The perfect gift for a writer

Yesterday I was given a wonderful gift, perfect for every writer. It’s not wine and it’s not a new notebook!

What do all writers need? Time to write of course, and a spurt of creative energy. My wonderful gift gave me both.

For me creative energy is my new currency, vying with money for importance. Having enough money allows me to buy and do things. I generally have enough to meet my day-to-day needs because I work full-time, but this means I’m often depleted of creative energy. I need creative energy to write, and think about what I’m going to write. In addition to writing, I also use creative energy to organise family activities, plan and cook meals, and enable a fulfilling, enlivened relationship with my partner.

Money/work/creativity are in a constant three-way arm-wrestle.

My creative energy is depleted by fatigue, stress and overwork. Last week I was offered an overtime shift which I turned down, because I know working six days straight comes with a cost to my creativity.

I replenish my creative energy by spending time in nature, exercising, having some time to myself. It’s also self-fulfilling in that the more creative things I do the more creative energy I have. Going to the theatre, an exhibition or other creative excursion also lifts my creativity, as do social events and conversations provided I’m not tired. Inspiration is everywhere when I have the energy to recognise it.

Being given creative energy and time was my perfect gift. It was presented as a hamper containing lime, capsicum, carrots, mushroom, coriander, bean sprouts, tofu, coconut milk and homemade laksa paste. Everything sliced, chopped and ready, for a fresh, delicious family meal. Today I did’t need to plan a meal and go shopping; I’ve been given more time and more creative energy. I can sit, and write, for a few extra hours. Thank you.

Please feel free to share your tips for replenishing creativity!

Girl in the pink helmet

A fiction short story for World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2017, and Motorcycle Awareness Month, October 2017.

From the cab of his polished red semi-trailer the driver glances down as I move my motorcycle alongside. His window is down, his sun-leathered forearm resting on the door sill. Apart from his truck and my bike the road is empty. He smiles as I accelerate past, lifting his hand in greeting, acknowledging we share a warm bright morning on a smooth open highway.

With the truck now behind I sense freedom on the road ahead. Long-held emotions loosen in my chest. Tight bands of sorrow, which I thought were permanent, slip free and are lost to the kilometres of road in my bike’s wake. With the spring air of the morning in my face I inhale an unrestricted, soothing, mind-clearing breath.

Before that day, the open road had haunted me. Driving my car I’d often been panicked, struggling to breathe. My heart had been crushed, my sanity unreachable beyond a curtain of despair. The car held me for an hour each morning and afternoon, to work and home, with only my self-defeating thoughts for company. Back then, there were no beautiful mornings, just repetitive challenging days.

Imprisoned by the car my incessant mind-chatter ricocheted shrilly between the windows.

Some mornings, a mug of drive-through coffee shaking at my lips, I couldn’t face the highway voices and I’d driven back home, back to bed. Other days, on the highway, I’d planned my escape.

Just meters away, coming straight at me, trucks hurtled down the highway. Their huge bull bars and grills glinted as they flashed past. The windows high up on the cab tinted bleakly, remote and impersonal. Sometimes I saw my car pathetically crumpled under an approaching bull-bar, my bloodied body sandwiched and crushed by the steering wheel. I wondered how far backwards the truck would slam my car, how far the truck would push me back through space. What would my last thought would be. Before the silence.

Each afternoon I’d drive by the primary school, then park a block away. By 3.15 I’d be at my vantage point, in the park opposite. I’d stand concealed behind a prickly shrub, its sharp annoying needles scraping my legs. Across the road a hundred jubilant students jostled from classrooms, freed for another afternoon. Shrieks of joy pierced the underlying, excited babble that preceded them to the gate. Younger children eagerly ran from the school into waiting arms, older kids taking their parent’s hand or walking alongside. The waiting crowd was mostly mothers standing in familiar, friendly clusters. I’d see my daughter run out, into the arms of her father, giving him an animated description of her day. I’d stand hidden and paralysed as they left together.

After the school had emptied of children I’d get back in my car and drive. My mind-chatter, as always, louder than the radio. One of the voices was my ex-husband’s. You could pick her up from school one day. You just have to ask me first.

I never did. I was scared my daughter wouldn’t want me there. What if she ignored my outstretched arms, and instead made a scene in front of the other mothers? I don’t want you to pick me up! Where’s Daddy?

My daughter had lived with me for the previous seven years, but I’d rarely been able to pick her up from school. As a single working mother I needed her to go to before-school and after-school care, which she hated. Daddy says I shouldn’t have to go to before and after school care, she informed me with accusing eyes. HE never had to. His mother was always there to look after him. His mother LOVED him.

That sounded like something my ex-husband would say, dictating the dynamics of our relationship from his work office interstate. It was a recurring struggle to get my daughter dressed and to before-school care by 8am on those dark winter mornings. She resisted at every step, refusing to brush her hair, refusing to dress, refusing to put her shoes on. I would then be running late for work, carrying her shoes in frustration. Both of us crying. Me juggling bags and marching her to the car with her reddened bare toes stubbing in the frosty gravel.

Daddy says not to worry,  he’s going to move back here and I will live with him. I won’t need to do THIS, with YOU, anymore!

Those frequent temper tantrums were due to ‘Disneyland Dad Syndrome’ according to my counsellor.

Rather than the reality of school, homework, chores and set bedtimes, ‘Disneyland’ means staying up late watching DVDs, falling asleep on the lounge and regular visits to McDonalds.

My daughter loved staying with her Disneyland Dad when he was on holidays. She knew which parent she wanted to live with and she told the Family Court. My daughter now lives with him. Ironically, I can now be at her school by 3.15 every day as I no longer work. The highway voices in my car kept me off the road, in bed and away from work, once too often.

After the court case there was just me. No longer a parent. No longer employed. I was a shocked shell, empty. I learned to securely lock down the grief. It settled as tight cold bands, constricting my chest and restricting my breathing, only escaping through the relentless chatter in my mind.

In the car one afternoon, my tangle of mind-chatter was surprisingly drowned out. A motorcyclist from behind had overtaken me, rumbling smoothly past my window. A female rider. I saw a pink helmet and a flash of dark hair on her shoulders. My eyes and thoughts stayed on her and her graceful capability as she sped away. An almost-forgotten emotion seeped into my heart. Within a month I’d bought a second-hand motorbike and with L-plates attached I began to ride, wobbling down back streets.

Today, my car with a flat battery, I found myself on my bike and for the first time nervously turning it onto the highway. But this highway experience is different. The black tarmac weaves me through scenery I’d not before noticed. There are no voices, just the wind murmuring through my helmet and the companionable burble of my bike. Through my leather jacket the morning sun comfortingly warms my back.

At the base of a hill I come up behind a semi-trailer, and I remember the confidence of the woman with the pink helmet. With the road ahead clear I twist the throttle and pull out alongside rows of wheels almost as tall as I am. Fumes of acrid scorched rubber fill my lungs. The moving massiveness of the vehicle creats a vacuum that sucks me sideways, dragging me in. Looking ahead I twist the throttle further and with a growl my bike leaps forward, easily overcoming the pull of the churning wheels.

The driver glances down and smiles as I accelerate past. He lifts a sun-tanned forearm in greeting, acknowledging we share an open road and a beautiful morning.

Now, safely in front of the truck, I notice blue sky ahead. In my rear-view mirror I glimpse the friendly driver still waving; and the truck’s bull bar as it shrinks, insignificantly behind me.


Happy birthday

My birthday always involves some introspection. Today I’ve had additional time to  introspect as circumstances have led me to spend much of the day alone. It’s been great, and unnerving.

My birthday heralds an annual mid-life mini crisis. This year may become a mid-life medium or monumental crisis. It’s still evolving, pending my capacity to progress it or quash it.

I think a mid-life crisis generally might include changing homes and jobs. With my skills in self-diagnosis I have concluded that I am at risk. This afternoon with my husband I raised the prospect of our moving to the country. My poor shift-working husband, hit with this when he’d only just awoken and was yet to be caffeinated. After he left for work this evening I further developed my crisis, only just refraining from calling up a friend to ask her to refer me for a new job in the country. But sensibly, I’ll only need that new job if we do move to the country.

Sensibly . . . sensible. Every year after my birthday I sensibly suppress the crisis.

My husband and I have good jobs, we live in a good suburb, close to work and the kids’ schools. Choosing to be sensible is one way to suppress the crisis. But I have other methods. Other tools in my tool-belt include practicing gratitude for what I have; minor distractions like Facebook, watching TV and reading; and major distractions such as undertaking a university degree while working full time (guaranteed to reduce the time available to ruminate existentially).

Distracting myself, pushing additional information into my brain, or perhaps the occasional wine to relax my mind all help ensure there’s no time or inclination to ponder life and its overall direction. All of this can work, except when it’s my birthday.

I’m possibly due for a mid-life crisis. I’ve previously had an earlyish-life crisis. A monumental one, but the outcome was fantastic. I went out into the desert on a holiday and decided to never go back home. A story for another day.

image courtesy of @finnmacfee

Take off

Getting my blog off the ground has been much harder than I anticipated.

Over the past 2-3 weeks I’ve accumulated 165 followers on Twitter (massive right, I know!) with not much to recommend me except a bio claiming I blog about books, bikes, bonding and banter. But the truth is I don’t blog. Well, that is until now. For the past few weeks I’ve been faking it.

Getting my blog off the ground has been much harder than I anticipated. Just writing my twelve-word twitter bio took twenty revisions. Who am I? How can I describe myself and what I’m setting out to achieve in just a few words? Who do I want to connect with?

How can I write about interests as diverse as nature, adventure, motorcycling, vegetarianism and step-parenting? I’m also passionate about writing, and Aussie fiction and film.

But 160-odd people signed up to follow me on Twitter. Even discounting the ‘bots’, and the people/pages who have connected with me hoping I’ll follow them back, in a few short weeks I’ve connected with at least a smattering of people interested in some aspect of me.

Making these connections has reinforced for me that we are all people with diverse interests, struggling to describe ourselves in a few words on a Twitter bio. I’ve been having enjoyable, short (it is Twitter) conversations with people on topics of mutual interest. I’ve met some great people! My hope is to connect with some more great people by blogging, with the scope to use a few more words.

This is blog post #1 – Take Off.

Photo courtesy of Instagram @finnmacfee