As I try to reflect on the whirlwind of events in my life over the last few weeks, it has been, in a word, chaotic; and disappointingly not what I had planned when I envisaged August 2016. (more…)
I just noticed, with some surprise, that my most recent post on WordPress was from February 21, 2016. It doesn’t feel that long ago, and after briefly pondering this time warp, I realise that the last month has been terribly busy, and relatively productive, for me. I won’t delve into the minutiae of my recent existence, which consisted of a blur of being sick, the kids being sick, myriad appointments with my doctor, psychologist and *shudder* the dentist (with more to come – they have to repair an old filling, and it is with considerable gratitude that I note that I have found a lovely young, patient dentist who makes me less terrified than my previous dentists). And just when I thought things were settling down, the optometrist contacted me regarding organising the kids’ and my routine eye tests. Ah, the perpetual disintegration of these mortal bodies…
Friday, 27 November 2015
It’s time to panic! I’m learning to associate my US-based friends’ social media posts about Thanksgiving (both for and against the occasion) with end-of-nano panic. We don’t have a Thanksgiving. I guess our similar holiday is Australia Day in January, which usually marks the end of the summer holidays, and sparks debate about the abhorrent treatment of Indigenous Australians by English invaders, versus calls to just shut up and enjoy walking around in Southern Cross-emblazoned paraphernalia. Though there were attempts by Christian political lobby groups in Australia to start a day of national thanksgiving and prayer. I’m not sure if that ever really gained much traction outside of evangelical circles.
I entered my story text so far into the word count validator and lost 578 words from my story. There’s a huge discrepancy between the word count statistics in Microsoft Word on my lap top, Scrivener on my PC, and NaNoWriMo’s official counter. As my winning or losing is determined by the Nano website’s official counter, I have to re-calibrate my Scrivener aims according to my best guess of Nano’s difference. (Nano usually seems to subtract roughly 70 words from my scrivener account.)
I have today and Monday left available to me to write. Saturday and Sunday this weekend are going to be so busy that I will likely not have any time. People keep saying, “Surely you’ll find time on the weekend, if you’re motivated enough.” Those people clearly aren’t stay-at-home mothers morphing into hair and makeup artists for their daughter’s two ballet concerts over two days and a separate full dress rehearsal in a suburb about half an hour away. At literally exactly the same time my son has a bunch of commitments – namely a birthday party and a church end-of-year celebration for the department in which he volunteers – so that I have the interesting dilemma of needing to be in two physically disparate locations at exactly the same time. If I were the main character in my NaNoWriMo story I may have that ability. But for now my real life is looking a lot like that logic puzzle where the boatman has to carry a wolf, a goat and a cabbage across a river without leaving them alone in a predator/prey situation.
It’s hard to focus on my story. I’ve had so many social interactions over the last two weeks that my introvert levels of exhaustion are very high. I love catching up with friends. I had no time to write yesterday, either, as I was out for a coffee (which was positive, so don’t get me wrong there, I appreciate friends who drag me out once in a while to talk about the deep stuff of life). At the same time I realise that because so many of us are asking really hard questions about life, faith, our collective dissatisfaction with controlling religious leaders in our lives, and fears of some that if they don’t get out soon they might one day find that they’d given their life, money and allegiance to a cult. Who knows? These are important questions and I think everyone needs to face them at some point in their faith journeys, but my impulse now is to start dialoguing on spiritual abuse forums to learn the warning signs from those who’ve already been there, when what I really, really need to do is to write almost 10,000 words within the next eight hours, get Nano done, so I can recover, and maybe even have some time to start confronting that most
Wonderful Stressful Time of the Year, Christmas.
I have come down with yet another severe cold, which includes a really painful headache. My head is pounding as I type and my sinuses are beyond blocked. If I keep clenching my teeth I’m going to have to put in my mouthguard. The coffee grinder broke so I’m now reduced to using a mechanical hand grinder that makes me feel like I’m playing hurdy gurdy (which is okay, I guess, because I just imagine that I am like Anna Murphy the singer and hurdy gurdist in this song… Why yes, she is singing in Ancient Gaulish).
My story is at that disjointed stage where I’m just throwing in any scenes I can imagine. I’m not even bothering to connect them. I can do that later if I need to pad out the story. I look forward to getting this first draft completed so I can excise all its crumminess and get to the good stuff. A lot of people have requested to read my story and I massively appreciate the enthusiasm, but the reality is that I’m writing this first draft for me and my eyes alone. I don’t have the cognitive freedom to write it as creatively as I need if I’m spending the whole time worried that someone else might read it and see how terrible it is – it is in no way representative of the best of my writing. However, on a second draft edit it might manage to make the grade where I’ll look at possibly providing copies to my in-real-life friends (the ones that are sympathetic enough to understand that I’m really just developing my writing craft and that I don’t have the luxury of editors).
I’m looking forward to finishing Nano, and getting back into painting and drawing. December is always a hectic time of year. I can’t believe it’s almost upon us, and that my kids are finishing their first year at new schools (last Nano season I wrote a bit about why we left their previous school and home schooled during 2014, see here). Changing them to nonreligious schools has proven a fantastic choice for them and I’m just so glad that it’s mostly gone well for them. There were lots of hiccups along the way and new social dynamics to negotiate, but I can say with a lot of relief that neither of them has been bullied or beaten-up. Nor have the warnings of their previous school’s principal proven correct in any sense when he said, when we left, that non-Christian, government-based schooling was a factory of atheism that would force our children to give up on their faith. On the contrary, my kids have grown more confident in the knowledge that they choose to self-identify as Christians, while learning that their classmates come from myriad religious belief systems to which they are devoted at varying degrees of intensity (my kids now count Muslims, Sikh, Mormons, Catholics, Agnostics and Atheists from a huge range of ethnic backgrounds among their schoolmates). I realise just how more reflective it is of real social life in Australia. It’s so multicultural here in Melbourne that you either learn how to navigate the varied landscape of religious and philosophical worldviews – or put up the blinkers and pretend that everyone who isn’t exactly like yourself is “bad.” I love that just by changing schools the kids have been able to learn that “others” are more like us than they are different, and that differences aren’t bad, they’re what makes life interesting.
Anyway, enough progressive proselytising, it’s time to go back to my story… which, like my previous paragraph, seems to be morphing into a bit of a commentary on how we marginalise people because of external differences. In my story the bird-people were historically being jerks to the lizard-people but now the bird-people are starting to confront their deeply-embedded prejudices and realise that all the peoples must unite if there’s ever to be a restored pathway to travel between the inhabitable planets in their solar system… how my story went in that direction I’m really not sure. It’s going way off the original plot plans, that’s for sure.
Current word count: 41,144 / 50,000 words
Today’s writing soundtrack: a compilation of Native American shamanic music. I’m not sure I even like it. I’m also not sure how it ended up on my youtube suggestions, but there it is. I might switch to Gregorian chants soon. The birds singing out in the garden blend seamlessly into the music.
Tuesday, 17 November 2015
There’s not a lot to say. I finally got up the courage to ring my hairdresser for the first time in almost 18 months to book a long-overdue hair makeover. This image from the IntrovertDoodles Instagram perfectly illustrates my feelings regarding going to the hairdressers. I also forced myself to go for a quick bike ride this morning, but after ten minutes of having to dodge lots of complete strangers on the local bike track my hyper-vigilant anxious introvert tendencies kicked in and before I knew it I was taking the first turn-off straight back to my house. Oh well. I’ll try to ride for longer next time.
This is a terribly busy time of year. The school year ends in a month’s time, so all that end-of-year stuff happens around now. On top of that, we have most of our birthdays around now. And Christmas, God help me, is just around the corner, with all its pointless stress. I quite frankly can’t be bothered dealing with all the histrionics and if I have to say no to each and every one of our families’ Christmas events in order to maintain a shred of sanity, then that is what I will do. I sort of wonder if our Lord and Saviour had all this drama in mind surrounding His birthday celebrations. (Okay, historical realities and context aside, that is, seeing as the whole date and notion of a birthday for baby Jesus is contentious and it just happens to be the same time and similar imagery to a set of ancient pagan festivals. By the way, I tried to find a reference on that but it’s hard to find decent information on historical Yuletide celebrations when there are so many conspiracy theories on the topic.)
Instead of working on nano last night like I’d planned, I filled out reams of paperwork. School end-of-year excursions, next year’s school book list orders and fees, ballet school re-enrolments and end of year concert tickets, permission slips to go swimming with the school, and paperwork to do with the fact I’ve spent an insane amount of money on medical issues this year (in Australia you get a discount on your annual government-subsidised medical bills if you spend over a certain amount – we’re very lucky to have that system in place so I’m not complaining).
Not to mention a huge wad of incorrectly addressed mail that needed redirecting. (Aussie) Landlords take note, your tenants are not legally required to act as your own personal mail redirection service, and you can’t reasonably expect that. Unfortunately we are legally required to sit there sifting through every bit of incorrectly delivered mail, cross out the original address, scrawl “return to sender” on every single envelope.
Whinging about petty little issues put to one side, the reality is that things are okay at the moment. Not great – my health could be better, my depression could at least try to be less severe, and the process of de-converting from my current religious context is terribly difficult – only people who’ve experienced that for themselves will understand. But it could be far worse so I will try to uphold before me a sense of gratitude that in the grand scheme of chaos in the world at the moment, not being able to meet my intended nanowrimo word count because I was writing out a huge pile of forms while trying to decide whether to enrol my kid in either technical ballet classes or pilates for dancers is really not that big a problem.
Now, when I say de-converting, I haven’t gone quite so far as a head-first launch into Atheism, though I have plenty of friends and some family who wish that I would shed the shackles of organised religion and embrace materialist philosophy as well as science (I love science, not so convinced by materialism). For me, by de-conversion I mean that the styles, forms and theologies of fundamentalist-Pentecostal Christian belief that have informed my life over much of the last fifteen years have reached their logical endpoint for me. I read de-conversion stories and see a lot of familiar emotions, rational struggles and interpersonal difficulties in them. It’s taken such a huge toll on my mental health so that I’m now back to monthly visits with the clinical psychologist when for a while there I only needed one every few months. While there was much good within my church experiences (namely, the friends I made and the opportunity to give back to the local community through volunteer work), when I try to balance that good against the less-positive experiences, I can no longer ascribe to this style of belief without the pressure of a whole lot of cognitive dissonance. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I have a lot of very mixed feelings surrounding my time there. I see great value in parts of it and I still willingly take my kids to services and allow them to participate, especially my extroverted son who finds the social context positive. However, it is time for me to move on and whether I want to or not, I find myself propelled out to spiritual paths more representative of the person I was before I married a Pentecostal guy.
On that note, back to nanowrimo…
Current word count: 25,899 / 50,000 words
Today’s writing soundtrack: Mutter by Rammstein