You can start any day, any second.

Life is waiting for you now, and if you keep putting personal growth and learning off, you may forever be putting your life off.

I’ve always said, you don’t need to wait for a new year. Be assured that whatever resolutions you’ve made yourself for the new year… if you find you can’t stick to them longer than a month, week or day…

You can always start again. Whenever you want.

Because every moment is a chance to try again.

Happy New Whatever-You-Want-It-To-Be.

😉

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Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash

The dark side of Christmas

Christmas has always been one of my most favourite times of the year. There are carols, festive movies, everything is red, green, gold and sparkly, and let’s face it, by December Melbourne weather is starting to show us some decent warmth.

Holidays are near, and LOVE IS ALL AROUND.

I know and I feel that to be true. But I’ve been thinking a lot about another group of people.

It’s the time of year where people start talking about a fresh start, a new beginning. More so now because we’re not just entering a new year next year, but we’re entering a new DECADE.

People don’t just get together and celebrate Christmas work parties and KK catch ups with friends… celebrations occur. The end of the year brings good news in work and school results, people use the timing of festive happiness to celebrate and bring forth happy news from other areas in their life…

All in all, this December I am seeing a lot of good news stories.

And I LOVE it.

But there are not all who love it.

And by that I mean that they are not loving anything, nothing at all.

I feel particularly this year for the people who are struggling.

There are people in hospital who don’t know how they are going to get through the month, relying on machines to help them live… let alone wasting time thinking of what New Year goals they are going to break in the second week of January.

There are people who are missing loved ones that have departed. This Christmas may be the first for them without someone they love, and seeing Christmas cards in stores and Hallmark moments being broadcast all around as the ideal Christmas with the perfect family, would make this such a hard time.

Then there are those that are estranged from family, and that all too common question “Where do you celebrate Christmas?” makes it almost a disappointment to speak that they aren’t spending it with family. Having people nosy into your personal business, isn’t the merriest of feelings.

The approaching new year also makes you reflect, and often people don’t like what they discover. Looking back at the year that has passed can make one feel like a disappointment if they feel they haven’t achieved what they set out to… the absence of a goal or achievement can be hard to swallow, and a bitter reminder that a year has been lost. Looking forward to a new year then can be overwhelming, and a fresh start mentality is difficult to focus on and is far from their mind.

This year, I am really feeling for all those who are struggling.

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

I am not a professional, and I don’t know what to do in every difficult situation… but as a person who has gone through hard times, I can offer some personal advice…

Take every moment at a time. Don’t look too much into the future and worry about what’s to come. Just focus on doing the best you can at this point in time with what you have.

Focus simply, on gratitude. Focus on the little things, and on what you DO have. Think about the roof over your head, the comfortable bed that you sleep in, and that person who calls you because they love you. These are the things worth thinking about. These are the things that matter.

Stay off social media. Reading other people’s ‘highlight’ reels is not going to help. A word of caution: if you find yourself comparing your life against someone else’s, remember that what someone posts is just one moment in time, and it provides absolutely no backstory or context of actual reality. Most of the time these repetitive highlight reels come from serial posters, who require self-gratification in the form of constant likes and comments… that is, they are suffering for some reason and need their ego inadvertently stroked to make themselves feel better… They need the attention constantly on them or else they risk suffering a meltdown.

Feel proud that you have beautiful things that you could share, but you don’t. It’s called self-command and privacy.

And as much as I do love this festive season… this too shall pass. It all does. Just hold on. Hold on knowing that like one of my favourite quotes:

“Good times and bad times have one thing in common, they never last forever.”

Don’t be disheartened by this quote. Feel humbled you are able to grace this earth.

I hope you have a great festive season, and just remember… moment by moment.

I believe in you.

You can do it. ♥

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Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

 

 

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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A Loon-y journey

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E.L. DOCTOROW – Loon Lake

“You are thinking it is a dream. It is no dream. It is the account in helpless linear translation of the unending love of our simultaneous but disynchrous lives.”

There are so many things to think and talk about when discussing this book by E.L. Doctorow.

It is about obtaining love.

It is about wanting more from your life.

It is about the many forms of isolation.

It is life’s perversion at its finest worst.

And it is a random bunch of episodes, warped and brutally honest moments that are individual and yet oddly parallel to one another, leading to the same universal goal, that somehow makes it an unexpected whole, a whole that makes sense, yet still leaves you scratching your head.

Confused?

Questions abound in the reading of this novel. From the blurb, you know half of what to expect when you begin to turn the pages. Joe is on the run from authorities, and decides to follow a train’s route when he sees a flash of important people in the carriages pass him one night, including a young woman looking at her naked image in the mirror. Drawn to the obvious wealth present on the train, and hypnotised by the woman’s beauty, he follows the train to its resting point at a very wealthy man’s estate.

‘Very wealthy’ doesn’t begin to describe how wealthy this man actually is. The owner Bennett has his initials on everything, down to the cigarette boxes.

“He was very rich. He owned thirty thousand acres here and it was just one of his places. He owned the lake itself, the water in the lake, the land under the water and the fish that swam in it.”

”But not the dogs? (…)”

“Oh, no (…) Those are wild-running, those dogs.”

And here we have present a hint of humour, something also prevalent in Loon Lake. It is hard to focus on any one element in my review because they are intertwined and dancing with one another in sporadic points, but there is definitely some black humour popping up at various intervals.

With the humour often came some interesting life insight, such as this:

“I could tell that each of them felt badly used to be taking care of some tramp who had wandered onto the grounds. It was an affront to the natural order which made service to people bearable because they were higher than you, not lower.”

And this which I loved:

“And as for Mr Penfield I knew in my bones I didn’t have anything to fear from him. He had a way of canceling himself out if you let him talk long enough.”

So back to the story. What I thought would be the basis and location of the story, Bennett’s estate, ended up changing half-way through. I naively had believed this would be the scene of all the action, since that was all that was mentioned in the blurb. However, the story went further and deeper and darker than just wandering around some enormous estate, looking at lakes, and trying to catch the fancy of the prettiest girl there.

Not that those parts weren’t entertaining on their own. I guess the way the story stops and changes pace and moves in a different direction, often taking other character’s points of view, is something you would liken to real life: how sometimes we go here, we stop; we go there – but wait that didn’t work; we revisit this place, but only in our minds; and then we go back to where we started.

My first thoughts of the book were not much. There was swearing in the first page, which made me think perhaps I could do the same in my writings, however it’s something that I think is a bit borderline since my work is geared towards a young adult audience. Still, I was happy to read:

“Streetcars rang the bell on the whole fucking neighbourhood.”

This definitely was not the sole instance of swearing, and the crudeness continued not only in terms of language, but in behaviours (pissing was a recurring one), events, and really, really horrible circumstances that made you question humanity. The crudeness continued in the written word too, with Doctorow placing some really interesting ‘I’ references that jolted me out of my reader-state and ‘broke the wall,’ so to speak. Lots of jumping from one character’s point-of-view, to the narrator (author) back to the character in a matter of paragraphs. Without warning. Also the character never continuously spoke in the first person, with Doctorow often injecting a different narrative voice just to make you wonder what the hell was going on.

In one instance, the character Warren Penfield is speaking from his point-of-view, and then it changes to this:

“I acknowledge Warren’s lifelong commitment – cancel lifelong commitment – fatal attraction for any kind of communication whether from words, flags, pigeons or the touch of fingertips in hope of a common language, but we must remember how we are vulnerable to the repetition of our insights so that they tend to come to us not as confirmation of something we already know but as genuine discoveries each and every time.”

At first all of this was very jarring, but like the first time you read Shakespeare and needed to get used to the old-style language, or when you read Trainspotting and had no idea what was going on until half-way through the book when their lingo became second nature to you, so too did I eventually become very well-acquainted with his jumpy style of writing.

Aside from this jumpiness in many character point-of-views, changing from 1st to 3rd person, going back and forth in time between the two main men Joe and Warren, and a good smattering of poems, death notices (and one death notice where we are actually introduced to the character whose future death is foreshadowed before we meet him) there is the case of the run-on sentences. This is normal:

“The track went through some woods circled around a small mountain lake and then it started up a grade a long slow winding grade, I was not already in love with her but in her field of force, what I thought I felt like was some stray dog following the first human being it happened to see.”

This doesn’t show the full extent of the much-often absent comma, as the best example is at the end of the book, when Warren’s POV goes a full two pages without a single full stop. At an average of 11 words per 62 lines, that equates to approximately 682 words. That’s a lot of ideas in one sentence. Without googling, this must not be Doctorow’s first work. I’m sorry, but a first-time author would NEVER get away with that (and it kills me that so many things are out-of-bounds for us).

However, Doctorow does it all so well, and so absurdly, breaking the rules that it actually makes sense. He keeps us confused and guessing, up until a certain point before we are about to break with insanity, and then reveals the information we need so we don’t think we are going crazy with misinformation. He keeps us on our toes.

The above quote doesn’t just show how thoughts change abruptly, displaying the real nature of the human mind, but it shows a beautiful element of Joe’s character, and despite the questionable acts he has done in the past, and does continue to do, he has some tender moments. Take this:

“She was happy on the move, alert and at peace, all the inflamed spirit was lifted from her. She had various ways of arranging herself in the seat, legs tucked up or one under the other, or arms folded, head down, but in any position definitive, beautiful.”

And my favourite, this one:

“Her grey eyes shone, her mouth stretched in her tremulous overbitten smile. I danced her out of there out down the corridor doing a fast fox trot full of swirls while I hummed the tune I had heard the night I came ‘Exactly Like You,’ Libby laughing and worrying at the same time, telling me to hush, looking back over her shoulder, giggling, falling against me every other step, brushing my cheek with her lips. And the light lay like a track along the carpet and shone in golden stations of the open doors.”

The crudeness of the novel had rubbed off onto my notes as I was reading, with the following associated with the above: “This guy can fucking do beautiful poignancy!” As another nod to how his themes intertwine and repeat, there is reference here to the terms ‘track’ and ‘golden stations,’ homage to the train he followed to make it to Loon Lake.

Ahh, the elusive Loon. First mention of it comes from a poem by Warren Penfield, before we even meet Warren! This spiked my curiosity, as I didn’t know what an actual Loon was, or even if it was anything, maybe a particular name or place. It is in fact a bird that grabs fish from the lake of the esteemed estate that it’s named after it. This following poem captures the metaphor of the bird, and the story, and the dual nature of things often present in this book, perfectly:

“A doomed Indian would hear them at night in their diving

and hear their cry not as triumph or as rage

or the insane compatibility with the earth

attributed to birds of prey

but in protest against falling

of having to fall into that black water

and struggle up from it again and again

the water kissing and pawing and whispering

the most horrible promises…”

Beautiful imagery is present there. Doctorow makes stunning use of precise details, painting vivid pictures, like this:

“The chief is not cold. He sits at his desk in a short-sleeved shirt. Arms like trees. His wrist watch appears to be imbedded in the flesh. His badge, pinned to his shirt pocket, pulls the material to a point.”

And this, which tugged at my heartstrings with its sadness:

“Warren knew they were poor and lived lives the colour of sag.”

I’ve mentioned crudeness, but the other notable theme is that of poverty, something both of our protagonists share in. Going back to the beginning, we discover Joe has had a fairly pathetic upbringing, and learns to become street-smart in order to get by. He is an interesting protagonist, because he makes choices that would normally make him a very complicated bad guy, only slightly worthy of redemption, rather than the man we are rooting for. Despite the fact that he is on the run at the beginning of the novel due to theft, we come to like him because we see that he’s clever.

He tells the story of how in his early years he stole a cart full of groceries from the fat delivery boy, and instead of taking the groceries for himself, delivered them to all the intended customers, brought the trolley to the store man, and gave him all the money down to the very cent. He scored a job out of this, and it is this event that we start to see, hey, this isn’t some ratbag kid chasing short-term goals. He is in it for the long-term… until he steals the wrong person’s property that is.

He has many ‘save the cat’ moments. There is much I want to say, but I’ll refrain for spoiler’s sake. Let’s just say that he ends up at a carnival, and there are a lot of really sordid, sad scenes. One scene that comes later in the book during a kind of flashback, was really, really distressing to me. I remember finishing that section late one Sunday night and just feeling so low, so crap. Knowing that somewhere in the world, not perhaps that particular thing, but something of the sort, was happening, and had happened, and maybe even would happen again, just made me so sad. Joe is an explosive kind, and despite his own very, very dubious actions, redeems himself in key moments.

“I wanted to do to her what had been done to the Fat Lady, I wanted the force of a hundred men in unholy fellowship, I went at her like a murderous drunkard.”

The whole reason I had sought out this book in the first place is because I had heard of a quote by him that really grabbed my attention:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

When later that week I was in a library, I went in search of some of his name and found Loon Lake. I hadn’t really looked into much of his work, or even been recommended any particular book, but seeing the mysterious tones mentioned in the blurb it seemed within my field of interest.

Despite my initial confusion with almost ALL elements of the novel, I still revelled in it, as I like going out of my comfort zone and exploring different forms of storytelling, be it in movies, music or books.

Confusion abounded in Loon Lake: Joe and Warren’s point-of-views were eerily similar, with similar heartbreaking backgrounds, had travelled similar paths to Loon Lake, and later, were in love with the same girl. Their personalities were so different, yet their journeys so symmetrical, that until they actually met each other, I was convinced they were the same person, just bipolar. However the events leading to their meeting, the events that unfold, and the things that happen after Loon Lake are truly fascinating.

The story felt goal-less when Joe was on the run at the beginning; I realise the enticing incident was the authorities chasing him, making him move on, but there were many pages and many continuous moments of crossing land where I just thought “what is pushing the story forward? What is Joe’s motivation?” I guess this story does mimic real life, as I mentioned earlier in Joe’s jumpy thoughts, where sometimes things just move along, move along, and then BANG! you’re given a reason to run.

Just like life, this story has everything: it has the ultimate goal, searching for love, searching for the one, and searching for the life that you believe you deserve. It does this in a perverse way. It has humour. It has sadness. It has desperation, and it has manic moments. It has frightening insights of bleak honesty, so harsh and eerie that it makes you shiver. There are scary moments – scary from humans, and scary because of life. Some things feel like a dream, things go back and forth, and you question many, many voices that are presented throughout. Like the Warren quote mentioned above where Doctorow ‘breaks the wall’ and begins with “I acknowledge Warren’s lifelong commitment…” this passage is also telling in the random thoughts and flashbacks of Warren’s, including one of his repetitions which is identical to another but refers to two separate incidences. When you read it, you’ll know what I mean. But it had me flipping wildly to the start of the book, muttering “I’ve read this before!”

Still, despite the frequent bleakness, and the fact that I probably won’t read another Doctorow book until I read a few really happy novels first, I did enjoy it, and it did have enough humour and insight that I appreciated. I would read another book of his. Just after a blindingly cheesy-happy one.

The ending is not really an ending: not to me anyway. It definitely isn’t one in the Hollywood movie-ending scheme of things, if we’re talking karma and what not. You don’t have very many answers as you go along, and it kind of just ends there, just kind of like life. Some things are tied up, and sometimes, some things are not.

All in all, this novel is a f*^ked up accomplishment of sorts. It has everything, as it had me feeling, and thinking, long after I finished reading. Well done Doctorow. To make a reader feel and think so hard, is testament to your form. Also, to read a book that has so many analogous yet confusing elements in it, yet still giving enough that allows the reader to make sense of it all, is an achievement. If you only like shiny happy things, you’ll walk away screwed up. You’ve been warned.

I’ll end on this page 76 quote that interestingly foreshadows the future of the story while also painting a terrific metaphor.

“…a loon was coming in like a roller coaster. He hit the water and skidded for thirty yards, sending up a great spray, and when the water settled he was gone. I couldn’t see him, I thought the fucker had drowned. But up he popped, shaking and mauling a fat fish. And when the fish was polished off, I heard a weird maniac cry coming off the water, and echoing off the hills.”

Please let me know your thoughts on Loon Lake in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 🙂

Life Rules by SmikG #2 About always moving and celebrating your small wins

Keep this list handy…

#2 Celebrate the small things. Forget that which does not serve you. Keep moving and looking forward, no matter how small your steps may be.

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Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Explanation: I’ve had a new approach of late, and didn’t realise how much I had implemented it, until I saw it happening in each part of my life.

I have been trying to eat healthier and more naturally, using healthier sweet alternatives when I feel I need them, instead of any processed forms of sugar.

I am generally a healthy eater. And I am highly realistic about what I can and can’t do. Each time I make the right choice for a meal I give myself a quiet pat on the back.

And each time I indulge in something considered ‘naughty’… I still enjoy the snack fully. I let myself appreciate each bite. Then I forget all about it, while reminding myself that I am being normal.

Be kind to yourself when you are trying, when you are learning. If you can’t forgive yourself and move on for not making the ‘appropriate’ healthy choice, then how do you expect others to forgive you for anything?

I am very realistic about these things. I don’t believe in limitation and diets. If you focus on those words, well no one is inspired to do better for their bodies. But focusing on health, vitality, energy and enjoyment, with treats when your body truly wants it, not just because you reach for it by habit… that is important.

Likewise with movement, and exercise. I am not doing near enough what I wish I could do. But I have a health app on my phone. It tracks my steps, my sleep, and my daily movement.

Some days I hit my target. Other days I smash it. Some I am not even close.

And still I move on, telling myself that each step, regardless of when and where it falls, brings me closer to health.

And then… there’s books. My love. ♥ The online book club I am part of reminds me on a daily basis how much I am not reading. Readers post books they are reading over the weekend, discuss their favourite authors, and what didn’t work in that last outback romance they just read in a 6 hour free block…

And I sit there bemoaning the fact that I have so much to write.

Hubbie reminds me of this. “You are writing a book! They aren’t!”

Sure. He is right. But still I try. A page here and there, a chapter a night, sometimes…

Then there are all those book reviews I have to do. And like I said, ALL that writing. Sure, I don’t have to write those reviews… but I promised myself when I started all this that I would, and if I break my promise to myself, what chance do others have to depend on me?

Harsh yes. Hard definitely. But one day I will be more caught up, when word by word, bit by bit I reach a stage I consider socially acceptable for a writer to be ‘behind’… LOL.

And despite all this… I keep moving forward. I don’t stand still. I may only do the tiniest thing every day, but I am still doing something. I am still, moving forward.

It’s the only way to go.

Note rule number 2!

I don’t have time for this

Time. People think money is the biggie… but seriously, it’s ‘time’ that is the valuable commodity.

It is precious. When someone gives you their sacred time, it is considered special, generous, kind-hearted even.

The downside with this is that there are many that think the absence of your time, is something bad.

In this case, the opposite of something good, such as giving your time, does not equal bad – the absence of time.

It means just that… the absence of time.

No emotion should be attached.

No expectation.

No letdown.

Nothing more, nothing less.

There can be a whole bevy of reasons why you cannot give someone your time. The options in being time-poor are limitless.

There is family – your immediate family, or your extended family.

Parents – you could be caring or assisting for your elderly parents, sick parents, widowed parents. They could need a little or a lot of help. They can live in your home due to their vulnerable state, or they may live on the other side of town and require you to drive once a week for… groceries? Doctors appointments? Company and companionship? And that’s on a good week.

Siblings – you could be helping them with their families, or just lending an ear to some concerns. You could be looking after their kids, driving them around town, or cooking for them if they have been unwell.

Then there’s the whopper, KIDS. Just your own kids, and you can be met with responsibilities of childcare, school, after-school activities, and then the social occasions that come with all of the above. None of this includes the every day routines of keeping your kids fed, slept, washed, entertained and in a state of happy health and learning.

This list doesn’t include your time spent with a developmentally challenged child. It doesn’t include the challenges of a child starting school and dealing with separation anxiety, nor does it include a teenage child, exposed to drugs and alcohol and sex, and the concerns and minefields involved in navigating this tricky field of adolescent development.

This list doesn’t include meetings and illnesses and dentist appointments, nor does it include the hours dedicated to getting your kids asleep, getting them awake, and then getting them to listen to you all other times.

As you can see, that is just one area where you can be extremely time-poor.

Another area is work. Commute to and from, hours spent at workplace, and unfortunately for some the work of bringing it all home… homework.

This does not include school, or study. Again, travel time. Study time, which needs to be fit in around all the other life responsibilities and obligations you have (see above list).

You might have activities of your own: yoga, local basketball team, or that art class you’ve started experimenting in. We all need something to work towards, and the pursuit of happiness and life fulfillment is a worthy one, and one that will make our time on earth a far more enriching experience.

Then there is health, and I don’t mean that of the body… that of the mind. Mental health. The things that plague us in the middle of the night, the worries and anxiety that creep in during daylight hours, and the insecurities that prevent us from moving forward and  make us immobile in our day, that keep our hearts heavy and cheeks tear-stained… those are the ones that make a tremendous and negative impact on our time. Because we stay stuck in it. Unable to go forward. Desperate to take the first step yet not knowing how.

I haven’t mentioned partners. I haven’t mentioned friends. I haven’t mentioned our own ills. I haven’t mentioned our furry friends.

I haven’t mentioned, the routine of eating and sleeping and hygiene and clean clothes.

I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted just reading the above lists.

Oh, that’s right. SLEEP.

You can see the picture I am painting here though. Time is precious. Time is hard to come by.

If someone gives you their time, GOOD.

If someone doesn’t give you their time… GROW UP.

This is what I’ve come to realise lately. There are those who expect nothing from you and are there to lend a hand or an ear when available… and then there are those who look to the past, compare your life with theirs constantly, and expect you to fight and eat and breathe their existence, chasing after them as if they are the Sun, and you the Earth, necessary to orbit around them… 365 days a year.

My response? I’m sorry.

I don’t have time for this.

I’ve come to some hard realisations lately. People who I thought were always there for me are too demanding. They need my reassurance constantly.

I am not your parent. You are a grown person. I have my own shit to deal with and let me tell you, I am doing you a favour by not letting you into that.

I have realised that people I haven’t been able to be there for constantly (i.e. time issue) have recently been there for me in ways I never expected. Happily. Wholeheartedly. There was no “she wasn’t there for this so I won’t be there for her.” No comparing. No judgement. No ill-wishes. No guilt.

I had people who were simply there for me, without question.

It opened my eyes. It showed me my relationships in a new light.

People are always changing aren’t they? And so even those that make us happy/sad now, might make us sad/happy in the future, just as abruptly…

But my main point? Time. Time is of the essence, we don’t have enough of it, and if someone is going to make me feel guilty for failing to make them the focal point in my life…

Sorry not sorry. I should be the only focal point in my life. It is MY LIFE after all.

I just don’t have time for this anymore.

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Photo by Jesse Parkinson on Unsplash