It Pays to Check the Fine Print

The view might be nice, but a surprise is waiting

The view might be nice, but a surprise is waiting

With Uni in full-swing and a seemingly endless number of essay assignments to do, switching from academic writing to creative writing has been becoming more difficult.  To help get my brain out of academic mode, I went in search of some story prompts I can use as warm-up exercises before working on my main fiction work.

During my search, I discovered a great little eBook at Creative Writing Now called 30 Days of Inspiration: A Month’s Worth of Writing Ideas.

Now, I am probably not going to be posting a story every day for 30 days, but I thought this would be a great resource for the purpose of warming up my brain and redirecting it from an academic focus.  As a bonus, there might be some more regular posting on Writing From The Ashes.

So, here is today’s effort…

Prompt: Your character moves into a new apartment. On the surface, the place seemed ideal, but his/her first night there, your character discovers a terrible problem with the place that he/she didn’t take into account…

“Oh, wow Sally!  This is amazing!  Look at that view!”

“I know, Jan.  It was  a great find, wasn’t  it?  Thanks for coming over and helping me move in.  I would still be unloading boxes if you hadn’t been here.”

“No problem.  Besides, this view is definitely worth it, along with the beer and pizza, of course.”

Sally laughed.  She knew Jan was probably only half-joking about the beer and pizza because Jan would do anything if food was a reward.  In fact, Jan had turned her love of food into a very profitable lifestyle as The Food Guru – although Sally still wasn’t exactly sure what the work involved, other than eating lots of food.

“Look,” Jan exclaimed.  “You can see the Bridge from here!  I’d just live out here on the balcony, if I were you, Sal.  Maybe you should set up a little bar and barbie at the end there?  Imagine sitting here eating…”

“Enough with the food-talk, Jan.  You’re making my tummy hurt.  Where is that pizza anyway?  It should have been here by now.”

Jan glanced at her watch.  Sally was right, the pizza should have arrived half an hour ago. 

“It’s certainly not like James to have his deliveries running late.  You did give him this address, didn’t you Jan?  You didn’t accidentally give him yours, or my old one?”

“Of course, I gave him the right address.  I’ll give him a call and find out what’s going on.  I’m sure there must be a good reason it’s not here.”

“Well, I hope you have service on your phone, Jan,” Sally said.  “When I first came to view the place I noticed there was no mobile service here.  The realtor said it has something to do with this particular building.  I didn’t worry about it too much because I was getting a landline connected anyway.  The problem right now, of course, is that it’s not connected yet.”

“Nope, no service,” said Jan.  “I’ll just go down to the street and call then.  Coming with?”

Sally tried not to groan as she stood up.  Her body ached all over from the day’s heavy lifting.  “Sure, why not?” she said.

The two women walked into the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor.  As the doors opened and they walked into the foyer, they were surprised to see nothing but steel.  The whole ground floor had been surrounded by floor-to-ceiling solid steel walls.  There were no doors or other signs of an exit.

“What are you two misfits doing?  Turn around slowly with your hands in the air!”

Sally yelped in surprise at the deep voice behind her.  As she turned, she saw Jan had lost all colour from her face.  

“Hold it right there.”

Two large men were standing in front of Sally and Jan.  One was holding a weapon of some sort, possibly a gun, although Sally could not see it clearly.  Was this some kind of robbery?

“Do you have some identification,” the older of the two men asked.

Sally hesitated.  What was going on here?  She hadn’t brought her handbag with her, because Jan was only going to the street to make a phone call.  What had they inadvertently walked into.

“Are you deaf?  I asked if you have any identification.”

“N..n..not on me,” Sally stuttered.  “We were just coming down to make a phone call.  I didn’t bring my bag.”

“Phone call?  You must be the new tenant then?”

“Y..y..yes.”

“No one gets in or out of here after 10pm, didn’t they tell you?”

“What?” Sally and Jan said in unison.

“Damn that real estate!  Look,” the younger man said as he put his weapon away and walked toward the women, “there’s a refuge on the first two floors of this place, and as an extra security measure, the whole building shuts down at 10pm.  No one in, and no one out.  The doors are locked and the steel security shutters are closed.  Sorry ladies, you’ll have to wait until morning to make that phone call.  I can’t believe they didn’t tell you.”

“It was probably in the fine print,” the older man said.

Sally was dumbfounded.  She wasn’t sure she could believe her ears.  Was this guy for real?  Although, he seemed real enough.  Surely the realtor would have filled her in on something this important, wouldn’t he? 

“But we need food,” Jan said.  “We’ve been moving furniture and boxes all day, and now we’re starving.  How do we get some food?  We ordered pizza, but obviously that’s not gonna get through those doors.  Is there some kind of cafeteria or something in this building?  How do people get food?”

Sally wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.  

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Let’s try that again…

Let's try that again...

Let’s try that again…

I have written a number of blog posts over the last couple of weeks – and then sent them to the trash folder.

This probably seems like strange behaviour, but life has been such a whirlwind of late, and I have experienced and learnt so many different things, and found my life moving in a whole new direction, that what I was writing seemed not only irrelevant, but also inappropriate.  A number of factors have led to my decision to censor my recent writing, as well as consider the future of Writing From The Ashes.

In some respects, it is almost like I have come full circle, ending up four years in the past, to a time when I had to watch every word I wrote about my personal journey.  There are some major differences between then and now – particularly my reasons for censorship – but the end result is much the same.  At this point I am not sure how this dilemma will be resolved, but I will continue to explore my options.

For now, the focus of Writing From The Ashes will be creative writing – this again indicates a full circle back to the blog’s original purpose, as an outlet for fictional bits and pieces.

So, back to work…

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Actions speak louder than words

Actions speak louder than words

Actions really do speak louder than words.

Most of us probably know someone who always says the ‘right’ things, but unfortunately what they do never seems to match what they say.

Unfortunately, some of us also feel this way about organisations and ‘professionals’ that are supposedly trying to help us.

Personally, I visited many counsellors over a twenty-year period who, although they said they were there to help, their actions indicated that they were only prepared to help me if I lived my life in the way they wanted.  It was not until I was 38 that I found a counsellor whose actions and words reflected the same intention of genuine assistance.

Ironically, it was not until I started working with that counsellor that I understood the disparity between my own words and actions – I was saying I wanted to heal and move on, and yet I was allowing other people (counsellors) to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do with my life instead of being responsible for it myself.  For years I wished someone would see me, the real me, and know how much pain I was in, how difficult I found living,  and somehow make it all better – make me normal.  What I came to realise is, not only was it impossible for anyone else to know what was happening inside me, the only person who could make things better was me.

No one was going to stand up for me.  No one had a magic wand that would make me stop thinking so little of myself.  No one was going to ‘make’ me happy.  No one could really help me – except me.

So, while I was saying I wanted to be happy, that I didn’t want to keep living the way I was, that I wanted to be normal, that I wanted the pain to go away etc, all of my actions were compounding the issues that I was trying to recover from.  The more I wanted someone else to fix me, the more frustrated I became when they couldn’t see I needed to be fixed, so the more angry and badly behaved I got, and the more pain I felt… and on it went, in a never-ending cycle.

The journey has been long and rough since I made the commitment to myself to help myself get better.  Every new step seemed like it was the hardest thing I had ever done – being open, being vulnerable, asking directly for what I wanted or needed, speaking out, confronting people when they hurt or offend me, taking time for myself and not feeling guilty about it – all of these things seemed impossible at first.  All of them terrified me and made me think the world would end if I dared stand up, or speak out, or ask someone for emotional support.  I felt like I had to fight for every breath and every step along the way.

The crazy thing is, the more my actions said, “I matter,  my feelings are important, my needs are important,  I deserve to be happy” etc the more other people seemed to recognise I was hurting.

The more I allowed my mind to acknowledge the truth, the more truthful my actions became.

 

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Lesson from a sand dune

Each day the marks from yesterday disappear.

Each day, the marks from yesterday disappear.

Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks…. time just flies on by, doesn’t it?

After a relatively relaxed eight months since moving interstate, life seems to be well and truly ‘on the move’ once more, the only difference is that I am now much more aware of my limitations and am trying very hard not to take on any more than I can comfortably cope with.

The last couple of months have been filled with paid work, unpaid work, freelance writing, family ‘stuff’, travel, and all the day-to-day bits and pieces we all deal with.  There have been some highs and lows, but, surprisingly, I have been reasonably stable in terms of my mental health.  There has been an ever-so-slight decrease in nightmares, suicidal thinking (Yay!), and the ever-intrusive memories.

On the very positive side of things, I have had more than a couple of enquiries regarding my writing, and I received an invitation to attend morning tea at Parliament House in Canberra, for the launch of Blue Knot Day on Monday 27th October.

There have been a few life lessons highlighted in the last few weeks.  In particular has been the need to let things go.  Every moment is separate from the last, and what affected us in one moment does not have to impact the next – unless we let it.  This has been a recurring theme, and I am hoping I am starting to get the message, although it can be a very difficult thing to put this into practice.  I am not sure I really grasped the concept until it was clearly illustrated to me by a sand dune.

Yes, you read that right, a sand dune.

I won’t go into all the details, but basically it was while we were camping near a very large sand dune, and watching how each day the sand dune started smooth and clear, no matter how many tracks or marks were made on it the day before, that I realised how most of us spend endless amounts of energy holding onto things that ‘marked’ us in the past, when really each moment is a clean, new canvas we can paint any way we want.  I’m not sure this is making any sense, but why do we carry whatever hurt us in the past, regardless of whether it was something said, done, or implied, or whether it was a minute ago, an hour ago, or a year ago – why do we carry it into the next moment, and the next, and the next?  Why do we spend time continuing to excavate the marks, ensuring they stay with us, instead of letting them go and focusing on where, what, or who we want to be right now and in whatever time is left ahead of us?  Why not just let the sand smooth over and start each moment fresh?

What is the point of holding onto pain, or anger, or sadness, or any other emotion?  If we are able to let it go, let it pass, doesn’t that give whatever moments are ahead of us an opportunity to reach their full potential?  How many moments have passed you by because you were holding on to something from the past?

If someone had tried to tell me or teach me this five years ago, my argument would have been, “You don’t understand.  It is always there!”  Well, don’t get me wrong, it is still always there, but now I know I can choose to focus on it, or I can just let it be.  Just because ‘it’ passes across my consciousness does not mean I have to focus on it.  It does not mean that I have to carry it as a burden or let it distort and colour every moment ahead of me.  Instead, I can recognise and acknowledge the pain, memory, fear, or whatever, accept that it happened, but understand it is not happening NOW.

Right now, right this very moment, I am not being abused, traumatised, hurt, laughed at, bullied – nothing is happening to me right NOW to hurt me in any way.  I could, like I used to, allow thoughts and memories to linger and become overwhelming, allowing them to make me feel like I am being hurt right now, but it would only be my mind holding on to the past.

Yes, I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, but I no longer have to be defined by that.  I know that the cycle will continue.  I know that there will be times in the future when I will again hold tightly to the past – that’s just how it is for survivors, there are good days and there are bad days – but I am hoping I will have learnt enough about letting go to make the next period of crisis both easier and shorter than the last one.

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Searching My Mind

Searching my mind

Searching my mind

I know you are there

In the back of my mind

But I am not sure

What you’re wanting to find

Are there certain emotions

Or feelings you seek

Are you hoping I’m sorrowful

Or triumphant or meek

Are you seeing my journey

In the time that has flown

And feeling surprised

At how much I have grown

It might have been different

If you had stayed

But would you be happy

Forever feeling betrayed

In searching my mind

I’m sure you can see

My reasons and motives

For being true to me

I could have died

Yes, that’s very true

I could have been dead

But instead it is you

And although you chose

To end it that way

It’s me unforgiven

At the end of the day

So search around

As much as you like

Poke and prod

And dig with a spike

You’ll find lots of memories

Some good and some bad

But there’s also acceptance

That you are my dad

And it’s that paradox

Of love and abuse

That leaves all outsiders

A little obtuse

They can’t understand

The bizarre mental state

Left when a child reconciles feelings

Of love and of hate

So, I know you are there

Searching my mind today

But I am glad you are 

On this, your birthday

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