Truths in a Cupboard

My name is Heather and I’m a fixer.

Pretty much any broken thing will do but I particularly like to fix people.  I can get caught up for years in fixing someone before realising, fuck, I’m at it again; I’m down the rabbit hole of fixing someone because it’s part of my cycle of learned behaviour and my controlling streak which, goddammit you slacking bastards, wants RESULTS.  NOW.  SO DO AS I SAY, RIGHT?

Further, while I’m confessing anyway… (ten dysfunction bonus points inbound here) I’ve realised my ‘helping’ people has paralysed them inadvertently, because until we each identify our own bullshit and start joyfully dissecting it, every interaction we have is just enabling the pattern we like to knit with the yarn of our daily reality.  So, I’ve realised, when my helping gets too helpful it’s basically complicit in the very shit-show it was trying to undo.

I was reading some of my teen and early adulthood diaries yesterday.  My multiple commitments to fixing people jumped out at me and made me cringe for the paradox of the god complex mixed with the insecure neediness.  Then, the cringe deepened as I realised I WAS STILL AT IT.  That very morning I’d emailed a friend with a huge solution to a huge problem.  I guess the good thing is that now I truly know and can start to marry up the theory properly with the lived experience.  I bloody knew that box of diaries was calling me for a good reason…. There’s nothing like a good cringe in a cramped cupboard to drive a point home, after all.

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I have to get better at meeting people’s problems with an ear and a question rather than a solution.  Listening, followed by, ‘what do you want to do about that?’ would be, I reckon, so much healthier than listening followed by, ‘what you should do is…..’.

I know myself that when I’ve had tough stuff to deal with I’ve craved someone giving me the answers.  I have even felt entitled to people delivering the answers to me, so convincing was my inner victim story telling.  I’ve asked people to tell me what’s in my blind spot to save me time and energy and hurt trying to work it out.  Better for the planet that way, right?  And the result?  I’ve never truly taken in what I didn’t learn for myself. Shit for the planet, actually.  The opposite of emotional fuel efficiency.  Twatfuel, if you will. Fully leaded.

I remember watching my Dad wallpapering a room when I was about 11.  Afterwards, I knew a little about wallpapering.  Years later, I attempted to wallpaper a room and it was an unmitigated disaster in which I almost stuck myself permanently to a dado rail.  Watching during learning is helpful, but it’s not enough.  How something looks and how something feels are two completely different things.  Wallpaper paste, it turns out, is  cold, soggy and slimy and makes different papers behave in different ways.  You have to get your hands in there to find that out.  It can’t be learned from lying on your single bed farting and alternating between watching your Dad and staring at your George Michael poster on the ceiling.

Someone who tries to teach without allowing the learner to really touch the experience is short circuiting too. They’re ensuring that their words and actions have resonance only in that moment rather than allowing them to time travel in a memory of tactile experience and how it changes our awareness.  That’s what I’ve been doing with my fixing – I’ve been providing solutions off the peg without getting my friends to try the clothes on before they buy.  I’ve been so intent on fixing that I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned: change and learning comes from within, so by all means help but for fuck’s sake, give someone the space to create and grow it for themselves beyond that, even if it’s infuriating to watch.  In fact, especially if it’s infuriating to watch. Hands. Off. Of. Over. Fixing.

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In the last year I’ve noticed how much negative space in art really speaks to me.  CreativeBloq.com describe it well here;

“Negative space is, quite simply, the space that surrounds an object in a image. Just as important as that object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition.”  

I’ve been letting the concept of negative space slide in assuredly to my writing and also how I arrange things at home.  The effect has been one of realising that it’s often what is omitted or removed that really accelerates a story or mood.  Sometimes more is more, but, the older I get the more true it becomes for me that less is more; that if there’s no space left around something then that thing is by default constricted and limited.  I think the same is true of personal change.

I thought a lot recently about an argument I had with someone years ago.  We were both adamant we weren’t going to bend to each other’s will.  In the heat of the moments, no one gave ground.  Afterwards, with time and space airing out the thoughts, we both went on to make changes which conceded each other’s point pretty significantly.  Slowly, we were able to admit to each other that change had taken place and we’d both been right and wrong.  We hung on in there because the relationship meant a lot and we knew each other to be well intentioned, non game-players, despite really pissing each other off.  Negative space and time saved the day.  And learning.  Funny old world when you consider where positivity can grow from, isn’t it?

PS. If you spot me fixing anyone, tazer me. Ta. clearing40logo

 

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A Woman’s Work

This year I’ve found my mojo with writing for a minimum of four days a week when the kids are at school.

I have also, touch wood, learned the art of prioritising my work above the other things I can get involved with when at home.   Thanks to affirming conversations with creative friends and Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcasts I’ve assimilated the fact that writing is the work I must do because it’s now harder and more crazy-making to keep it in than it is to let it out.

I’ve barred kids from looking at their spyware laden websites on my laptop, lest it dies a blue screened death.  I’ve got excellent at making back ups.  I’ve got way more comfortable with the house being minging at times.  I’ve stopped feeling guilty about the dog, the garden and the invites I’m declining to make space for battering down words.  I fantasise about one day having a cleaner but no longer answer the fantasy by getting up and doing all the cleaning with all the martyrdom.

I’ve realised that just like with running, unless I put one foot in front of the other the movement will not happen and the rewards will never come.  I have at last taken my work seriously, got extremely honest about self-sabotage and made myself accountable.  It’s paying off.

A 2015 highlight has been being a finalist for the 2016 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.  Having always been one for swooning about Aesthetica’s beautifully expressed production values I felt it was a creative institution that was light years away rather than within reach.  Then I wrote something that I sensed might have a shot so I sent it in as part of my ‘why not?’ philosophy.  The worse that could happen was that it got rejected and, somewhat weirdly, I’ve got kind of hooked on rejections this year, so even that didn’t seem like too bad of a prospect.

As the Goddess Brene Brown says, ‘when we lose our tolerance to be vulnerable, joy becomes foreboding’.  I keep my tolerance to vulnerability close to my heart and say I’m OK with failing these days; I’m just no longer OK with not trying.

I wrote the Aesthetica deadline in my writing diary and fully expected to be pitching the story elsewhere in hopes of publication come December.

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Then, in late November I received an email to say I was a finalist.

Then, in early December I received another (really lovely) email to say I didn’t win.

And yet……. I feel like I did.

I took a shot and it paid off.  Another potential rejection flipped to validation.  The odds of both are slowly changing.  I love stepping in and out of the process to observe it and then be part of it again.  I love that rejections make me try harder and that if I just incorporate the feedback they make me a better writer.  I love that the positive affirmations of occasional publishing  are more than enough to stoke the fire of believing that I should totally just keep going.  I love the stories that now go everywhere with me in my head; I love that they make me look and listen harder to everything because they are hungry for details, moments and colour.  I love that I feel at last like I’m working on the right stuff even if the pay is absolutely crap – because the pay off is high.

The story I’ve written in the annual is called Mathematics.  Be warned though, the title and structure are juxtaposed to the subject which is about an experience that’s horrific (and alarmingly common for women) viewed through a logical lens.  There’s no soft way of saying it – it’s about rape.  Despite the less than cheery disclaimer I believe it’s a story filled with much more light than dark and that it brings something to the table that positively informs how humans treat themselves and each other.  If you read it and it means something to you I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Aesthetica annual is, of course, completely guaranteed to be packed with excellent short fiction and poetry.  It’s also a stunning coffee table book with a comparatively tiny price tag for anyone who loves being taken on journeys with words.   You can buy it here .

52and39/35 Back of the Net

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I’m thinking a LOT about self sabotage.

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I’m thinking about how I’ve elaborately protected myself from failure by subtlely self- sabotaging goals to such an extent that, it seemed, they just weren’t meant to be.

*sigh*

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I guess it’s my age.  I’ll be 39 tomorrow.  If I’m lucky I’m a little under the halfway point in my life.  I have some big dreams to make come true between here and the elegant in repose (with CostCo truffles) death-bed scene.  So I have to be really honest with myself.

What are the blocks?

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