Circuit breakers

In front of you is an elephant, a mountain. It is enormous and there is no way you can see around it, or see how you can climb it, but you know that the only way forwards is over the top to get to the other side. The notion of working out how to get to the other side is overwhelming and saps you of all your energies. So instead of tackling this mountain, you crawl back into bed, you cover your head and pretend that this task is not there, that it will deal with itself. When you look back out, it is still there, waiting for you to start. The cycle goes on, and on until you make a decision about how to tackle the mountain.

Sometimes in life there are these moments where I am completely overwhelmed by the number of things that I need to do, and the people who rely on me to get these things done. When I was doing some solo hiking a couple of years ago, walking up those hot and dusty paths that seemed to go on forever became a metaphor on how I needed to approach these things: one step at a time. This is all well and good, and those words are etched in my brain. I have no problem fishing them back out when my list of to-dos is longer than any piece of paper could contain. However, translating this into actually getting on with it can a be another issue.

A few of weeks ago I had more things to do than I had time. Everything seemed to be pulling at me and it was paralysing me. But I couldn’t afford to be paralysed as people were relying on me (a manuscript needed its copy edit completed, lessons needed to be written, family needed support, words needed to written, words needed to be read, relationships needed to nurtured), so on one of these days when my body had melted into the couch and I just wanted to pull the plug on the phone and on people needing me, I realised that I still had some control of my situation. I just needed some circuit breakers. Past conversations with my psychologist sprang to mind about stopping the spiral down to a very unhealthy place, which is where I was heading. I need to find things to help stop me from any more negative thinking, and to help me see a way out of the depths.

I came up with a list on things that I could do that would pop a little more energy into all these moments – mood changers. I think of them as circuit breakers. They include things like a walk, putting some music on, changing clothes, having something to eat or drink, changing where I’m sitting (or standing), picking some flowers, putting some essential oils in the diffuser or breaking my tasks down to smaller chunks. This has been probably the most useful thing for me. I sit down once a week and make note of what I have achieved over the last week, what’s ahead for the next week, what ‘blockers’ are in my way, and how I will get around them. Then each evening I think about the next day and break the tasks into sizeable chunks trying to keep it realistic. Add a little self compassion in there as well to allow me to not get everything done, and I am in a better place mentally.

There is something wonderful about ticking some things off the list, and reminding myself that I am making my way over the mountain – even if it is slow.

And that’s a wrap

My 2017-2018 summer reading pile

This year is about to end and in some ways I feel like it has only just begun. So much has been packed into the year and time has slipped away. It’s really easy to only focus on the things that haven’t been completed and the things that went wrong, but I need to also remember all the things that went right.

Publishing highlights

This year I had some poetry and an essay published in Shaping the Fractured Self: poetry of chronic illness and pain. I bravely volunteered to read one of my poems at the launch at the DAX Centre in Melbourne. Up until the moment I read it out loud, I wondered how on earth I managed to have words of mine sit alongside such accomplished Australian poets. The feedback I received from the audience, and since from members of the public, was overwhelming. It has been absolutely heartwarming to hear people say that I was telling their story and that I had put their chronic pain into words. My own chronic pain (migraines and neck and shoulder pain) continue, but I refuse to let them take control of my life. Many of the other poems and essays within this anthology remind me that it is important to live life to the full, but to also know when to shut the door, and take some time for self-care. There is a wonderful review of this anthology by Kevin Brophy in The Conversation.

Shaping the Fractured Self

I have been fairly silent here for a little while as my migraines spiraled out of control with a long six month period of daily (nightly) migraines that robbed me of sleep (and sanity). Fortunately for me, a change of neurologist who made some subtle changes to my preventative treatment and some more drastic changes to my rescue treatment, my brain has now calmed down to a much more manageable level.

This Thursday, along with some other writers, I will be reading at the DAX Centre for the launch of Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain. I am chuffed to have three poems and an essay included alongside some wonderful writers*.

My poems and essay in the book speak about my experience of over thirty years as a chronic migraine sufferer, but I am pretty sure anyone who has suffered from any long-term and chronic (and often invisible) pain will relate.

All of the writers have captured their experience of chronic illness and pain in their poetry. It is a great read. I’d love to see you at the launch and you can either grab at copy at the launch, or via the UWA Publishing website.

A massive thank you to Heather Taylor Johnson who came up with the concept, found us all, found a publisher and pulled it together.

*The other writers in the anthology are: Andy Jackson, Anne Carson, Beth Spencer, David Brooks, Fiona Wright, Gareth Roi Jones, Grant Cochrane, Gretta Jade Mitchell, Ian C. Smith, Ian Gibbins, India Poulton, Jessica Cohen, Kevin Gillam, Kristen Lang, Leah Kaminsky, Margaret Owen Ruckert, Peter Boyle, Quinn Eades, Rachael Guy, Rachael Mead, Rachel Robertson, Rob Walker, Sid Larwill, Sophie Finlay, Steve Evans, Stuart Barnes, Susan Hawthorne and Heather Taylor Johnson –also the editor of the anthology

Post-study reflections

2016-09-28-05-28-49It’s an incredible time for me right now that feels like a beginning, more than an ending. I’ve just submitted my final piece of assessment of my Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. I should feel relieved, excited. I do, but there is a sense of sadness, and a great deal of reflection. There is also a nervous excitement about the time ahead of me, the unknown.

My last four years have been tremendous in all senses of the word. My life has changed in so many aspects, and lives around me have changed. Mum died, throwing my and my offspring’s worlds into chaos. My kids transitioned from children to teenagers, jumping normal adolescent hurdles, and fumbling through more tricky ones. I wrote a tonne of words and found a stable part-time job in the communications world.